Threshold Touch Experiences

This case study is an artistic collaboration between IN-TOUCH, artist and researcher  Marloeke van der Vlugt, and the composer, director and researcher  Falk Hubner, both of whom are based at the HKU, University of the Arts in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The collaboration aim is to explore and experience the politics and aesthetics of digital touch through interactive digital performance and technology; and to investigate the potentials of research collaboration between performance and social science research to provide insights on digital touch communication.

We are currently working together to share ideas, touch memories and inspirations from the behaviour of plants to the experience of touching the mouth of truth in Rome, research papers from our various disciplines, experimenting with materials, and performative interventions in playful ways. Marloeke is leading the development of a range of artistic ‘provocations’ and performance interventions which she is trialling with students and colleagues. We experience and respond to, Falk via sound and Carey through bringing in social science theory and concepts grounded in sensory ethnography and multimodal theory, to provide an ongoing analytical dialogue on the ideas that emerge. To date, E-wire in a variety of knitted shapes – triggering sound and audio samples – is one of the core materials of the interactive works, binding our concern  with social interaction and human-non-human interaction, as it is the material that connects both fear and intimacy in relation to touch. Interrogating the ways that we touch, and disrupting the norms and expectations of touch and near touching are key to the development of the collaboration. Together we are documenting this collaborative process through still and moving image, sound and writing.

This interdisciplinary collaboration will culminate in a performance research workshop and an interactive performance at the Bloomsbury Theatre Studio, 23rd and 24th January 2020.

The interactive performance explores the experience, politics and aesthetics of touch through a range of artistic propositions that combine digital technologies, new materials, electronic sound, and bodily interaction.  It will create an experimental and playful, interactive space for the audience to experience and reflect on what digital touch interaction might be.  The space will consist of two areas: one concerned with social interaction and the other with human-non-human interaction, both via touch. E-wire in a variety of knitted shapes – triggering sound and audio samples – will be one of the core materials of the interactive works, binding the two research strands, as it is the material that connects both fear and intimacy in relation to touch. Every hour the ‘Touchy Narratives’ will be performed– where a performer reads poetic, personal accounts and stories of touch experiences while the (blindfolded) audience is challenged to caress, stroke, trace, pat, tap, pinch, finger, fondle, brush, palpate, rub, tickle and fold tactile ‘foamy, squishy’ sculptural objects. The workshop will extend and explore the themes of the performance and vice versa. The personal accounts and stories of touch generated through the workshops will inform the performance.