Between Grubby Flesh and Insubstantial Pixel
It is not exclusively through the moving image that the imagined haptic experience can be achieved in art. What is significant however. is a distancing of the original method of an image’s creation through projection or screening that highlights most strongly the imaginary process that goes on when experiencing imagined touch in art. The texture that once existed is flattened onto a screen. This is evident in Gerrit van Dijk’s work. He works in mediums like pencil and crayon, artistic instruments we have likely been familiar with from childhood. The resulting textures that we no doubt would have touched and smudged are immediately recalled when seen on screen, appealing to these pre-existing memories. This is where the issue of the haptic in digital arises—we cannot feel a pixel.
Shards of Pixels
With the rise of haptic interfaces, most notably through touchscreens on smartphones, we use our sense of touch on a 2-dimensional plane. This utilisation of physical touch is concerned with gaining information and communicating through the still virtual intermediary of a screen. We feel the screen but we can not touch the pixels. It is perhaps only possible to sense-touch through a medium that behaves similarly: glass. Like glass, the digital can be twisted, shifted, squeezed and moulded, but is still distinct from glass which always has a shine and transparency that digital might mimic but it is not an inherent quality (de Bruyn 12).
Because digital works can be so easily manipulated, they are often said to distance a creator from the process through a lack of physical effort. While it is difficult to pin down what the digital “feels” like, this does not mean it lacks tactility. And while the physical presence of the creator may not be so visible or immediate in the digital, it is still there, buried in the code, and construction of computer programmes. The digital “glass” is translucent, not transparent, and sometimes if we peer through we can see the other side—sometimes catching our own reflection and that of the world around us.
Movements in Light – Nan Hoover – 1975 – 17 minutes
“A close up is unclear, yet becomes clearer as the camera focuses. Closed lips, the contours of the upper lip, the tip of the nose, the dark shadow of a nostril appear against the contrasting lightness of the foreground which is bathed in light. A fade transforms the image…The slow movement and light reveal new formations of her body bathed in light: a face a close up of a hand with deep lines that are pronounced by the shadows they create…The images seem internal and somewhat distant like a dream which bears images of reality but visually appears so removed from it”. [LIMA catalog description]
Skinflick – Thorsten Fleisch – 2002 – 8 minutes
“Hautnah – Skinflick is a filmic exploration of the texture of my hand with and without camera. With maintaining the hand/skin theme the methods of film production are changed. Hence not only is my hand shown in various ways but also different possibilities of filmic representation are discussed. For the sound audio I scanned my hand with the cartridge of a phono player. The resulting sounds were rearranged to fit the images.” [artist’s statement]
Inklings – Leslie Holland – 1918 – 4 minutes
A playful work showing the artist’s hands with a knife cutting away and rearranging the strange contours of a female and male caricatures to morph them into beautiful profiles.
The Black Room – Robbie Correlissen – 2015 – 8 minutes
“The work consists of sixty animations based on charcoal drawings on paper, in which the themes of perspective and space, abstraction and figuration and the transition from two- to examine three-dimensional are being examine” [LIMA catalog description]
I Move, So I Am – Gerrit van Dijk – 1997 – 8 minutes
Director Gerrit van Dijk states: “I move, so I am”, a free interpretation of Descartes quotation: “I think, so I am”, is my credo to express myself on celluloid. “I am not shooting pictures, I animate…” [artist’s description]
Cascade – Bernard Gigounon – 2001 – 4 minutes (excerpt)
“Cascade is a stop-motion, 25 image/second animated loop of a river in motion. Gigounon printed his images, piled them on top of one another, filmed on accelerate, and let magic of cinema bring the river back to life.” [LIMA catalog description]
Swan Song – Anouk de Clercq – 2013 – 3 minutes
“‘Swan song’ is a metaphorical phrase for a final effort or performance given just before death or retirement. Anouk De Clercq, Jerry Galle and Anton Aeki found inspiration in the age-old belief that the swan is shrouded in silence during its life – until just before its death. A sparkling, subtle animation.” [LIMA catalog description]
The Haptic and Control Over the Imagination
It is thought that engaging the audience with texture in art gives the audience more control over what they think and feel in reaction to the work (Vasseleu 145). Of course, when the word “feel” is used in this context, it does not imply any physical contact. Rather, it refers to an emotional and imagined sensation. The duality of this word in relation to a film programme that explores the haptic is interesting in that it suggests there is more than one way to “feel.” Apart from the feeling of the screen itself, the texture of what has been recorded can only ever be imagined by the audience. This is why it is of interest to have the audience engage with film’s physical texture to then have them see and imagine a texture that they know is not onscreen. There is not only a suspension of disbelief over movement, but also with texture and space.
Further information and advance tickets for I Move, So I Animate .
A “preview” of I Move, So I Animate.