Exploration – Thoughts on ‘Touch’

During my exposure to the subject of ‘Touch’, interacting with one another via the third space, I explored my thoughts regarding the topic.

Looking into virtual space made me realised how it was something that we take for granted. It is so integral in our everyday lives, yet we often do not observe how it affects us inside. Only when we started consciously taking note of the third space then we realised how it matters.

My main takeaway from the virtual touch was that it is not real. No matter how close and seemingly intimate, it will never be or replace the real tactile feeling. Something magical is missing in virtual touch compared to physical touch, might in fact leave us a little empty in the communication.

Yet, the feeling of ‘touching’ or even ‘hugging’ someone virtually, while not having physical contact – it very surreal and interesting. It even challenges the boundaries of what is real, the distinction between physical presence and telepresence. These statements were strongly referenced by Paul Sermon’s ‘Telematic Dreaming’.


Paul Sermon’s Telematic Dreaming, first exhibited in 1992.


The installation questioned the physical presence and telepresence. Though they are separated by geographical locations, this piece allowed the users to exist beyond their own time/space and create an alarming sense of touch. Also, the use of speakers allowed intimate conversations to kickstart. A vivid interaction between Paul Sermon and the audience was thus created, giving an out-of-the-world experience to the participants. – Research Critique on Telematic Dreaming

Therefore, this was a thought-provoking piece that tested the boundaries of distance, whether the sense of intimacy can be crossed over to the third space (and even invade on personal space), and the topic on reality versus virtual reality.

At the same time, the third space is very susceptible to imperfection. There will always bound to be glitch in the media, at times when we had virtual classroom we might face connection issues e.g. someone would disconnect, or their screen would freeze/glitch at times even. It would often cause us some annoyance. Yet, sometimes this glitch might be a beautiful thing as it produces nice results aesthetically, like ‘The Glitch of PAL’ by Rosa Menkman.

The Glitch of PAL by Rosa Menkman, example of a beautiful glitch.

The Glitch of PAL by Rosa Menkman, example of an aesthetically interesting glitch.

Therefore, these were my thoughts about ‘Touch’ that I am very keen to explore in the performance. Next, I started to conceptualise for it.

Conceptualisation + Narrative Overview 

Overall narrative: Transcendence into the Third Space, a fantastical “utopia” > Disillusionment > Possible endings (closure – fading away/open-ended – entrapment)

Telematic presence is a constant theme that needs to be addressed on. Moreover a strong, surprising sense of touch needs to be established whereby the audience should feel that the performers are even transcending their own time and space. This can be achieved using the wearables. During the interaction with Angeline, our actions should transcend our current space and make the audience feel as if we are in the same plane as them. It could be like as simple as making her dress interact when we perform a trigger action. For example, through a hand movement (performing magic gestures/switching on a button etc.) we can ‘trigger’ her dress, which then lights up with LED lights. Thus it might seem that we ‘magically’ lit up her dress through a hand movement, and as if we are in the same room as her physically, though we are not. This would then challenge the physical presence and telepresence, creating a deceiving reality that is more surreal.

Performers can look very intrigued and in wonderment, because the third space is a very interesting concept and transcending across space feels like a fantasy.

In ‘Hakanai’, there’s this sense of fantasy being established with the movement and the dancer’s expression.

Aesthetics wise, I thought of this piece like a ‘futuristic fantasy’. During the interaction between the performers, a surreal feel can be suggested through the fluid moves and aesthetics of the set/costumes.

I thought it might be interesting if halfway in the performance there is a staged glitch, which the performers can act like they are in dismay too. This is to show the reality of how the media is always imperfect and we often face unforeseen circumstances which makes us annoyed. Yet, at the same time the glitch needs to still look aesthetic, to prove that it is spontaneously appealing. Therefore, the concept of an imperfect third space might be a climax.

Moreover, the performers could convey the lack of reality in the third space that leaves one empty, through sad dance movements and music.

The ending of the performance might be a closure or might not be. It could end with a proper conclusion to the narrative, for example fading away in sadness when the connection goes off slowly. Another option would be it going somewhere new with the narrative that leaves the audience to probe further. Maybe it could be as if the performers got so immensed and they went into the virtual reality itself. It could bring out the sense of entrapment. Then the audience would ask, did they get trapped there? What happened to them?

There are many possibilities with what this item can encompass and there options are only some considerations regarding the direction we can go towards.