As we migrate further and deeper into virtual realms of the remote and unknown, our selves distributed in time and space, how is the intimacy of remote touch, of contact through separation, transforming us? We are, out of necessity, finding new ways to adapt, to reach into other lives and distant spaces in our social relations: whether through the raw simplicity of textual utterances, or in the richer stimulus of the moving image. When we touch each other telematically, sometimes in real-time but more often in asynchronous forms of on demand interaction, emotion is simulated, delivered via fragmented exchanges across the Net. What has become of the fundamental contact of human “touch,” surely the oldest and most ingrained transmission of who and what we are.
Despite the geographic separation of our bodies and conversations, the instinctive need for reaching and touching will never disappear. It will though, surely be forever altered. We now find new ways and techniques for exploring and maintaining the connection between us, despite proximity, regardless of distance. Perhaps we are discovering something newly satisfying in the virtual embrace, something tender and gentle, something that defies the laws of the physical world. Or is it a terrifying thought that we may be gradually losing the desire and need for real, local interaction, given our very survival as a human species is dependent on the act of physical exchange.
It is possible we are entering into a state of darkness, a mysterious new (post) reality such as we have never seen before. Swallowed up by our curiosity and obsession for displacement, timelessness, and omnipresence in the ever-widening expanse of the Network. What will we become?… When we are primarily connected through our devices, when contact with others is increasingly mediated and filtered, could this be a foreshadowing of some new artificial, reality-space that we are eventually going to fully inhabit?
In the race for technological progress, I can imagine a digital hinterland far, far from the localized communities of the past, where we transgress our bodies and physicality once and for all in order to enter into a distributed, fluid, amorphous state of being and touch.
The above images are from the production of Touch, a new work by Randall Packer, Galina Mihaleva, Angeline Young, and students of the School of Art, Design & Media at Nanyang Technological University. The work will be performed in April of 2016.