Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media
University of Minnesota Press, 2002


still from Afternoon, March 4, 1999 by Steve Reinke

In Touch, Laura U. Marks develops a critical approach more tactile than visual, an intensely physical and sensuous engagement with works of media art that enriches our understanding and experience of these works and of art itself. These critical, theoretical, and personal essays serve as a guide to developments in non-mainstream media art during the past ten years—sexual representation debates, to digital media, a new social obsession with smell. Marks takes up well-known artists like experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs and mysterious animators the Brothers Quay, and introduces groundbreaking, lesser-known film, video, and digital artists. From this emerges a materialist theory—an embodied, erotic relationship to art and to the world. Marks’s approach leads to an appreciation of the works’ mortal bodies: film’s volatile emulsion, video’s fragile magnetic base, crash prone Net art; it also offers a productive alternative to the popular understanding of digital media as “virtual” and immaterial. Weaving a continuous fabric from philosophy, fiction, science, dreams, and intimate experience, Touch opens a new world of art media to readers.

"Laura U. Marks' experimental taste and mentality shape an artistic and artist-friendly critical space in Touch. Her book is about the meeting of texts and senses and Marks shines as our surrogate/mentor.” -- Chris Straayer, author of
Deviant Eyes, Deviant Bodies


frame enlargement from Institute Benjamenta (1995) by the Brothers Quay

"I dream that the best jazz musicians in the world are three bugs. One is a spider who plays clarinet and is like Charlie Parker, one is named Habermas. They float into a huge pool, on a raft, and begin playing and the audience goes wild. They are very wise and give us to think how advanced bugs can be. I was crying, maybe because I knew the bug would be killed, maybe because of the passing of all things."—From "Ten Years of Dreams About Art"

"Quantum theory's principle of nonlocality means that even distant objects affect each other as part of a single system. Individual electrons act as a whole in their connection with other electrons. Not only electrons in proximity to each other, for example those coursing to their demise on the video screen, but electrons as far apart as those in my hands typing in Ottawa and your eyes reading in Seoul, share a common wave."—From "How Electrons Remember"

Shoot a film that smells like "freon, melted plastic, and cigarette smoke. Try panning the beige dashboard of a 1967 Dodge Dart. Before you shoot, polish it up well so it gleams. Follow with a shaky close-up on a crack in the asphalt with grass growing through it. Soundtrack: Elvis, "Fools Rush In," on a radio with bad reception."—From "J's Smell Movie: A Shot List"


Reviews of Touch:

Ted Kafala,
RCCS, Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies (April 2006)

Sean Gauthier,
Canadian Journal of Communication 31:4 (2006): 953-958.

Melinda Barlow,
Canadian Journal of Film Studies 12:2 (Autumn 2003)

Dene Grigar,
Leonardo Digital Review (February 2003)



still from My Niagara (1992) by Helen Lee

Contents

Introduction

Video Haptics and Erotics
videos by Sadie Benning, Seoungho Cho, Dave Ryan, Shani Mootoo, Shauna Beharry, Ines Cardoso, and others

I. The haptic subject

Animal Appetites, Animal Identifications
works by Ken Feingold, Michael Cho, Jon Choi, Fred Wiseman, Mike MacDonald, Inuit broadcasting Corporation, and Zacharias Kunuk

“I Am Very Frightened by the Things I Film”
films by Hara Kazuo

II. Haptics and erotics

Here's Gazing at You
films by Ken Jacobs

Love the One You're With: Straight Women, Gay Porn, and the Scene of Erotic Looking
works by Katherine Hurbis-Cherrier, Curt MacDowell, Greta Snider, Karim Aïnouz, and Ming-Yuen S. Ma

Loving a Disappearing Image
works by Phil Solomon, Peggy Ahwesh, Mike Hoolboom, Lawrence Brose, Steve Reinke

III. Olfactory haptics

The Logic of Smell
Institute Benjamenta: An Olfactory View
films by the Brothers Quay

J's Smell Movie: A Shot List

IV. Haptics and electronics

Video's Body, Analog and Digital
videos by Dorian Berg, Caspar Stracke, Steve Reinke, Kika Thorne, Emily Vey Duke, Miranda July, Winston Xin, and Anthony Discenza

How Electrons Remember

Immanence Online
web works by Veronica Karlsson, Juliet Martin, David Crawford, Yael Kanarek, Netochka Nezvanova, John Hudak, Antoni Abad, Emmanuel Lamotte, Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, and others

Ten Years of Dreams About Art


still from How TV Works (1977) by Dan Sandin