In her text “Perhaps cultivating touch can still save us” Luce Irigaray proposes a contraposition between sight and touch, between an aesthetic experience and a physical encounter of the other. Irigaray observes how, within our culture, intimacy between two subjects is firstly determined by sight, as if physical contact was to be considered simply a consequence, an aspect that is secondary to the visual appreciation of a subject. On the contrary, the author overturns such presumed hierarchy, defining touch as the most authentic form of communion and reciprocity whereas sight merely constitutes a tension towards the possession of the other. Through her words Irigaray, seems to encourage her reader to meditate upon the apparatus of cultural conditionings that determine our idea of intimacy, as well as the gestures that we reserve to our most “intimate” relationships. Departing from such speculation “Searching for myself through remote skins” brings together a group of artists differently exploring the contemporary concept of intimacy in relation to bodily experience and domestic space.
In the very first room of the gallery we encounter two of Lydia Gifford’s works, a floor-based sculpture and a small painting, both defined by rough and scabrous surfaces and yet sharing a delicate movement in the way they lean towards one another. Developing each one of her pieces through a very physical confrontation with the materials she selects, Lydia brings concepts of touch and bodily contact at the very core of her artistic gesture. Echoing the seemingly vulnerable body that characterize Lydia Gifford’s sculpture “Include” are two of Catherine Parsonage’s paintings glowing against a dark grey background. In line with the Catherine’s usual mode of operation these works crystallize and capture different fragments and intertwining threads of narrative as well as theoretical texts that feed into the artist’s own research.
Throughout the show the body is present on different levels: it is represented, suggested, imagined and also fantasized as part of an erotic imaginary. The artistic duo Goldschmied & Chiari presents “Enjoy”, a sculpture in silicone resin representing a giant dildo, reclined upon a minor wall and tickling the structure of the room by running vertically along the staircase. At once audacious and playful, biting and naïve, this work from 2006 is part of a research trajectory investigating female pleasure and all those taboos that characterize it within contemporary western culture.
Whereas Goldschmied & Chiari’s suggestive reflection on sexuality is somehow removed from the image of the body, Bea Bonafini site-specific installation titled “Slick Submissions” gives form to a monumentally figurative – and yet hermetic - composition. Inspired by the Etruscan catacombs’ paintings , Bonafini’s beautiful inlaid carpet, oscillates between the depiction of a wrestling scene and an intricate orgy of masculine bodies. Navigating antiquity’s association with homoerotic culture and spectacular athletics, this work reflects upon the reciprocity between art and intimate spaces. Again, the body is slightly insinuated in Rebecca Ackroyd’s work where, seemingly vegetal motives and bodily tissues are hybridized into the same surreal composition.
Taking the viewer through an oneiric audio-visual journey across a remote landscape, Beatrice Gibson’s “Agatha” recounts a dream of experimental composer Cornelius Cardew. A haunting narration about an island inhabited by subjects that communicate through bodily manifestations rather than the spoken word. As such Gigson’s haunting sequences imagine and explore a form of relation with the other that privileges the use of the body and develops directly from it.
However the project does not intend to simply provide a literal representation of touch. Instead ideas of touch, physicality and intimacy establish a sort of template, a conceptual framework that each artist articulates in a specific way. Some of the works seem to be giving voice to those conceptual incipits while others deconstruct them, distort them or even contradict them. In some cases touch is even abstracted from any type of physical experience to become pure suggestion. An example is given by Gabriele Beveridge’s work where, the feeling of a perfectly smooth and homogeneous skin is simulated across a number of advertising images, representations that appear almost inhuman. The reminiscence of a tactile sensation is here manipulated in order to create an idealizing image. Irene Fenara also problematizes our traditional notion of intimacy and private space, by presenting a selection of images from her long-term project: “Photo from surveillance camera”. A collection of video frames extrapolated from different surveillance camera’s circuits across the world.
Defined by a body of diverse gestures and aesthetic registers, the project gives form and voice to a broad spectrum of visual as well as conceptual possibilities ranging the representation of female body and pleasure, the role of tactile experience for artistic processes, the trade-off between the objectification of the body and its organic reality, the status of art in relation to the subject’s intimate sphere.