Iñaki Chávarri is a Spanish artist and university professor living in Colombia. With a multidisciplinary production, he approaches problems of the survival of our species, through drawing and installation.
Haptic value brings together in a single sentence an amalgam of what we are now, what we were and what we will be later. It is about our emotional dependence on hugs, kisses, touches; an invitation to our transitory being is added. The subtle tensions of life, that alternate between simplicity and complexity, the empty and the concrete, the abstract and the formal, the transparency and the thickness. It is an installation that alludes to that fleeting moment where we connect with others and with ourselves through touch.
The phrase, by the African-American poet and activist Nikki Giovanni, comes from the lyrics of one of her songs: My House (1975). This emotional and autobiographical collection of poems marked her new dimension and philosophy of life. Iñaki appropriates the phrase, transforms, translates and readapts it to highlight the importance of touch in the social and personal relationships that accompany us throughout our lives, making us participants in the transforming experience of the affects associated with corporeality. How do you experience touch in the context of the pandemic?
© Manuel Castells/University of Navarra Museum
As a society we have based our knowledge on the senses of vision and hearing. Although it may seem random, in both cases we can make a judgment of the “object” without coming into contact with it. What does it mean to touch another, to touch other objects?
The phrase belongs to the African-American poet, activist, and educator Nikki Giovanni. She probably wrote it from a context where the distance she is referring to is related to class, race and gender: you are not the same as me, therefore I do not want to touch you.
Because you disgust me
Because you scare me
Because I distrust you
Because you don’t deserve it
Currently due to the current virus, still a true mystery, all countries have implemented policies of distancing to counteract the spread of the virus.
Again, minority communities fare poorly in these generalized decisions. I recently met a foundation that is responsible for developing artistic processes with people who simultaneously lack the sense of sight and hearing. My first question was how they could comply with the biosafety protocols. The answer was emphatic: we cannot, the only way to communicate with these people is through contact.
The Colombian conceptual artist Antonio Caro recently died. His last artwork was “Soap, blessed soap”, where the artist shook hands with anyone who wanted to approach a sink full of soap and water. Somehow he re-created a space free of contagion, temporary and ephemeral, where we could touch each other again without fear.
Months before the death of the professor, the editorial design studio Tangrama launches a new typography based on the one used by the artist in his work: Cheap Caro. In the piece that I propose for the museum “Haptic value” we can see how many elements with different trajectories collapse into a single point: not only the importance of the sense of touch, but the value of its political power. Soon we will begin to touch the world again, let us remember to touch not only what is not equal to us.
Iñaki Chávarri, June 2021.