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Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia: Thresholds of Empathy with Art
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Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia: Thresholds of Empathy with Art (Hardback)

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Synopsis

The neurological condition synaesthesia (the mixing of the senses) has for over a century provoked thought about new ways of artistic seeing.



In 'Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia: Thresholds of Empathy with Art', a recently discovered manifestation provides a lens through which to re-examine contemporary art experience. People with mirror-touch synaesthesia feel a physical sense of touch on their own bodies when they witness touch to other people and often to objects. The condition is a rare yet recognizable form of heightened physical empathy: present in just 1 in 75 people, it is associated with an overactivation of the near-universal

mirror (neuron) system. Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia places mirror-touch, a social synaesthesia, at the center of dialogue between neuroscience, the humanities, and contemporary art theory and practice in order to explore, for the first time, its powerful potential as a model for the embodied and

relational spectatorship of art.



Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia brings together essays and conversations by prominent neuroscientists, anthropologists, artists, art theorists, curators, film theorists, and philosophers, as well as mirror-touch synaesthetes, and through proximity, and cross-disciplinary dialogue, dissolves barriers not only between disciplines but between theory and experience. Essays and conversations find common ground not only in quantitative but also qualitative accounts of mirror-touch; the editor has conducted

the first set of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with mirror-touch synaesthetes, which is available in excerpted form in the volume's appendix. This collection of thirteen conversations constitutes a performative project at the boundary between art and science that invites contributors to

reconceptualize the ways that artworks invite us into relational, co-constitutional forms of spectatorship. Critically refiguring arguments about the 'social turn' in contemporary art that reject the traditional viewer as passive, Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia expands the possibilities of what art we might call 'participatory', and enriches debates around the social agency of perception. In these essays, the blurred thresholds in mirror-touch between sight and touch, and between self and other,

are redrawn for an interdisciplinary readership as newly sensitized boundaries between image and action, art and life.

Daria Martin, artist, has researched mirror-touch synaesthesia since 2008 and made it the centre of three films: Sensorium Tests (2012), At the Threshold (2014-2015), and Theatre of the Tender (2016). Martin's films, which have been exhibited around the world, aim to create a continuity between disparate artistic media (such as painting and performance), between people and objects, and between internal and social worlds. Solo exhibitions include ACCA, Melbourne; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the New Museum, New York; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Kunstalle Zurich; and Tate Britain. Martin is currently Professor and Head of Artistic Research at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford.

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