Within Touching Distance

2018 | Spatial installation
In the installation ‘Within Touching Distance’, visitors are cared for by a set of animate curtains, each with their own characteristics: One whizzes past upon entrance, showing the way forward with its petrol blue strings following your every step. Another one, wall-sized and ponderous, envelopes you as you sit on a chair, inviting for a moment of privacy. Set in the interior, the ‘phygital’ hosts explore how to communicate with those using the space in an intuitive, more personal way.

How close do we feel to the digital tools that surround us? Most often the digital layer of smart homes remains invisibly in the background – impalpable and distant. How would they need to be designed in order to become truly engaging? This indication of a ‘home of caring materials’ brings the aim of bridging sensual materiality with the digital landscape one step closer. “The biggest thing we are going to see the next 20-30 years is that technology will become invisible. No longer will we rely on screens to be able to interact with the internet”, believes Prof. John Barrett, Head of Academic Studies at Nimbus Centre. If that was to be true, in which way will we observe technology and its influences in the future? Will its presence simply be forgotten, dissolve into an almost divine ubiquity? Or will we rather design new appearances and palpable fusions of digital- and physical realms? Prevalent visions for hybrid spaces aim to render technology as invisible and immaterial as possible. “Within Touching Distance” wants to challenge this seamless approach. Treating cyberspace as purely cognitive matter descends from the plain old dualistic picture of the relation between human beings and the world, the doctrine of treating mind and body separately. But what if e.g. an app had a texture? An impact on the appearance of your room? Or even a fixed place at your very shelf? Striving for a sensible digitality means to design considering human senses. It means to acknowledge these natural stimuli and the environment from which they emanate as the basis of our conscious self, our “Being-in-the-World”. It means to re-think the ways in which technology is taking shape in order to make it accessible for a more holistic perception.