Image Credit: Barbara Hepworth (c) Bowness
Our bodies are enveloped by the organ of touch, the skin. Touch receptors connected to our nervous system are everywhere, but most densely clustered in our fingertips. Their sensitivity allows us to read tactile writing systems like Braille, and our fingerprints, fully formed at birth, are unique to each individual.
Our hands can be an instrument of astonishing complexity, sensing texture and shape, and flexing, teasing and gripping with just the right force. They can have the power to crush, and the refinement to perform feats of precision and dexterity, from making art to performing surgery.
Dissection revealed the wondrous anatomy of the hand and its workings, a design so remarkable it was considered evidence of the existence of the creator. Artists explore both the complexity of the hand and the sensitivity of skin, telling its painful histories, both personal and political.
Claudia Hammond is an award-winning broadcaster, author and psychology lecturer. In her work she shares the ways that psychological and medical research can help us in our everyday lives, whether through radio, TV, podcasts, public events or books. In January 2020 on her BBC Radio 4 programme All in the Mind, Claudia Hammond launched a major new study, The Touch Test, investigating the role of touch. She invited the audience to take part by completing an online questionnaire.
James Hopkinson-Woolley has been a Consultant Orthopaedic Hand Surgeon since November 2000 and his NHS practice is at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge. He gave invaluable support to the Curators of the exhibition in understanding the anatomical detail of some of the works in the exhibition.
Artist Jane Dixon lives and works in London. She is the recipient of multiple awards and fellowships and has works in major collections in the UK and USA, including the Fitzwilliam Museum, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, the British Museum, the V&A and the Arts Council. Her work Braille Suite (2006), from a larger body of work entitled Regeneration (2006-2010), is included in the exhibition The Human Touch: Making Art, Leaving Traces.
This online talk is linked to our upcoming exhibition: The Human Touch.