LICKING THE SCREEN
Vision as a bodily act

The traditional narrative around the Internet is that physical, material reality is disappearing, leaving humans with nothing more than pure visuality and surface. But sometimes this surface happens not to be flat, yearning for contact, reclaiming our attention and engagement also in a physical, or even sensual form.

Neuroscientists have conducted studies on haptic visuality, defined by Laura U. Marks as “a kind of seeing that uses the eyes as an organ of touch”. This aspect is also considered in research studies on synesthesia, showing that senses are not as localized as we tend to believe.

Intercorporeal experiences may be triggered by the textural qualities of high-resolution images commonly encountered online. These encounters often produce a sort of cutaneous feeling, leading to a bodily desire of possession. Whilst these techniques see extensive use in advertising, many artists and scientists are researching the possibility of including touch, smell and taste in the digital realm, and consequently they are investigating the nature of these senses. Together they shed new light on the bodily aspects of our reception of images, first of all, that this process is not purely intellectual and contemplative as one might think.

The bodily feedback one may experience whilst watching images or videos has been the subject of studies in aesthetical neuroscience. These showed that vision triggers both the sensory and the motor systems: by means of the Mirror Mechanism, sight activates some of the brain areas shared by touch and movement, so that it may be considered as a bodily experience by all means.  Mirror neurons are activated not just when we are physically grasping something, but also in response to auditory, tactile, or visual stimuli, even when motion is not involved.

Moreover, the more we stand still facing an object (whether physical or digital) the more the action of the sensory-motor system is focussed on our visual experience, giving us a feeling of empathy and object desire. This is exactly what happens when we stare at a hyperreal, perfectly still flower by Cècilia Poupon, a rock or a body by Posthuman Design studio, twisting and reshaping in front of our eyes. The work of Lucy Hardcastle adds further insight to the debate around the ambiguity between what is a physical material – such as the pictures of glass surfaces she made with Ryan Hopkinson – and what is not – such as Glow, her very first series of 3D rendered textures and shapes. Neuroscience had in fact already investigated this ambiguity, showing that our brain does not act differently when it faces a digital object, or a real one.

By making use of hyperreal details and aesthetic pleasure, these three artists show that digital screen-based art, despite its immateriality, might suggest potential sensorimotor stimulation in the human brain that can induce synesthetic, multimodal relationships between the senses. Also, this art could improve and enrich our online experiences, traditionally lacking tactility, which takes us to conceive the digital less real or less intimate. As Giuliana Bruno said, in the digital age, “materiality is not a question of materials but of activating material relations”. Plus, thanks to the Internet, our relationship with objects has completely changed, and probably, so did the notion of objecthood.

Lucy Hardcastle

Lucy Hardcastle is an artist and digital designer. She’s the creative director of a multidisciplinary design practice studio based in London, a pioneer in using interactive technologies, 3D visuals and the moving image to tell complex and emotionally resonant stories. She creates immersive virtual worlds that combine the principles of craftsmanship with the possibilities of technology. Her works place an emphasis on human perception and the realm of the senses, giving it a distinctly sensual aesthetic.

A collection of explorations and objects responding to a lack of tactility in digital design, and an on-going investigation into the power struggle that technology and traditional craft have with one another.

Inspired by the post-internet of being constantly connected and constantly seeking visual gratification, Lucy uses rendering softwares to challenge the perfectionism both in the fashion print industries and online digital art.

GLOW, 2014

A visual investigation challenging materiality and its representation in modern photography. Created in collaboration with Ryan Hopkinson, Untitled and Untitled II explore the fragility, movement and materiality of glass without the use of CGI.

In a photographic era where achieving perfection is no longer a challenge, this work aims to return to the real, with a series of sculptures and images that question its meaning and intention.

UNTITLED, 2017 + UNTITLED II, 2018

Posthuman

Posthuman is a London based creative studio initiated by director Dani Macovei, whose background in fine art has set the direction of its multimedia experimental approach, constantly pushing boundaries to create new ways of seeing and telling stories through computational means. The very basic principle of posthumanism is existing in a state beyond being human, as an entity who can embody different identities to understand the world from multiple perspectives, which lays at the core of Posthuman’s creative process and identity as a studio.

DIGITAL MINERALS / There is magic in recreating nature through computational means. This is a short study into the world of minerals.

"The key to the posthuman practice is the ability to fluidly change perspectives and manifest oneself through different identities. The posthuman has an emergent ontology rather than a stable one; in other words, the posthuman is not a singular, defined individual, but rather one who can become or embody different identities and understand the world from multiple, heterogeneous perspectives” and this is the core of their creative process.

HUMANS / An experimental project using human bodies and different techniques to distort them in ways that will create uneasy feelings for the viewer.

Cècilia Poupon

Poupon is a French photographer. Upon graduating from the prestigious ÉCAL in 2017, she left Switzerland and returned to France, settling in Paris where she lives and works today. Describing her work as being predominantly composed of still lifes, Poupon artfully plays with formal repetition and textural juxtapositions to offer a hyperreal experience of the everyday.

"The encyclopedic image is, above all else, a monument of detection: no follicle, no fold or blush is lost, as if, like in a video game engine, the object existed for the camera. Cecilia Poupon’s flowers exhume the shadow side of this praxis, the near lurid itemizing of stem hairs, the sublime ocean-like, canyon-like scale seized by the billowy, rippled, and rutted flow of pedals. Without the scientist’s laboratory-white background, these flowers suggest themselves to us like glamour shots, gorgeously screaming their presence over the precipice of ecological collapse"

Text by Reese Riley

FLOWERS, 2019

White Page Gallery/s is a decentralized and distributed art network born in June 2019: it is an online network for artistic sharing composed of artists, curators, academics, festivals and cultural operators who host independently on their website and without the aim of profit art projects made and curated by others.

The experiment is based on a new form of curatorial practice and culture in which the enjoyment of art is re-imagined thanks to the internet and web pages, and especially by active participation and collaboration by the participants.

White Page Gallery/s focus on the social value of artistic curation as its presupposition: the WPG/s network, is based on values such as solidarity, hospitality, inclusion, altruism and mutual support.

* Text by Anna Utopia Giordano, Zsolt Mesterhazy, Domenico Barra /  Info → https://medium.com/@Altered_Data/white-page-gallery-art-curating-and-human-values-8f119f4729e1