Haptics

Some of my work explores haptic drawing and painting. The mind and body perceive and translate perceptions through the hands and chosen tool (pencil, paintbrush, pen). The marks are analogous to felt experience: seen, heard, touched, etc. It’s a tactile, empathic, gestural approach, often meditative in nature. A few examples of haptic drawing:

There’s also a political dimension to haptics that I think is suggested in the quote below from “Haptic Visuality” by Laura U. Marks:

“Optical visuality sees objects as distinct, distant, and identifiable, existing in illusionary three-dimensional space. It maintains a clear, crisp relationship between figure and ground. Optical visuality is necessary for distance perception: for surveying a landscape, for making fine distinctions between things at a distance. That’s how the object of vision is constituted in optical visuality. The subject of vision — the beholder — is also conceived as discrete, as having solid borders that demarcate the beholder from the thing beheld. So you can see why optical visuality is needed, for example, for firing a missile. It conceives of the other, the object of vision, as distant and unconnected to the subject of vision. Optical visuality is necessary. But it’s only half of vision.

“Haptic visuality sees the world as though it were touching it: close, unknowable, appearing to exist on the surface of the image. Haptic images disturb the figure-ground relationship. The early twentieth-century Viennese art historian Alois Riegl borrowed the term from psychology, haptein, for a kind of vision that ‘grabs’ the thing it looks at. I think it’s important that Riegl was a historian of textiles, and that he came up with this word when he was poring over his Persian carpets. These carpets with their endless, interleaved patterns don’t allow the eye to rest in one place; they invite the eye to move along them, caressing their surface. Contemplating these patterns does something to dissolve the boundaries between the beholder and the thing beheld.”

The Little Book of Haptic Drawing_by Jean Vengua

Perhaps haptic art can do a little to counter the distancing and addictive effects experienced online in the attention economy. Learn more about haptics in my ebook, The Little Book of Haptic Drawing. It’s free. In it, I discuss the process of haptic drawing as well as some of its political implications, and provide a few exercises that will help you flex your senses in the process of creating haptics. You can also read “Post Visual: Jean Vengua’s Haptic Drawings,” by Eileen Tabios.