Recollections of Touch
in times of mass physical distancing
by Tina Reden
I need to talk to you Iara. Something strange happened to me over the past year.
I can’t experience touch anymore. When someone touches me, I don’t feel it anymore. In the beginning I was not sure if it was really something or maybe just a lack of iron or so. But I checked everything and I’m fine. I just don’t... feel anymore.
What? That’s so weird. Like when I touch your arm like this?
Nothing. I also feel very cold towards everything and everybody at the moment.
I just don’t know what to do. I just know, doctors won’t be able to help me with that.
I have an idea. But it might feel a bit weird. Remember how my mom always does her little meditation thing when she’s worried about something or indecisive? When she goes into her room and closes the door and starts to talk on her own?
Yes, when she’s calling your nana in the universe she says.
Exactly. When she’s calling our ancestors.
This is a dialogue between Iyanda and her sisters, her mothers, her ancestors and friends. A collage, an intimate dialogue between different voices, women, generations, bodies and emotions and recollection of touch.
Iyanda turned to her ancestors the moment she realised that something very strange was happening to her and her body. Iyanda had lost her capacity to experience touch. Slowly, first almost unnoticeable her skin went from very sensitive, to slightly dazed to completely numb. It seemed like her skin had grown a whole new layer around her body, that was not connected to her anymore. But not only did she lose physical connection to her surroundings. Her emotional and social bonds seemed to become more and more alien and indifferent to her. Not being able to experience touch anymore had changed her perception of her surroundings and influenced her being in the world.
Inspired by a variety of feminist theories such as Sara Ahmed and Jackie Stacys Thinking Through The Skin, Audre Lordes Uses of the Erotic or Astrida Neimanis Bodies of Water touch - seen as a potentiality within this liminal space between the margins of one body and the beginning of another - will here be explored as a relational practice, as knowledge and memory that travels from body to body - human and non human - and beyond. Touch, as something plural, varied in tone and texture and therefore referring to an interactive and changing moment that is perpetually generating new meanings and feelings that can then be read differently in different contexts.
Hello? I am Iyanda. I am calling you because I need help. I am not sure how that works though. I hear my aunty Zora calling you sometimes, so I thought I might try it also. How should I start? I am Iyanda and I have become numb to touch. I don’t feel any handshake anymore, the fluffy fur of my cat or a caress on my back. I know what I’m supposed to feel, but I’m numb. When I am walking down the streets and see my hand gliding along the bushes - I’m numb. When a lover kisses my neck and I hear the breath so close it could be mine - I’m numb. Hello?
we are here.
HERE TO READING
Agustina Woodgate, Kat Milligan, Melly Reden, Nina Kunz, Tina Reden, Tracy September
Matana Roberts, Lulla / Bye
Videostills of “For Those Of Us Imprinted With Fear” by Jumana Issa and Tina Reden
Quotes in Reading / Bibliography
Amelia Jones Body Art: Performing The Subject 1998 University of Minnesota Press
Ashley Montagu Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin 1986 Harper & Row.
Astrida Neimanis Hidrofeminism: Or, On Becoming a Body Of Water 2012 Palgrave Macmillan
Audre Lorde Your Silence Will Not Protect You - The Uses of the Erotic 2017 Silver Press
Baba Ifa Karade The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts 1 1994 Weiser Books
Carline Ann Baur All that is solid melts into mucus Mucus, Capitalism & other Monstrosities 2017 Zurich University of the Arts Master Thesis
Elizabeth Grosz Volatile bodies: Toward a corporeal feminism 1994 Allen & Unwin
Franz Fanon Black Skin, White Mask 1986 Pluto Press
Gayatri Spivak Can the Subaltern Speak? In Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture 1988 University of Illinois Press
Hélène Cixoux and Annete Kuhn Castration or Decapitation? Signs Vol. 7, No. 1 1981 The University of Chicago Press
Hélène Cixous, Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen The Laugh of the Medusa Signs, Vol. 1, No. 4. 1976 The University of Chicago Press
Hélène Cixoux Poésie e(st) politique? 1980 Merve
Jacques Derrida On Touching 2005 Stanford University Press
Judith Butler Gender Trouble 1990 Routldge
Luce Irigaray Toward a Divine in the Feminine 2009 Palgrave Macmillan
Luce Irigaray The Wedding Between the Body and the Language 2005 Continuum Press
Luisah Teish Jambalaya 1988 Harper One Edition
Lynne Segal Straigh Sex - Rethinking the Politics of Pleasure 2014 Verso
Matthew Fulkerson Touch 2016 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Nayyirah Waheed Salt 2013 CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Octavia E. Butler Parable of the Sower 1993 Warner Brooks
Rene Descartes Discourse on the method and the meditations 1968 Penguin Books
Sara Ahmed Living a Feminist Life 2017, Duke University Press
Sara Ahmed and Jacky Stacey Thinking Through the Skin 2001 Routledge
Sarah Jackson Tactile Poetics 2015 Edinburgh University Press
Silvia Federici Revolution at Point Zero 2012 PM Press
Tina Reden is an interdisciplinary artist, activist and Dj living in Zurich and Amsterdam. Her work is collaborative, performative and dialogic and explores the political possibilities within the active position of listening – both as a metaphor and as a concrete, sound-specific practice. She uses notions of rhythms, polyphony or cacophony as a way to listen to multiplicity and undo the modern notion of a singular narrative. She explores different formats such as sound improvisations, poetic soundscapes or storytellings as possible places for feminist, decolonial and mindful practices – always trying to integrate discursive situations and initiate moments of being together.