Someone once told me that my art was “so touchy feely.” Even when the work isn’t touched, it’s still touchy feely. Because …
Touch is considered the mother of all senses. It draws on memories deep within our body. A tactile surface triggers a flood of reactions based on previous encounters. What the eyes see is recreated by the body, bringing forth the sensation of touch, without the fingers ever touching. Essentially, our body absorbs the surfaces so that we can feel it with our eyes. Amazing.
Our sense of touch is a unifying theme for philosophers of phenomenology, who refer to perception as the heart of human intelligence. Like Maurice Merleau-Ponty, a French philosopher I studied as part of an art history seminar. He believed perception is a profound bodily experience. In Phenomonology of Perception, he talked about how embodied consciousness emerges in the sentient life of the body itself (world-earth-home), where sensation and perception intertwine into what we know as intelligence.
In A Natural History of the Senses, poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman describes the body as the source of the gorgeous fever that is consciousness. She cites emerging science that reveals how the mind moves through pathways of the body on a caravan of hormones and enzymes, busily making sense of the compound wonders we catalogue as touch, taste, smell, hearing and vision. Ahhhh, such wisdom.