Up Projects,

Saving Face by Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat, 2012-2020. Courtesy of the artists

In times of physical distancing, can we share touch online in new ways? Touch My Touch is a new digital experience commissioned by UP Projects for This is Public Space and developed by Amsterdam-based artists, Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat. The work uses facial biometric monitoring technologies to facilitate a new playful touching ritual that allows you to connect with those you may be distanced from. 

Touch is a necessity for life, it is key to empathy, wellbeing and social cohesion. It makes us feel connected, safe and together. At a time where we are unable to physically meet, online technologies have extended our visual and sonic abilities beyond space and time. Touch My Touch now invites international participants, to explore whether touch can be experienced in new ways in the digital realm.  

Through their research, Lancel and Maat have investigated the emotional memory of touch on the body translating it to new online rituals. Their research involves measuring people’s brain activity and facial recognition whilst caressing each-others, and their own faces. This led to the discovery that the resulting visual and sonic digital data traces are experienced as a “shared portrait of touch” evoking strong communal memories. 

Touch My Touch builds on this research to investigate how personal data traces of touch can translate into visual manifestations. Current technological research into touch often focusses on bio-metric control and surveillance technologies, AI algorithms, profiling and/or social media which often raise questions about our privacy and shared agency online. Touch My Touch in contrast presents touching as a playful, explorative experience, encouraging people to engage with necessary new forms of online connection; exploring and shaping future narratives of touch, through touch. 

Touch My Touch builds on the award-winning work, Saving Face which debuted at the 56th Venice Art Biennale in 2015. Saving Face facilitated new playful connections between seeing and touching. Participants touched and caressed their own faces in front of a face monitoring camera situated in a public space. The touched parts of their faces were then saved and displayed on a live urban screen where they merged with the caressed faces of previous visitors into newly composed visual personas. Now, Touch My Touch brings this experience into the digital domain and into people's homes where ‘co-caressing’ participants draw, mirror and synchronise their gestures to form a new collective portrait. 

Touch My Touch (2021) by Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat is curated and commissioned by UP Projects for 'This is Public Space', with generous support by the Arts Council England. It is developed in collaboration with Mondriaan Fund, Delft University of Technology, Lectorate Image in Context, Minerva Art Academy Groningen, University of Groningen, The Beach Amsterdam-West, MAB Media Architecture Biennial 2021-2023 Public Art Lab Berlin. 


About Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat 

Netherlands based art-science duo Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat are considered pioneers exploring embodied presence, privacy, empathy, and trust, in post-human bio(techno)logical entanglement with (non-)human others. They radically re-orchestrate automated control technologies, bio- feedback and social-sensory perception, to create ‘Trust-Systems’, for intimate meeting experiences and for public dialogue on resilient, AI/AE social eco- cultures. In host, immersive performance-installations (‘shared neuro-feedback systems’, ‘reflexive data-scapes’), audience interact through face-recognition, brain-computer, smart-textile technologies – portrayed in video-works and data- prints. Shows: ZKM, Venice Biennale 2015; Rijksmuseum Amsterdam; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; Ars Electronica; NABI Seoul; 2nd TASIE Millennium Museum Beijing, Transmediale Berlin; WaagSociety Amsterdam; ISEA2004- 2011-2016; Shanghai World-Expo2010. Residencies/fellowships grants awarded by Mondriaan Foundation, Banff Center, V2_Institute, TASML Tsinghua University, NWO-Netherlands, EMAP-EMARE Creative-Europe Programme. Lancel/Maat lecture, publish, teach internationally (CHI, ArtsIT, Leonardo), conducting PhD-research at TU Delft ‘Participatory-Systems-Initiative’ and at Hanze-University Groningen (Minerva Academy), where Lancel previously headed the MFA media-art program. Works are included in Digital-Canon LIMA and ZKM collections.