Touching Theory: w/ Nina Sarnelle and Selwa Sweidan

touch theory graphic design image
February 25th, 2024 | 18:00-20:00 | Mana Contemporary, 2233 S Throop St, Chicago IL

image of workshop facilitators edited to be side by side


Please note, spots are limited.


About the Artists

Selwa Sweidan & Nina Sarnelle are artists based on Tongva/Kizh land often referred to as Los Angeles. Our independent practices have circulated around touch and haptics for a long time. We began working together on this collaborative touch praxis at the beginning of the pandemic in Spring 2020. Together we’ve developed a research methodology consisting of workshops, prompts, interviews, reading, discussion and collaborative writing.

What is Touch?

in a time of high stakes touching—of elbow-bumps, contactless delivery and lethal choke-holds? Tactile experience is critical to our understanding of bodies in space, as well as to the construction of social life and how we interact with the world.

Do flowers feel? Do lobsters feel? Do bacteria feel? Does gravel feel? The way that we answer these questions profoundly determines modes of relating through touch, shaping culture, politics, spirituality, ethics and law.

In all its capacity for healing and care, touch is tightly bound to vulnerability, and perhaps for this reason, holds equal potential for subjugation and harm. In many contexts, touch and touch-deprivation are wielded by systems of domination and violence (Haney 2021; Tuggle 2021; Spillers 2018). Hortense Spillers has described non-consensual touch under slavery as the “single most powerful evidence of the loss of freedom,” generating trauma which cannot be reduced to physical injury alone. When is touch ‘worth the risk’, and for whom?

What is Touch Praxis?

  • Touch as a creative, time-based medium
  • A way of working with others, where ‘every body’ is engaged in the making/knowing
  • Integrates ideas from queer theory, racial and disability justice, quantum physics, critical technology, and somaesthetic ecology
  • A method for feeling one’s way through complex issues related to access, inclusion, consent, power, entanglement, alterity, and techno-subjectivity.

workshop leads

Nina Sarnelle

"Nina Sarnelle (they/she) is a founding member of the Institute for New Feeling, with degrees from Oberlin College and Carnegie Mellon University. They recently had a solo video show at the New Museum (NY). Her work has also been shown at Whitechapel Gallery (London), Hammer Museum (LA), Getty Center (LA), Ballroom Marfa (TX), MoMA (NY), Recess (NY), Black Cube (Denver), Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (Berlin), Fundacion PROA (Buenos Aires), Southern Exposure (San Francisco), Mwoods (Beijing) and many others."

Selwa Sweidan

"Selwa Sweidan (she/her) is a Maltese-Libyan artist and researcher of emerging technologies. She has co-curated exhibitions and symposia including Beyond Embodiment, Performative Computation, STACKED Expo, Super Radiance and Clustering. She’s been published in the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Journal and the Design Research Society; and exhibited at Bevilacqua Gallery, Center Du Pompidou, HomeLA, Spring/Break LA and UC Irvine. She holds degrees from Smith College and ArtCenter College of Design, and is currently an Annenberg PhD Fellow at the University of Southern California."

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