Prior to my collegiate art history studies, I held the misguided perception that all art must be aesthetically pleasing. I ardently believed that the conglomeration of colors must be evocative, that the sinuous line must remove all artifice, and that the primed canvas must hide its materiality. Art, I thought, was the perfection of humanity, the crystallization of human genius. It evidenced that man subsumed the state of nature. I clearly delineated between fine art and expressive human creation, deeming certain objects worthy of spectatorship and reverence, while others unsatisfactory, musing of humans rather than works of masters.
However, with increased exposure to modern and contemporary modes, I have come to deconstruct my subjective dichotomy. Subsequently, I have come to understand “art” as any form of human expression which appeals to the spectator’s senses, whether that be smell, touch, sight, hearing or taste. The later sense, taste, is the least applicable to the current discussion. Nevertheless, all of the aforementioned senses produce subjective opinions. Formulating unique human experiences, “art” employs known modes of experience to craft new environments of discovery.
Embracing the multifaceted portrayals of the senses, the Museum Tinguely in Basel, Switzerland presents ‘Priére de Toucher’ (The Touch of Art), the second installment of a five-pronged exhibition series that appeals to the spectator’s ream of senses. The diverse group of film, painting, sculpture, and performance art currently on display stimulates visceral reactions. Differing from a customary museum show, the Tingley’s exhibit rather than appealing to the spectator’s perception of visual beauty, directly confronts such spectator with conceptual, grotesque, and, at times, pornographic works.
One may certainly question the aesthetic appeal of such works presented; however, the communicative nature of the works displayed is undisputed. The spectator physically responds to the works, shielding his eyes, grasping his own extremities, quickening his pace, slowing to peer into or at tactically confusing creations, and even participating in interactive ball rooms and tree houses. While employing one’s eyes to comprehend such works, the spectator relies primarily on his sense of touch. Abstract representations of the physicality of existence, the handsome and grotesque creations flanking the Tingley’s walls reflect on the fungibility of flesh .