Wyman Park, Baltimore Maryland
a picnic lecture series on absorbing art through the skin
Wyman park- Baltimore, MD- lectures and food provided by Julianne Franz, Bonnie Jones, and Ric Royer.
Sometimes when IÕm having trouble falling asleep I think up impossible lecture topics. I come up with titles like Effeminate Efficacy in a Post-Masculine Age, Copernican Genome Mapping, or Components of Urban Francophilia. I start with the title and try to make a sensible argument. ItÕs amusing and it helps me doze off.
One night I came up with the topic Absorbing Art Through the Skin. It intrigued me to the point of making me wide-awake. I wondered what it could mean; whether it was possible, and if it was in fact possible, when and how does it occur. It was a question fit for a picnic lecture series.
Bonnie Jones is a friend and collaborator who, a couple days after I dreamt up the lecture topic, informed me that she had newly intensified aspirations of tenderness. She saw tenderness in the movie The Hulk and in a blanket with angels on it. She was ready to find the tenderness in all things.
Julianne Franz is a friend and classmate who mentioned her interest in the importance of skin and touch while I was petting her cat Motor. We agreed that cutaneous activity was too often ignored in art and especially performance.
Through these two conversations I found my lecture friends.
We arrived in BaltimoreÕs Wyman Park on a typically humid afternoon. We shared some wine, picnic-appropriate foods, and Italian wafer treats. Then we shared our takes on Absorbing Art Through The Skin.
Julianne contributed three poems: Skin Art, I Love Your Crow's Feet, and Counteract Free Radical Damage. The first poem emphasizes the physiological and emotional significance of touching. The second reflects the cultural contradiction of fashionable skin being roasted tanned skin. The third poem is...really about counteracting free radical damage.
Ric's contribution was more manifesto than lecture, calling for artists to be aware that the skin is the body's most receptive organ, yet seldom satisfied by art. He imagines an art that requires social intimacy, the inclusion of the body of the artist and the audience, and experiential digestion without the corruption of over-interpretation. He spoke of artists becoming organizers of interactions and dialogues. He calls for haptic tactics, haptic acts, haptactics.
The following excerpts are from the written material provided by the participants.
Touch Thresholds/Von Frey Hairs
By using Von Frey hairs: a collection of a variety of hairs attached to handles typically calibrated at .1, .5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 mN (milliNewtons) of force you can map different touch sensitivities on the human body...when experiencing different types of art, music, theatre, dance the threshold comes about at the precise moment when the person begins to be even minutely aware of the pressure from the art object....
Art often occurs outside of the body, therefore the body is responsible for perceiving, understanding, digesting, interacting with the art...
what kind of art can we touch? What kind of art can we not touch?
what might occur if allowed to touch art that we previously couldn't touch though had fantasized about touching for a good portion of our lives?
seeking satisfaction of the senses
the mind attaches itself
calls it required
leave a child touchfree
he will die
my finger itches
I place the same finger
from the other hand
in cold water
my finger no longer itches
I close my eyes
I feel water drip down my cheek
I open my eyes
it's a cold metal cylinder
the mind scrambles
pressure and temperature
makes it water
the mind makes art
Introducing the Skin.
It's an art that communicates the secret of how we respond to contact. An experiential art, not always art and not easy to sell. It should often be confused with gift-giving, sacrifice, and enhanced life experience...
this hyper-tactile art is damaged by mass production. This piece cannot be touched by too many hands unless the desired outcome is that of the knees and toes of the goddess statue: smoothed flat by countless supplicating hands...
a touch involves time; a touch involves presence. touch, all the way, in every sense: be touched, feel touched, stay in touch, add a touch, have that special touch, touch it up, and all with a touch of tenderness.