Prior to the mid-1800s, tactile interaction was routine for visitors experiencing collections of art, and touch permeated accounts of aesthetic appreciation. As museums of art evolved into conduits for civic education, deferential models of visitor behavior were introduced that entrenched norms forbidding touch. Though originally entangled in nineteenth century politics of gender, race and class control, these norms transcended their archaic roots, morphing into securitised ‘Hands off!’ policies in gallery settings, and social taboos self-censoring the touching of artworks. The repercussions include tactile amnesia within art historical accounts, and a loss of language to discuss tactile aesthetics. While touch tours for the blind provide a partial exception, such encounters have been treated as exclusive, personal experiences - as protocols to meet baseline access obligations - rather than valued for their contributions to public haptic discourse.
The Levity, The Gravity opens with a performative essay by Fayen d’Evie that foregrounds touch as a generative concept, capable of reframing art historical narratives and opening space for critical and speculative enquiry. Georgina Kleege will then lead a touch tour of four works from the collection of Kadist Art Foundation that engage with the politics of space: Jompet Kuswidananto, Third Realm, 2011; Juan Capistran, From a Whisper to a Scream, 2005; Adrian Wong, Untitled (Grate I/II: Shan Mei Playground/ Grand Fortune Mansion), 2012; and Daniel Joseph Martinez, A meditation on the possibility... of romantic love or where you goin’ with that gun in your hand, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton discuss the relationship between expressionism and social reality in Hitler’s painting, 2005. A collective conversation (and wine and snacks) will follow, reflecting on tactile impressions, stories of touch, tactile pedagogy and dialogue, and the radical prospects for haptic criticism.
Links to other tours and Fayen's performance: