Please Touch the Art

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image courtesy of the artist and Eleven Rivington, NY

It’s the museum guard’s mantra: “Please don’t touch the art.” Yet some cultural institutions invite a small and specialized audience to violate that rule, allowing blind patrons to experience sculpture. Photographer Matt Ducklo, in turn, creates his own art by photographing these “touch tours,” reports BlackFlash (Fall 2009). The result is a series of striking large-scale images, Touch Tour Pictures, that “create poetic records” of these unusual interactions and carry multiple layers of art and meaning.

“The moments he captures are explicitly intimate,” writes BlackFlash. But lest anyone suspect Ducklo is inappropriately inserting himself–and the viewers of his art–into a highly personal sphere, the magazine notes that the photographs “defuse voyeurism by making touch visible, and thereby eliciting an empathetic response in the viewer.”

Ducklo acknowledges that complex issues are in play. In a 2007 interview with the art magazine Freight and Volume, he explained, “Just because you might have good intentions . . . doesn’t negate the fact that photography is voyeuristic. Photographing someone who can’t see does feel inherently exploitative, and I do inform the people in the Touch Tour Pictures of how I’m representing them, but they are placing trust in me.”

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