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thoughts on my research question

During the pandemic I thought a lot about how touch was at risk of becoming stigmatized due to the spread of COVID-19. Much of my personal practice focuses on touch that manifests as interactive works (soft plush sculptures, thermochromic prints, etc). In light of COVID-19, my work investigating touch and how we form relationships developed a new sense of urgency. How can we memorialize physical contact (a fundamental part of the human experience) in a time when touch is at risk of becoming stigmatized?

To explore this notion I want to investigate how we can make barriers of touch more human. I intend to look at bioplastic forms (ambitiously, a bioplastic glove perhaps) that have thermochromic properties. When they are handled they will leave a trace of human touch behind as they slowly return to their base color. Thermochromic pigments are activated by the human body temperature and so touch can be recorded with a time based action after the plastics are handled, in whatever form they take.

My initial investigation will be experimenting with different bioplastic recipes of which I have found various ones which yield to different degrees of flexibility and tackiness, depending on ingredients and ratios.

https://www.instructables.com/Bioplastic-With-Different-Stickiness/

Once I have settled on a recipes I will begin to integrate the thermochromic pigment into the ingredients and observe how effective the material is at temporarily recording touch.

I have recently come across bioplastic material investigations on Instructables that have laser-cut samples, which would be perfect should I pursue creating a bioplastic glove using a sewing pattern. I have not yet grasped the feasibility of this endeavour but I’m so keen to try!

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2 replies on “thoughts on my research question”

hi alfie,

thanks for sharing. i love this idea. it feels personal, accessible, and kind. i had a brief chance to work with some bioplastics this semester in another class, and it was really fun. i hope that you’ll have fun with it too.

best,
david 🙂

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hi Alfie,

I found your research topic very captivating! There is certainly a lot to dwell on in terms of how human touch takes shape, especially while in the midst of a pandemic. I am curious how the simulation of touch shown in a digital format will read to your audience members.

Your research topic reminded me of a piece exhibited at the Hirshhorn quite some time ago.

https://hirshhorn.si.edu/exhibitions/rafael-lozano-hemmer-pulse/

The artist’s name is Rafael Lozano Hemmer, his exhibition was called Pulse. He had a series of installations where audience members were encouraged to touch a type of sensor and their heart rate would then be displayed in a physical manner. My favorite installation was where you placed your hands on two bars and your heart rate was seen by the flickering of lights on and off. These lights covered the entirety of the ceiling in this very large room. Given this was an exhibition, I do believe there is more of a theatrical element but I still saw some similarities with this piece and your interest.

best,

Kate

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