The sensation of touch

“Do not touch the artwork!” How many times did you hear this sentence? Well, I worked in a museum for a long time, so I am pretty familiar with it but I also know, how fantastic it is when we can touch it! As part of the conservation maintenance, we were occassionally obligated to “dust” some very famous sculptures (wearing white gloves and being extremely careful) but still. I did touch Roden or Matisse and will never forget that! This experience is however rare and most of us can “touch” only outside the museum. The funny thing is, that we seem to love it. Since I started working on the Luck Project, I pay much more attention to what is going on around public sculptures. What I’ve notice (and recorded) is rather entertaining.

The sculptures seem to have an enormous  appeal and most people cannot resist at least a fleeting stroke. When it is physically possible, most people also enjoy climbing on the sculpture or posing with it – hugging it, replicating it’s gestures and so on. What is it that makes us do these things? Most of the sculptures in question are made of bronz as they are meant to last in all weather conditions. The sensation of the cold smooth bronz is simply very pleasant. The problem is, that the repeated touching and rubbing is actually harming the artwork. The metal simply “disappears” under our hands, so we should not do it, but the question is, who can resist?

This is the result of excessive touching…

The angel head (railing of St. Bartholomew cathedral in Pilzen)

The angel head (railing of St. Bartholomew cathedral in Pilzen)

When it comes to touching sculptures that are meant to bring luck, our behaviour becomes even more elaborate. We are willing to queue for our “lucky touch” and some of these sculptures even come with internet  instructions “how to touch” them.

So, what is your experience with touching? Do you touch sculptures? Have you got any good pictures? Please let me know. Comment above or send me an e-mail.

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