20.12.2008. - 21.12.2008.
MM center, Zagreb
The exhibition part of the Touch Me festival is aimed above all at immersing the audience in the artistic-technological, interactive, empirical environment that brings together all their senses and turns the visit to the exhibition into a synaesthetic experience via which they are enabled to explore their own position within the sensory experience of pleasure, pain and happiness. These concepts are brought up in the second part of the Touch Me Festival catalogue as focus for a theoretical debate that mixes and matches the refleections of the philosophers, theorists, curators and artists who are taking part in the two-day symposium in the framework of the festival.
Croatian theorist Zoran Roško annulls the very idea of pleasure as experience that it is possible genuinely to undergo; what we consider the experience of pleasure is only an unsuccessful search for what we really consider pleasure − something that is innately illusion. Pleasure is just a come-on for a promised future that will never come. The search for pleasure thus, like everything else, has the form of a MacGuffin; something important that is sought for, which is important only for the search to go on, for there to be a complication, which enables the continuation of life, the only objective, embodied above all in the incessant process of the reproduction of mankind.
Film theorist Todd McGowan deals with contemporary society that is based on the imperative of pleasure in the text “The Escape from Enjoyment”. The imposition of enjoyment as the basic duty of the individual leads to futility in which life is exhausted in the search for private enjoyment that, again, remains a mere unfulfilled promise. McGowan, however, precisely in this disappointment, sees a revolutionary potential: “The absence of enjoyment that results from the command to enjoy opens up the possibility of reenvisioning the nature of enjoyment and abandoning the corrosive dream of enjoyment without restriction.” The absence of the promised enjoyment impels the need for restriction; the author analyses the route from the imperative of enjoyment to the acceptance of self-restriction using the example of David Fincher’s 1999 Fight Club.
Aljoša Kolenc summarizes his thoughts on the subject, gathered under the title “Over the Rainbow”, in this way: “There is no such object that through aquisition does not show its failings with respect to satisfaction.”
British philosopher David Pearce abandons altogether, one might say, such debates, founded on a consideration of the past and the unappealing present, and turns to a consideration of visions of the future founded on the Abolitionist Project − on the idea that with the help of the achievements of contemporary science it is possible to abolish or at least, with the negative utilitarian idea of “the least amount of suffering for the least number”, radically to reduce the suffering of humanity in the post-human future. One of the ways is the reproductive revolution, which will ensure happiness to future generations with the help of genetic manipulation, or at least ensure an enhanced capacity for happiness. The piece published in these Proceedings is the author’s argument with ten possible objections to the idea of such a radical ”mood enrichment”.
The British network of scientists, engineers and designers gathered around the Material Beliefs project deals exactly with the social role of science and technology. The project focuses on biomedical and cybernetic technologies that blur the borders of human bodies and materials. It also tests out the ways in which design as tool for public engagement can be used in order to set off a debate about the value of hybrid forms.
The paper “Touch, the ‘New’ Spatialities and Pleasures of the Body”, by philosopher and human geography expert Mark Paterson starts off a set of contributions that moves the centre of gravity of the debate from a general consideration of the concepts of happiness and enjoyment to the specific area of the sensory itself. Paterson deals with the sense of touch as immediate corporeal experience that is always mediated either through the medium of the skin or through other media and senses. He considers first of all various theoretical conceptions of the phenomenon of touch, after which he explores the pleasures that an enhanced understanding of touch and tactility enables. He also analyses the tactile or haptic aspect of film, re-examines the conventional assumptions about the sensory experience of the blind, considers touch in the context of movement, and inquires into the ways of the representation of tactile experiences.
Norwegian artist Stahl Stenslie in the paper “Haptic Hedonism” combines the idea of body as field for sensory experience with the idea of radical hedonism, haptic hedonism, which produces a surplus of pleasure. He tests out issues of sensory and corporeal pleasure above all in the field of contemporary art, starting off from the story of the Stendahl Syndrome, which is defined as the ability of art to produce an intense bodily reaction in the observer. Through a number of selected examples of recent art production that joins tactileness, corporeality and technology, as in the example of his own art practice, Stenslie examines the potentials of Stendahl Syndrome experiences, i.e. the capacity of art to bring about aesthetic ecstasy.
The address of British artist Kira O’Reilly entitled “The Feeling That They Have to Touch (Fingering)” will have the form of a hybrid performance, text, lecture and laboratory experiment at the focus of which are once again the body and the unexpected interactions of a group of bodies in space, of the performer and the public, flesh and text, metaphor and material.
New Zealand curator and artist Honor Harger will present, through the prism of philosophy and art theory, the artistic collaboration r a d i o q u a l ia that has for the past ten years intensively dealt with the sensory aspects of radio. Referring to the concept of the qualia, the feature or property, of a sensory experience, r a d i o q u a l i a explores the expanded concept of radio as space that cancels out the difference between broadcaster and listener, in which everyone becomes a transmitter of information, idea or expression.
The Austrian art group monochrom will present the Roboexotica festival, which has for five years already joined top work in robotics, art with a somewhat more traditional technique and the drinking of alcoholic beverages. Roboexotica takes a new look at the sphere of interaction between man and machine, in the current social environment in which robots and other forms of artificial intelligence, unlike the earlier utopian visions of humanoid machines, are alienated, incommunicative and enclosed within their cold metal boxes. Monochrom will also present a number of other projects in the unique form of a cultural technology gala event.
Enjoy reading! Or if you are a sceptic when it comes to enjoyment − Happy reading!