Art audiences are often referred to as ‘viewers’, suggesting that to experience art, we observe. Through a series of interactive installations, ‘Sinnerligt’ questions formal gallery behaviour, inviting audiences to conduct themselves however they wish with artwork. As an artist I work with textiles and wood. Operating on the border of art and craft, I have always been fascinated by tactility, and allowing people to touch final work.
Being able to inspect and physically challenge an object, gives immediate understanding of its properties. In his book ‘The Eyes of The Skin’, Finnish Architectural Theorist Juhani Pallasmaa talks about the power of touching objects, (Pallasmaa, 2012, p.62), “A pebble polished by waves is pleasurable to the hand, not only because of it’s soothing shape, but because it expresses the slow process of it’s formation; a perfect pebble on the palm materialises duration, it is time turned into shape”. Bodily experience gives insight into how something was made, and the time it took to exist. It lets you imagine the failures in it’s development, and eventual method of construction. In opening up these opportunities, ‘Sinnerligt’ explores the most basic foundation of craft. It is a space where materials and people meet.
Interaction also makes artwork inclusive to disabled audiences. Work experienced through scent, sound, or touch, is immediately understood, regardless of intellectual ability. When I first worked with Neurodiverse audiences, I saw a relationship with materials that goes beyond spectator. It parallels the maker. People, whose relationship with the world is predominantly sensory, have intuition of how objects can make us feel. Their awareness has been key to the growth of Sinnerligt. Through co-design, we have developed installations as a result of how ideas and experiments were responded to. This ongoing conversation between artist, material, and audience, leads to objects that do not assume they are satisfying, but know that they are.
Importantly, Sinnerligt is not just an exhibition for disabled audiences. When a friend recently told me he had not held a pen in six weeks, it reminded me how tactile art experience can benefit everyone. Many people are not connected to the material world. With everything we need readily available, making is not a necessity. And making is a key way in which we utilise and train our sense of touch. In her book, ‘On weaving’, weaver Anni Albers, spoke about the need for tactility in our everyday, (Albers, 1965, p.62) “We touch things to assure ourselves of reality. We touch the objects of our love. We touch the things we form. Our tactile experiences are elemental. If we reduce their range, as we do so when we reduce the necessity to produce things ourselves, we grow lopsided”. Even though visitors to Sinnerligt are not producing artwork themselves, the objects on display are incomplete without them. The installations lie awaiting the audience to discover the surface of a textile, or the vibration of a bass note. And as they do so, Sinnerligt highlights the importance of exploring the world in a curious and playful way.
By Laura Blake, textile artist and researcher
Albers, A. (1965) On weaving, London, UK: Studio Vista Publishers p62-63
Pallasmaa, J. (2012) Eyes of the Skin, West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons Publications, p60-65