Touch in Real Time, is a participatory project and set of companion exhibitions by Holly Hanessian. The project explores the power of touch and its significance in this digitally mediated age. The exhibitions act as the final part in a multi-year project that exists at the crossroads of art, emotion, and neuroscience showcasing ceramic objects created through the intimate interaction of hand holding.
Involving both social engagement and scientific research, Hanessian began the Touch in Real Time project in the spring of 2012. From the repetitive act of pressing wet clay between the hands of two individuals, Hanessian has collected handshake artifacts from across the country, including cities such as Phoenix, Houston, Boston, and New York. These unique forms imprinted with the shape and texture of two different hands record the shared interaction.
Working in conjunction with Dr. Greg Siegle and his lab of behavioral neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh, the team retrieved data from brain image patterns using EEG and fMRI tests while handshakes took place to track the bonding hormone, oxytocin, which is released in the human body 10-20 seconds after contact is made between two people. As the project evolved, each handshake became representative of moments in time between pairs of people, connecting individuals and demonstrating the value of touch.