Intimacy Agents

Research
01-11-2020
Online Nowhere Edgecut New York
Kat Mustatea, Heidi Boisvert. Currently under development.

Intimacy Agents shares intimate experience of kissing and caressing, in online public space.

Can I touch you online?
We cannot live without touch. Touching is key to empathy, well-being and social cohesion. We touch to feel connected, safe and together, to trust. Today, increasingly people live solitary, or distant from beloved ones, limiting their experience of touch. In the physical public space, coming together in intimate proximity is discouraged, or even criminalized by the current pandemic developments. Online technologies extend our visual and sonic abilities beyond space and time, but research into remote social touch is still in its infancy. What kind of experience would we want from mediated touch? Current technological research into social touch often focuses on bio-metric control and surveillance technologies, AI algorithms, profiling and social media.
This approach raises critical questions about our privacy and our shared agency: to be creative, feeling to be in touch. Touching to trust emerges from embodied, playful tuning, in synchronizing and mirroring movements. Key to intimate experience are shared vulnerability and responsibility, in dialogue. Can we rethink communal experience of touch? Can we technologically expand our tangible bodies into communal embodiment in public space, for everyone to participate? Can we use the internet as a public space, to be in dialogue and to share storytelling, exploring future narratives of touch, through touch?

Shared Performance: Intimacy Agents
For Intimacy Agents Lancel/Maat create an online public space to share intimacy of a kiss. Realtime performance of two actors kissing is exposed, while their brain-activity is measured and real-time translated to a soundscape. On entering the space, participants all choose a different heartbeat frequency which adds to the soundscape. During the kissing performance, the participants explore and move from a distance through the spheric virtual environment. The space is fueled by intimacy and a distant soundscape, born by the shared, public heart-beat. When getting closer to the people kissing, participants are challenged to tune in with their individual heartbeat sound: the sound intensifies through increasing proximity.
After the performance, participants are asked to respond to the questions:
Did you feel part of the kiss?
Did you feel your heartbeat influenced their kissing experience? and How?

Intimacy Agents is part of the internationally presented and awarded Shared Senses.
This performance research includes Reflexive DataScapes, Multi Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI), Neurofeedback Systems and communal rituals on the concept of Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia. The Shared Senses rituals invite the audience to mirror and synchronize performance of touch, such as kissing and caressing, to co-create an intimate environment in (online) public space. Essential to these rituals are spectators witnessing participants and each other. Furthermore, biometric digital data are purposefully not scientifically validated or interpreted: instead, we explore spontaneous data as poetic, Dancing Data, of intimate interaction and experience through personal interpretation based on shared memories, storytelling and narratives. The audience reflects on digital data, as ‘Co-Actors’ in a new intimate practice of touch in public space.