Touching The Tactile


International workshop seminar, April 10-11, 2014

Medical Museion / Royal Academy of Art, Copenhagen

As Aristotle already remarked, the sense of touch tends to evade any clear definition. Is touch a sense organ in its own right or does it rather operate as a general function that makes sensation in itself possible? Likewise, if all perception occurs through a medium that differs the sensing body from the sensed, how can one account for this interspace in tactile sensation if the distance between that which touches and that which is touched is barely discernible? Even if they primarily belong to a philosophical discourse, these and similar questions concerning the nature of touch are just as relevant in other contexts, especially those where the prosaicness of touch is circumscribed by specific rules and norms and enacted in particular spaces.

The aim of this workshop is to approach the sense of touch via a series of hands-on investigations and discussions that will take place within the context of art and museum practices. By focusing on touch, the workshop draws attention to features that are often overlooked in the fabric of art exhibits and museum displays. More particularly, the workshop will unfurl the experience and knowledge that comes with touch and the things that we touch. These are experiences that span from intimate relationships, over the skills of diverse crafts and the knowledge of specific materials to pedagogical methods and artistic positions that entail the actual touching of objects. The question is, among others, what kind of knowledge do we speak about when we speak about touch? What kind of remembrance is invoked? Is it conceptual, can it be conceptualized, or does it rather stand in opposition to concepts and visuality? Likewise, what difference does the actual touching of artworks and museum objects make?

Detailed program and abstracts


Thursday April 10
Medical Museion, Bredgade 62, Copenhagen

  • 13.00 – 13.20 / Welcome speech, Thomas Söderqvist, Director, Medical Museion + Short intro, Jan Eric Olsén, associate professor, Medical Museion
  • 13.25 – 14.10  /  Short roundtable presentation of participants
  • 14.15 – 15.00  /  Teresa Nielsen, Vejen Art Museum, DK Access for one group – to the appreciation for many.
  • 15.00 – 15.20  /  Jan Eric Olsén, Medical Museion, Copenhagen, Extracts from the blindhistorical collection.
  • 15.20 – 15.45  /  Coffee
  • 15.45 – 16.30  /  Lucy Lyons, London based artist,  Touch but don’t touch: touching by proxy.
  • 16.30 – 17.15  /  Ane Pilegaard Sørensen, Medical Museion, Copenhagen, Between Bodies –  Exhibiting medical materialities.
  • 17.15 – 17.45  /  Erik Hippe, Copenhagen based physician, Demonstration of medical palpation.

Friday April 11
Royal Academy of Arts, Sculpture Dept, Heibergsgade 9, Copenhagen

  • 9.30 – 10.00    / Coffee and croissants
  • 10.00 – 10.30 / Mikkel Bogh, Rector, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. School of Visual Art, Intimacy, materiality, gesture.
  • 10.00 – 10.45  /  Zoe Laughlin, Institute of Making and the Materials Library Project, London, The Performativity of Matter: Greatest Hits & New Findings, 2014.
  • 10.45 – 11.30  /  Michael Renner, Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst, Basel, Ceramics: Intersection of the Tactile and the Visual.
  • 11.30 – 12.00  /  Albin Werle, Royal Academy of Art, Copenhagen, Dream Archaeology-project.
  • 12.00 – 13.00  /  Lunch
  • 13.00 – 13.45   / Toni Hildebrandt, Istituto Svizzero, Rome, Drawing blindfolded: On the Relation of Touching and Memory.
  • 13.45 – 14.30  / Anette Stenslund, Medical Museion, Copenhagen, Touching absence: the smell of nothing.
  • 14.30 – 15.00  /  Coffee
  • 15.00 – 15.45  /  Jakob Bak, Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, Haptic Design Materials.
  • 15.45 – 16.30  /  Laura Liv Weikop, Design Museum, Copenhagen, The Exhibition Lab – from glass cases to touch?
  • 16.30 – 17.00  /  Sum up

Arranged by:
Medical Museion, Jan Eric Olsén, in collaboration with Royal Danish Art Academy, Schools of Visual Art, Jan Bäcklund, Henriette Heise, Karen Harsbo
Collaborative partner Topographies of the Obsolet, Bergen Academy of Art




Medical Museion
Royal Academy of Arts, Sculpture Department
Topographies of the Obsolete