The State of Erotic Communism

30 May 2017

The White Building
Tue 30 May, 7 – 9:30pm
£7, con. £4 – book here


The potentials of touch across distributed networks.

The communication of sight and sound across digital networks is a banality of the everyday, but what about touch? As an envelope, a surface, and a limit, the human skin is at once the most private and public of sensory interfaces. Through touching, and allowing ourselves to be touched, we know the world around us: intimately, materially, and affectively. What would it mean to touch and be touched over networks, and to extend our bodies beyond arm’s reach? More to the point: how would you like to be touched?

It is easy enough to imagine the physical exchanges we already know well - shaking hands, having sex - taking place over the internet. Some of these devices already exist. But the space of networks also suggests new dimensions of interaction and experience. What about distributing that experience across the whole network? What if ten thousand people could touch each other, all at once? What if we could all feel what you’re feeling?

Touch opens a space that is both sensual and factual, which lies as close to the world as to the self. This workshop speculates upon new forms of bodily communication, physical communion, and erotic communism, technological behaviours yet to be encoded by social and somatic governance. We will design and test wearable devices, and discuss the potentials, limits and ethics of networking the body. We hope to test the waters, exploring some uncharted territories of physical and informational exchange.

Gary Zhexi Zhang is an artist and researcher interested in distributed systems, including biological swarms, networked intimacy and national internets. As a writer, he contributes regularly to Frieze and other publications. Recent exhibitions include ‘All Channels Open’ at Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire and ‘Beyond Telepathy’ at Somerset House. In 2017, he will be in residence at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and CCA Creative Lab, Glasgow.