Invisible Touch


Audio-visual installation. Mixed media: statuary (Penoplex, plastic, concrete, silicone, plaster), sound. 

Sound: Pavel Grazhdanskij

Curator: Alisa Sycheva

Special project of the 6th Ural Industrial Biennial Of Contemporary Art — Create A New Layer, Tobolsk, 2021

The project that connected two cities — Tyumen and Tobolsk — is referencing a Photoshop function that can help create any 3D world you wish by adding new layers of pixels. The exhibition in Tyumen and the installation in Tobolsk explore today’s relationship between people and all kinds of spaces — personal, social, urban, digital. It is about the way we feel ourselves inside a space when the city and its buildings fade into the background of our daily commute, social interactions shrink into online messengers, and the practices of contemporary art reach out to the audience from the usual museum framework of flat walls and traditional media.

Our everyday movements, touches, and interactions are limited by habitual routes, regulated by rules, and sifted through the net of contactless online communication. While traveling from point A to point B, we often fail to notice our surroundings, being unaware of ourselves, our bodies inside the stream of different layers of reality. Familiar urban spaces, both indoors and outside, remain hidden in the blind spot of our attention, same as our bodies.

The installation specially created for the Tobolsk project by the artist Ekaterina Sokolovskaya creates a space where sculptures with a wide variety of tactile surfaces allow interaction: you can touch them, sit on them, and slip down them. It allows you to focus on the movements and proposes new modes for your body to exist in familiar conditions. The Invisible Touch project provides an opportunity to encounter others by drawing attention to the body in everyday life, the touch now limited by social distancing, the objects and materials that constitute touching. 

The artist’s large-scale objects reach out to us to the fullest in a counter-intuitive way, speaking to us about our sensations and the space around us. In the uttermost contrast with the habitual reality, bright colorful sculptures born by the artist’s imagination or as if pasted into reality using some graphic design program emphasize the historical architecture of the ensemble of government warehouses, highlighting the contrast of the latest artificial materials, neon lights, abstract shapes and traditional brickwork of white walls of the old Tobolsk Kremlin.

You have to forget everything you knew about art before, forget about its inviolability, its copying of reality, its obligation to tell you a story. Instead the installation tells you about contemporary sculpture and abstract art. Like patients in individual rooms, visitors at a massage therapist’s appointment, above all, the objects contextualize our presence in the environment created by fabric, light, sound, and material. We find ourselves face to face with the objects, also created by touch, linking the contemporary sculpture to the traditional applied art that places key importance in handiwork and deep connection to the material.

Come closer, touch and feel — instead of the usual “keep away” and “do not touch”. With fabrics, pink light, sound, and even the hospital smell at the entrance, the total installation speaks to all our senses. It is a “chamber of secrets” about our being in space; it creates a new layer of perception of the mysterious building in the historical center of Tobolsk, talking to us about the new challenges of today’s art.

Photo: Evgeniy Khoroshev