When it comes to the word “art,” the first works that come to mind are often famous paintings like the Mona Lisa, which then begs the question: what about for those who cannot see?
The answer may be in the 7th Touch Art Festival, which is held by the Centre for Community Cultural Development with the support of the Social Welfare Department’s Arts Development Fund for Persons with Disabilities.
The seventh Touch Art Festival, which was delayed twice due to the pandemic, is themed “Touching A World of Original Matter.” It is curated by Lo Keng-chi, who is visually impaired, and Wong Wing-fung.
“The title of this exhibition is ‘Original Matter’ because I thought of the fact that in this world, there are many things in nature that are very closely related to us, but for whatever reason, we do not directly perceive their existence. We can only relate to them through scientific testing tools or public education graphics,” said Lo in his curatorial statement.
“Through the exhibition, we hope that the audience will enjoy the innate tactile experience with the creators, return to the primary “touching” experience of life, and discover its simplicity and the beauty of its origin,” added Wong.
The center has previously curated a pitch-black show to remove the element of sight, but for this exhibition, it has been brought back to aid the exploration of the role of touch in the realm of art.
I am just touching myself (jei)! is one of the pieces that encapsulates this concept. With the help of video and images, artist Thomas Yuen explores the idea of exploring one’s body – something that is most original and close to oneself – with touch, and the social stigmatization that comes with it.
Unlike most art spaces, which put up velvet ropes and signs saying “Don’t touch,” this exhibition not only allows, but also encourages, people to touch and even interact with the artwork. In fact, to ensure audiences’ peace of mind while enjoying the artworks, hand sanitizer is provided throughout the space.
One of the first artworks to come into view is Reggae Siu’s Tied, which encourages audiences to feel the different fabrics and yarn on the artwork and even add to it using the cart of materials provided next to the piece.
“The route made by people is like the trace in a timeline, interweaving with different stories. Ropes shuttling across wooden frames, driven by consciousness, tying with stories and feeling. We touch, we observe, we feel,” said Siu.
Kacey Wong’s Standing Next to West Kowloon Alone invites us to step into the shoes of a visually impaired person standing in front of Victoria Harbor: “Colorful lights emanate from the windows of these tall buildings and illuminate the sky of the dark night; the warm breeze of the ocean just caressed your face. You felt it, but you couldn’t see it.”
Through his wooden installation, audiences can now see the iconic view with their eyes closed.
Throughout the exhibition, audiences are asked to explore with the artists primarily through the sense of touch. It is certainly refreshing in a world that is so focused on visual aesthetics and prompts us to transform the narrow perspective we have toward experiencing art.
Said Lo: “I hope this exhibition will be a success, so that we, the survivors of the pandemic, who have been dulled by the internet and social distancing, can regain our sense of touch and the originality of materials.”
The 7th Touch Art Festival will run at the Hong Kong Visual Art Centre until June 27.