Astonished and beguiled is how I felt, the first afternoon I spent with Touch Parade in 2012 at the Sculpture Center in New York. Such is a priceless opportunity that living in New York affords: to see a work inhabit different spaces at different times. To see how an artist adapts an installation to an existing space will convey so much information about the flexibilities and constraints within that work. As if casting movements for the human body, A.K. Burns developed Touch Parade as a five channel video installation. It's currently included in A Different Kind of Order: The ICP Triennial, on view until September 22, 2013.
Artist, educator, and pleasure activist, Burns worked each video for Touch Parade through a persistent refrain of tactility. We first discover the feel of the world through the sense of touch, a sense that questions and confirms not just texture, shape and stability—touch is also a test of willingness. Can we separate touch from being an extension of the body? For this work, Burns re-performs Youtube videos that don't immediately register as the ambiguous fetish works that they are. Crushing food with sneakers, popping a balloon, driving barefoot, sporting rubber gloves, or wading around in mud—none of these activities are (to outsiders) recognizable as arousing material. But to those who make them and/or seek them, such seemingly banal activities are choreographed and performed to engage desire.
While preparing for a solo show at Callicoon Fine Arts in September, Burns welcomed me into the artist's studio, where we talked about the criteria for Touch Parade, the culture of crush videos, and how representations of gender play out in a subculture for which literacy remains liminal (for now).
This is Part 2 of a two-part series with two artists working the spectrum of contemporary pleasure and intellect, where collaboration, politics, and the sense of touch directly critique various degrees of social acceptability. Part 1 with Aura Rosenberg was posted last week.
A.K. Burns, Touch Parade (squeeze-2-pop), 2011. Courtesy of the artist and Callicoon Fine Arts, NY.
Patricia: Even though I was looking at a video installation, your work made me think of sculpture more than anything.
A.K. Burns: I think about sculpture alot. Whether my work is overtly sculptural or not, I often make from and think about the body first. Both the