Interdisciplinary Conference


in Art & Science

26-28 November 2020, University of Applied Arts Vienna/Online

99. Touching the Posthuman
Session: Session "ORF8 / Sideways"
Speakers: Zsofia Jakab

“The reason the desk feels solid, or the cat's coat feels soft, or we can (even) hold coffee cups and one another's hands, is an effect of electromagnetic repulsion. All we really ever feel is the electromagnetic force, not the other whose touch we seek.” (Karen Barad, 'On Touching- the inhuman that therefore I am’) 

My current research and art practice investigates ‘abject bodies’, the way we experience our     bodies physically and metaphorically. I’m particularly interested in skin, our largest organ that’s also the most prominent. It’s our boundary that contains ‘us’. Our biggest sensor that allows us to feel and to touch. And it also protects. Skin has many different meanings and functions, especially when it comes to new scientific discoveries like “Knitted skin cells” and “Ticklish Phones”. 

In this paper I would like to talk about the act of touch, its absence, and the sensor of touch, skin, through the observation of different sculptural artworks by artists such as Pakui Hardware, Kiki Smith, Nona Inescu, Alina Szapocznikow, Hannah Levy, etc, who’s artworks feature skin-like elements. At the same time I’m interested in the way this everyday sense, touching, became a source of contamination and disease during the Coronavirus pandemic, and shifted from the physical realm. How we banned ourselves from touching, how we rely upon medical gloves as ‘second skin’, how we can experience a ‘virtual touch’, and the phenomena of “Skin hunger”.

Zsofia Jakab

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