“A Semblance of Sight: The Touch of Zhang Yu’s Fingerprints”

I will be presenting my paper “A Semblance of Sight: The Touch of Zhang Yu’s Fingerprints” at the Toucher par l’art: autour de l’aptique/Touched by Art: Around Haptic symposium at the Université de Montréal on November 13-14, 2014.

Here is the abstract for the paper:
Each of Chinese painter Zhang Yu’s abstract colour-field works from his Fingerprint series (2003-ongoing) begins with a touch. With either red or black ink on the tip of his index finger, he reaches towards a large sheet of rice paper, touching it repeatedly until it is completely covered. Each of the thousands of imprints made on the paper not only leave a coloured trace of Zhang’s fingerprint, but it also physically stamps the peaks and valleys of his fingerprint directly into the paper. The paintings visibly quiver, offering us a seeing experience that is more than visual. These works generates a feeling, which can only be but felt through the activity of seeing, that is simultaneously haptic and kinaesthetic. Through sight we become aware of the subtle haptic sensations of the micro-textures made in the paper by the grooves of Zhang’s finger and the kinaesthetic feeling produced by the colour’s ability to self-vibrate and relationally resonate. Ultimately, what comes to be experienced when gazing at Zhang’s colour-field fingerprint paintings, as this paper will argue, is a “semblance” of sight. Semblance, as Brian Massumi writes, is how the virtual (in the Deleuzian sense) actually appears in the midst of an experience. Through our ability to see, we do not actually feel the roughness of Zhang’s fingerprint or the colour of each imprint vibrate. Instead, these sensations we come to experience in the seeing are the effects of a potential found within sight that enable it to exceeds itself. This paper will demonstrate how Zhang’s work, through its ability to activate feelings of the haptic and the kinaesthetic, enables us to become aware that sight always has the potential to exceed what is actually visible and generate a semblance in the seeing.

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