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Sarah Busch

University of Freiburg

Sound credit: Sigur Rós. "Straumnes." Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, EMI & XL Records, 2008.

How do you make someone physically feel without being able to touch them?

Does transmitting affect and emotion work through the online space?

And if so, what is it that we can share with others digitally – Pleasure? Goosebumps? Love?

This is what I am wondering as I set out to do embodied research. Thinking, feeling, being. How do these human practices work in a post-human digital reality? Shared affects and emotions are exhilarating, be it in everyday situations with strangers, friends and family, or, as a performer, with an ensemble and an audience. As I am conceptualising the aesthetic product I will be sharing with the workshop group, I ask myself whether this exhilaration can be felt remotely, even if ever so slightly. I am on my way home to see my family over Easter. I am thinking about filming the reunion with my grandmother, whom I haven’t seen in forever due to the pandemic – she is turning 85 that week. Foreign feeling for everyone to see. I decide against it for privacy reasons and prepare a video performance called “Touching Feeling” instead. I am still committed to the idea of filming something human, someone, a body, or at least a part of it. I’ve always liked my hands and they seem like the perfect if slightly obvious representation of feeling. In times of the pandemic, it is all about not taking other people’s hands, washing your own, missing hugs and small touches from loved ones. I want to show that longing with the movement of the hands in the clip. Repelling and attracting, constantly gravitating towards each other, resisting, but finally: giving into the urge of sharing a moment of connection.

I am still wondering about shared digital feeling.

According to my fellow workshop members, some of that did translate onto the other side of the screen. There was a feeling of longing for the hands to find each other, there were goosebumps once the hands touched, and a sort of calm after they were intertwined.

Were my workshop group members and I able to affect each other primarily because of our personal connection we had built, or because we were so open to it, so willing that not feeling anything simply was not an option? How would this work for someone who is a stranger to the project and to us all? Would mirror neurons fire and affect be transmitted? Or would empathy unfold on the basis of the hands’ narrative, maybe even trigger personal memory or identification? Intrigued by the idea of Anna Castel’s digital body theatres and what possibilities they hold, I am excited to continue the research journey with the “Feeling Digital” team.

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