The concept of haptic perception (a term which derives from the Greek word haptikos, meaning the ability to enter into contact with something) encompasses the system of relations employed by the body to interact, through movement, with the surrounding environment. The human body is able to develop this bidirectional perceptive mode thanks to a combination of stimuli registered by the skin. These impulses are set off by the skin’s pressure and contact points with everything which surrounds it.
With its ability to overcome the interior-exterior dichotomy of our other perceptive faculties, haptic perception presents a different depth than that offered by our visual perceptive field – in its expanded form within time and space, it is able to assimilate qualities and characteristics which elude vision. What we see is in fact only a partial experience of our sensorial surroundings. In order to have a pertinent understanding of the world and build up a dimensional level of consciousness, it is necessary to experience reality and be in contact with it using our entire body. Our body is therefore the essential system for existing within the world.
In his Phenomenology of Perception, French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty argued that we should not regard the body as a mere biological object but rather as a necessary tool for practical experience – the foundation of all human knowledge. In our exploration of the “other” which surrounds us, sensitive experimentation shifts perception of ourselves to a deeper level, activating an extension of our self and our subjectivity towards a permeable dimension – the hand which touches is simultaneously also touched, in an action which transforms the perceiver into the perceived and vice versa.
In this post-modern age we live in, our condition is increasingly determined by the two-dimensionality of the digital experience. It therefore seems useful to understand how our attention and our gaze are conditioned by the membrane of our various technological appliances. We must rediscover a material perception of the sensitive body within its surroundings, as exemplified by many of the works on display in this room. Only thus will it be possible to challenge certain aspects of virtual reality – the breakdown of space and time, the alteration of the body’s perceptive functions and of our increasingly isolated subjectivity. (lp)