This seminar “Touching Visions: Gender and the Potency of Visual Artefacts” will take place 29-30 January 2021.
Screens – and so many of them. In recent months, under lockdown and social distancing, images of friends and family on our monitors have come to replace immediate corporeal intimacy. From haptic bonds of ‘skinship’ (Tahhan, 2014), connections are now forged by ‘screenship’; time spent face-to-face has become FaceTime. The problem then arises: how do visual artefacts touch us, and allow us to touch one another?
This is the motivating question behind our seminar “Touching Visions.” Combining recent insights from art history, the history of science, the history of medicine, media studies, and gender studies, we push the epistemological investigation of the visual into a synaesthetic realm of affect. From medieval Europe through colonial Latin America down to fin-de-siècle Japan and 1940s Calcutta, our papers excavate how objects of sight were crafted to touch, and be touched by, souls, minds, and bodies. Specifically, our interdisciplinary exploration over a global longue durée proposes that the capacity of visual artefacts to touch and be touched has been shaped by a constant physiological and psychological gendering of affect and sensation.
Image’s credits: Portrait of a Left Eye. Artist/maker unknown, English. Philadelphia Museum of Art.