Touch in Real Time explores the power of touch at the crossroads of art, emotion and neuroscience. It is a multi-year project that is part social engagement and part scientific research ending in a series of exhibitions. It explores the intimate act of touch and its significance in a digitally mediated age. The project began in the spring of 2012 and will continue through 2015 as I collect handshakes across the country. In the spring of 2013, I worked with a neuroscience team in Pittsburgh, PA measuring the emotional arousal of the activity. The ending result is a series of exhibitions at galleries and museums.
I develop this project in Maine at two residencies, the MacNamara Foundation and Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts. I repeatedly went to the residents and asked to shake and then hold their hands with clay in it. Each handshake contained a wet piece of clay, imprinting each participant’s hand with my own. I held onto their hand for 15-20 seconds, the time it takes for the bonding hormone, oxytocin to be released into our bodies.
As the project evolved, each handshake became an intimate moment in time with another person or as time evolved, others beyond myself, intimate pairs of people held hands by themselves. Each time, there were stories shared.
In April of 2013, I went to Pittsburgh and worked alongside Dr. Greg Siegle's and his lab of behavioral neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh as the artist in residence for TREND (The Transdisciplinary Research in Emotion, Neuroscience, and Development). We examined data retrieved from brain image patterns using EEG and fMRI while the handshake is taking place. ?
The results of this project will evolve into a series of installations during 2013-2014. These will start in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Society for Contemporary Craft in their downtown BNY Mellon Gallery space and at their main space on Smallman Street. It will then move to Western North Carolina at UNC Cullowhee Museum of Fine Art from January to April of 2014.
Thank you to to Kate Lydon and the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, PA, Roger Manley and the Gregg Museum of Art and Design, Raleigh, NC, Jan Gilbert and the Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans, Peter held and Arizona State University Museum in Tempe, AZ, Anna Walker and the Houston Center for Contemporary Crafts, Houston, TX, Bryan Czibesz and the Spring Street Gallery in Houston, TX, Mark Sloan and the Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art at Charleston College, Charleston, SC, Adam Welch and the Greenwich House Pottery in NYC, Josh Green and NCECA, the George Ohr and O'Keefe Museum, the Society of Arts and Crafts, Craft Boston, Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, Edgecomb, ME and Robert MacNamara Foundation, Westport Island, ME and the many people who have helped me in participating by having events at their museum or galleries.