Touch my Touch

Research
01-10-2020
Amsterdam
Touch My Touch (2021) is curated and commissioned by UP Projects 'This is Public Space' Program, with generous support by the Arts Council England. In Collaboration with Mondriaan Fund, Delft University of Technology, Lectorate Image in Context, Minerva Art Academy Groningen, University of Groningen, The Beach Amsterdam-West, MAB Media Architecture Biennial 2021-2023 Public Art Lab Berlin.

Touch My Touch invites you for sharing intimate experience of touch, in online public space.
TMT will be launched spring 2021; based on insights in technology and interaction used in the previous project and touch-ritual 'Saving Face', which has been presented in public space internationally (see below).

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 focusses 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 and vulnerable, feeling to be in touch. Touching to trust emerges from embodied, playful tuning, in synchronizing and mirroring movements. Can we touch each other online with these qualities? Can we use the internet as a public space, to be in dialogue and to share storytelling, exploring future narratives of touch, through touch? Can we share touch in a new way?

In their international practice, the artist duo Lancel/Maat invited people to caress each other's and their own faces, while their brain activity or facial recognition is measured. They discovered that the resulting visual and sonic digital data traces are experienced as "a shared portrait of touch", evoking communal memories of "how it felt". In Touch My Touch they investigate how these personal data traces of touch can be translated into "touch souvenirs". By measuring facial features, and brain and touch activity, participant's own data traces are created and translated. Together they investigate the emotional memory of touch on the body, and translate it into new online rituals by sonic and visual feedback. For sharing with family and friends, near and far. How do new ways of touching and being touched feel?

Touching Your Face as a Social Online Interface.
Touch My Touch Online (TMT) enables people to meet online, to share feelings of touch and being touched. In a new poetic meeting ritual, participants meet and caress their faces online, co- creating ‘a caressing experience’. Many people and communities can use this meeting ritual: for example distanced family members, such as grandparents and their grandchildren; distanced lovers; friends from far who want to play, or strangers meeting in a new touching ritual.

‘Saving Face’. TMT builds on our previous internationally presented and awarded art work in physical public spaces ‘Saving Face’ (supported by Media Fonds, Media Fonds@Sandberg, TU Delft, Tsinghua University Beijing, Waag Society). In this work we critically use facial, monitoring biometric control technologies, to facilitate new playful connections between seeing and touching. A new experience of seeing and touching emerges from monitoring self-touch and seeing others to be touched, based on the neurobiological concept of ‘mirror-touch’. In ‘Saving Face’, participants in public space touch and caress their own faces in front of a face-monitoring camera. The touched parts of their faces are saved in a database. While caressing, these touched face parts appear on a large urban screen, where they merge with caressed faces of previous visitors, into new, composed, virtual personas. Through every new face-caressing act, they further merge with future participants faces. Participants are invited to endlessly meet, caress, mirror and merge. Many people participate: families, friends, strangers, lovers, in China and Europe - often expressing to us new feelings of touch and connecting with others.

Now, TMT brings this mirror touch concept into the online public space, to meet and caress. While participants physically caress their faces, 'co-caressing’ participants draw, mirror and synchronize their caressing gestures. On screen, participants’ faces are visually revealed by the monitoring technologies and saved in a database, merging with the other participants. Touch my Touch is an online interface that facilitates a new experience, of touching your own face together with someone else. TMT online is currently under development. Important to public interaction, the technology ONLY recognizes faces, but without connection to personal information. Not only GPDR standards are met, but also TMT software gives agency to participants, to caress and merge their faces with other participants' faces online, into fluid, uncontrollable identities.This design is inclusive for all ages and merges data-visualization of all skin colors. It facilitates easy access to a broad audience in different cultures - for playful shared performance, of being in touch.