Jan van Munster

PRIÈRE DE TOUCHER – The Touch of Art

The exhibition is centered around the sense of touch and the haptic system as a possibility of aesthetic perception, and it throws up a series of questions at the same time: How do we perceive tactile art? What happens when our skin suddenly plays the main role in the experiencing of art? Even without direct physical contact with the beholder, can artworks appeal to their sense of touch? Can tactile experiences be described and translated into images? Works from entirely different eras testify to an understanding of art that includes the tactile dimension. Tactility has increasingly become a deliberately employed design element since the mid-20th century.

The sense of touch is our first and oldest sense. It operates as a ‘proximal sense’ at minimal distances through direct physical contact. The skin is our largest organ. It is fundamental for recording the reality that surrounds us. Depending on the historical, geographical, and cultural context, the sense of touch is described sometimes as the most primitive, sometimes as the most existential and most complex sense. Primary organs of the sense of touch are the hands, especially the fingertips. Using them we are able, by means of stereognosis, to get a picture of a felt object without seeing it.

In Jan van Munster‘s work Warmte (Heat), minimalist installation sculpture is combined with heat radiation that can be experience through the senses. The body is used as a sculptural material by Hannah Villiger in her photographs enlarged from close-up Polaroid shots. However, Pipilotti Rist, too, with the video Pickelporno, creates a kaleidoscope of intoxicating body images, whose close-ups on body landscapes celebrate a feast of tactile experience.
Jean Tinguely is also represented in the exhibition, with an homage to the balloon-filled space that he realized for the exhibition ‘Dylaby’ (dynamic labyrinth) in 1962 at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. If visitors have avoided it before, direct physical contact is unavoidable here, as it is also in Pedro Reyes’s work Cuerpomático II, an arrangement in the shape of a toolbox, containing numerous instruments and objects that can be used to work on skin and body. Sculptural design methods used during manipulation by means of hands, imprint, skin and its concealment and their corporeal perception are the theme in Man Ray’s L’énigme d’Isidore Ducasse, Duchamp’s Traveler’s Folding Item, Christo’s Package, Ryan Gander’s sculpture I is… (XIII), Giuseppe Penone’s six-part bronze sculpture Riflesso del bronzo, Miriam Cahn’s diaporama schreiender säugling + körperteile and Pedro Wirz’s portrait heads, which are modelled in the negative in the casting mold. The wonderful, 100-part Polaroid photographic work Retouching Bruises by Ulay fuses the theme of physical contact with the theme of the medial imprint and the traces that can arise in between.

Works by artists such as Kader Attia, Agostino and Ludovico Caracci, unknown after Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Adriaen Collaert after Marten de Vos, Christian Comte, Cornelis Cort after Giulio Clovio as well as Frans Floris, Cornelis Jacobsz, Drebbel after Hendrick Goltzius, Renate Eisenegger, Loïe Fuller, Jacob van der Heyden, Birgit Jürgenssen, Michael Landy, Étienne-Jules Marey, Vaslav Nijinsky, Meret Oppenheim, Peter Overadt, Crispijn de Passe the Elder, Georg Pencz, Marcantonio Raimondi after Albrecht Dürer, Thomas Rentmeister, Jan Saenredam after Hendrick Goltzius, Annegret Soltau, Timm Ulrichs, Alexandre Vallée, Mary Wigman, Martha Wilson, and Francesca Woodman complete the panorama of the exhibition tour, which extends across 22 rooms. The fascinating, very open and – for artistic creativity – essential theme of the cutaneous senses finds with this trail an open, non-conclusive presentation. The theme will be expanded to other knowledge areas by means of an interdisciplinary symposium.