Hold Me Now – Feel and Touch in an Unreal World

The Studium Generale (public series of lectures) at the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam for 2017–2018 is entitled ‘Hold Me Now’. I was asked to curate one of the days (March 22), and other days are organized by Jack Halberstam, Rizvana Bradley, and Karen Archey.

There are some excellent people lined up. For my day, here is some blurb:

Haptics, creativity, and knowledge between bodies

How is haptics involved in knowledge creation? What knowledge is produced in reconceptualizing touch through other means, say? There is a humanist privileging of a certain kind of knowledge gained directly through the hands in craftsmanship, painting, and skillful training according to Révèsz, Focillon, Sennett. McCullough and others see this partially translating into digital craftsmanship and computer-aided design. The engineering of force feedback (‘haptics’) involves hands, muscles, and skin in active engagements with digital sensation for the purposes of the design of objects and textiles, then, but also for more wholly embodied entertainment and performance experiences. Videogame controllers buzz in our hands, whilst haptic bodysuits have been stimulating hands and other body parts for fun or art. Scientific processes of sensory mapping, the engineering of the interface, electrical and electronic entertainments, and the use of the body in performance each in their own way involve a creative approach to knowledge production: creative arrangements of the senses, translations between modalities, a realm of experimentation in the service of knowing more about bodies, senses, and space. What Michel Serres describes as ‘mingling’ of the senses. Increasingly, social science understands the importance of such sensory knowledge production, and involves its own creative methodologies and approaches when it comes to bodies and their boundaries. The day will consist of talks and demonstrations around touch, haptics, and performance, and variously considers:

– the ways that touch is mediated or conjoined with other senses and somatic properties, in theory and/or in practice;

– what the presence of touch (and/or digital touch) can teach us in the spaces of e.g. the gallery, the classroom, the laboratory, the hospital;

– the significance and necessity of engineering and reproducing ‘analogs’ of touch and movement through digital means, and the relationship of this experience to knowledge production;

– new methodological approaches to assessing touch, and/or somatic or ‘inner’ sensations such as breath, movement, etc.

– the pedagogical power of ‘translating’ touch and tactility for artistic audiences, students, professionals

Participants: (in alphabetical order):

– Kate Elswit, Reader in Theatre and Performance, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London

– Anna Harris, Assistant Professor, Department of Technology and Society Studies, Maastricht University

– Carey Jewitt, Professor of Education, Director UCL Knowledge Lab, University College London

– David Parisi, Associate Professor of Emerging Media, College of Charleston, USA

– Stahl Stenslie, Kulturtanken (Arts for Young Audiences), and accomplished multimedia artist, Norway

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