In SexArt director Andrej Lupin’s stimulating massage movie “Ecstasy,” Tyler Nixon transports voluptuous Nekane into a world of unfettered ecstasy, in part through the expert use of his hands. Lupin’s vision perfectly illustrates the overwhelming sensations that can be generated through the power of touch. He’s not alone in recognizing this notion; art historian and museum educator Georgia Krantz is currently employing the power of touch as a new way of ‘seeing’ art.
Krantz is the creator of the “Mind’s Eye” tours at New York’s Guggenheim – a series of sensory experience workshops for museumgoers who are blind or have impaired vision. She takes a multisensory approach to the art experience, incorporating the use of touch and smell to elicit the same, or at least similar emotions to those of sighted viewers.
“We see through our brains, not our eyes,” says Krantz. “The eye is just one of the channels through which sensory information is passed to the brain for processing.”
Krantz’s theory is supported by scientific findings that reveal human senses interact in a number of brain areas previously considered vision-specific; so effectively, the sense of touch can stimulate neurons normally reserved for sighted individuals. With the right tools, neuroscientists believe that blind museumgoers can be moved by visual art just like anyone else – that the essence of painted or sculpted art isn’t vision, but the meaningful connection created between artist and audience.
When posed with the task of interpreting contemporary artist Jeff Koons’ “Play-Doh” – a ten foot high, neon-colored mound of aluminum sculpted to resemble the popular, pliable modeling material – when it was on display at the Whitney Museum’s 2014 retrospective, Krantz handed out actual Play-Doh to blind visitors and asked them to squeeze and smell it. To get across the artwork’s ‘visual deceit,’ she then presented them with a sample of the metal used in its construction, and walked the visitors around the sculpture to give them a sense of its enormity.
Regarding artworks of an erotic nature, one of Krantz’s colleagues once used a silicone breast implant to translate Salvador Dali’s Surrealist art style. Because silicone gel mimics the feel of human fat so well, it proved extremely effective in conveying the way that Dali painted the bizarre melting and morphing bodies he’s most famous for.
Here’s hoping that one day Krantz might apply her technique to such artworks as Jeff Koons’ controversial and provocative “Made in Heaven” series. A modern day play on Adam and Eve, it features sculptures and photographs of Koons and his future bride Ilona Staller (better known as Italian porn star Cicciolina) in no-holes barred sexual scenarios.
Ultimately, there’s a great irony to Krantz’s wonderful approach to art appreciation. She and her colleagues question whether or not museums should quit striving to be quiet, odourless environments full of ‘Do not Touch’ signs, in favor of providing everyone, sighted or not, with better ways to engage with the art.
Whether you’re an art lover or not, I’d strongly recommend you watch “Ecstasy.” You can’t fail to be moved by what it says about the power of intimate touch.
About the author:
UK-based artist Billy Chainsaw specializes in mixed-media pop art and has exhibited in numerous galleries in such far-flung locations as London and Los Angeles. Learn more about his work at www.koolkrakenincorporated.com