Liverpool Biennial presents Touched, the International 10 exhibition as part of Liverpool Biennial 2010
“In a world packed with countless biennials, triennials and the rest, this madcap event in Liverpool remains distinctive and entertaining. The shows are scattered all over the city, often in pretty strange places, but the overall ambition — to introduce British audiences to up-and-coming international artists and trends — is adhered to excellently." The Times
“Like the fumes of the automobile and of heavy industry which befoul the urban atmosphere, the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities. In a culture whose already classical dilemma is the hypertrophy of the intellect at the expense of energy and sensual capability, interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art.”1
Touched presents artworks that affect the viewer through addressing a total context (mind, body and place: relatedness in space and time); artworks whose investment and inscription in the particular and the personal affects the general and the social.
As with the last four International exhibitions for Liverpool Biennial, Touched will consist of newly commissioned artworks made with sensitivity to the specifics of the place, time and audience of the exhibition, while originating in the artists’ preoccupations with the state of the world and with their own personal obsessions. This is articulated in the concept of ‘emplacement’, expanding the more common idea of embodiment. “While the paradigm of ‘embodiment’ implies an integration of mind and body, the emergent paradigm of ‘emplacement’ suggests the sensuous interrelationship of body-mind-environment.”2
While the word Touched suggests the contiguity and bodily presence that is involved in emplacement, it equally conjures the dynamic of affectivity in which the viewer is presented (brought to the present moment) with the artwork equally through the senses, intellect and emotions. This quality of presence starts with affect. Once our emotions are engaged, the resultant disruption to our senses and thought processes makes change possible in our intellectual perspective, behaviour and relation to the world.
This is not to conflate difference. According to Maurice Merleau-Ponty in his unfinished The Visible and the Invisible, the apparent divergence between mind and body, subject and object, self and other is a necessary condition for the constitution of subjectivity. And that is the same difference as exists between touching and being touched, between looking and being looked at, or between the sentient and the sensible.
Both in physical and emotional terms, touched and touching are not simply ‘separate orders of being in the world’, but reversible conditions, coexisting in constant oscillation as in his famous example of one hand touching the other. Perhaps crucially The Visible and the Invisible is an exercise to leave questioning open, not to reconstitute the subject apart from the object, the other, but to exist in and experience the ontological ambiguity of the ‘flesh’ as both object and subject, body and world, art and city.
Can art touch a city?