Tuesday, October 27th, 2015...8:24 pm

We Should All Sit at the Table

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Touch in Real Time

“We should all sit at the table,” concludes Holly Hanessian, ceramics artist, in regards to creators in all mediums – painters, sculptors, potters, designers, and so on. I took her final statement to mean something different, bigger.

In listening to Hanessian speak about her artwork I realized that her artistic goal is to create an infinitely grand table of conversation that includes not only the large amount of varying artists, but also psychologists, neuroscientists, and other researchers in the STEM field. Her work is truly an amalgamation of expression (art) and data (science). It is admirable for an individual to try to combine two seemingly divergent schools of thought into one, and I believe truly important and beneficial for both worlds.First Handshake, 2011 Tallahassee, Eduardo C.

Hanessian’s most recent project, Touch in Real Time, focuses on the emerging social disconnect in our society. Part ceramics and part performance art, the artist has people join hands around a flattened ball of clay, creating a social and personal union between the two. The hope is to promote the release of oxytocin – a chemical in our brain that creates the feeling of comfort we experience when petting a dog or receiving a hug – and to mark this moment in an artistic artifact.

Like I mentioned before, I find this an important project in both the world of science and the world of art. Hanessian, who, herself, has admitted she wasn’t a great science and math student in school, brings scientific terminology and experimentation into her artwork. With the help of neuroscientists, she measured the brain’s reaction to the act of holding clay. Whether the findings fit her desired outcome or not, what she did brought art into the laboratory. This is significant because, if anything, a little spark might have lit in the scientific heads around her – how can art and art making affect the brain, and should we explore this further? On the other hand, science has now been leaked into the art world, exposing the public to topics and ideas that perhaps would only be accessible in a classroom.
The most important aspect of Touch in Real Time, though, is the audience interaction. I think the cause is very noble – to bring people together in an ever distancing and digitized world, breaking through the screen which clouds our eyes, and reaching out to the people around us.

And looking ahead, at Hanessian’s future projects… Combining elements of the digital world, such as 3D printing into a world of hand creations? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother reflection!

Images from: Holly Hanessian – Touch in Real Time 

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