Touch Lab 2019
PRESS RELEASE – TOUCH LAB – Please touch the artworks
Most public galleries display discreet signs asking visitors to not touch the artworks. But at an art exhibition now on at Griffith University’s South Bank campus there are no such signs. In fact there are no signs to read at all. Touching everything in the Grey Street Gallery is allowed and indeed encouraged in Michelle Vine’s TOUCH LAB – an interactive and participatory exhibition focused on the tactile experience in art.
Half of the gallery has been transformed from the usual white cube exhibition space into a constantly evolving tactile terrain, to be navigated barefoot and with curious hands ready to experience the expansive palate of touch sensations on offer. Silky threads and satin fabrics hang from the ceiling, whilst soft foam, padding and fluffy furs blanket the walls and floors. Whimsical objects covered in fur, such as ping pong rackets and kitchen whisks, complete the playable landscape.
The artist has taken up residency in the gallery in order to transform it into a research lab, constantly changing and building this space. So far she has had help in this from a class of 3-year-old kindergarten children, students from the art college, and others.
A giant bowl-shaped swinging chair lined with luxurious faux rabbit fur begs to be sat in and caressed. One visitor said, “I can’t help touching it…it feels so good. It’s what I imagine stroking a polar bear whilst it hugs you would be like…if the bear was friendly.”
This is just one of the discoveries awaiting visitors to Touch Lab, an art gallery reimagined as an active social space within which the artist and audience to interact and make multi-sensory works together.
Touch Lab is a project by artist and Honours student Michelle Vine at Brisbane’s Queensland College of Art.
Ms Vine created the exhibition as part of her Honours degree, for which she is researching and creating at inclusive touchable art experiences for everyone. She said that the exhibition encouraged adults and children to play with the artwork and each other.
Her inspiration for the project came for sensory differences she experiences as an adult living with a chronic illness: “I have very little sense of smell, and therefore of taste. At times my vision and auditory processing is affected, so touch has become very central to how I experience the world.” Ms Vine hopes to create joyful art experiences that are inclusive of others living with disabilities and sensory processing differences.
“People are a little unsure at first … but once they start touching the works the look of joy of their faces is infectious.” Ms Vine said the exhibition had changed over time in response to feedback from the public. “I’m in the space fulltime, tweaking and changing, talking to people, seeing what touch sensations they like. It’s a work in progress, and that’s exciting because I get to talk to people and find out what they are attracted to touch, and want to play with.”
The exhibition continues until October 5.
Exhibition Dates: Tuesday, 24 September – Saturday, 5 October
Closing Event: Thursday, 3 October, 6pm – 8pm
Grey Street Gallery, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, South Bank, QLD