Touch in Real Time
“Here is what happens. You approach the artist, give her your hand. In her hand is a piece of clay. She holds you, you hold her, for maybe ten seconds. Depending on who you are, she will say different things here, in different ways. She might tell you about the project. She might ask you about yourself. When it is time—when is it time?—you and she unstick yourselves and look at the dual prints your touching has made. The clay is shaped like some sort of a smoothed shell shard; on either side, your prints pock out.”
- Anne Marie Rooney, Pastelegram, March,19th 2013
Part 1: A Socially Engaged Experience
The Touch in Real Time project explored the power of touch at the crossroads of performance, clay and neuroscience. Between 2012-2015, I crossed the country and held hands with people or asked others to hold hands. Over 2,000 pieces were collaboratively made. As we held hands, we swapped stories, sometimes the bonding hormone oxytocin was released into our bodies. The clay handshakes were fired and became an artifact of the moment that later became a series of art exhibitions.
Part 2: The Neuroscience of Touch
The question of "Where does touch reside in the brain and how impactful is it for us as humans?" was tested in the brain at a residency with Dr. Greg Siegle and his team of Neuroscientists at the Program in Cognitive Affective Neuroscience (PICAN) at the University of Pittsburgh. A series of tests using EEG and fMRI examined how touch affects our behavior.