So I am exploring our human relationships through touch. Using the difficult, fragile and unpredictable medium of china clay I invite people to hold my hand. effectively we are making some kind of ‘clay shake’.
Originally my interest stemmed from a consideration of care, care between two people. In these times of fear and the unknown behaviour of corona virus an exchange between two people involving holding hands seems ever more important. On BBC Radio 4 Today program the Thought for the day last week spoke about the origin of handshakes, offering an empty hand holding no weapon, how tragic if our hand holding is now perceived to potentially operate as a threat?
Today my friend and neighbour gave me an hour of her time to sit and hold hands while our hands were interleaved with thin china clay. During our first hand holding our grasp felt uncomfortable, awkward and slightly self conscious. We drew with our free hand whether it was the dominant one or not.
In our second hand holding we first discussed how she may have held her late husband’s hand. Somehow we found both a more comfortable and satisfying manner to hold each other’s hand. We did not draw but talked instead of the importance of touch and of behaviour studies when it is withheld or replaced with a surrogate. The hand holding was more relaxed, perhaps because it was a second opportunity. I wonder how many other people will offer the time to explore?
We are friends, we live in a fairly remote rural setting which enables more contact through less contact but still the time involved holding hands is outside generally accepted comfort so perhaps this is also an act of curiosity?
In the time of hand holding perhaps there are also chances for new exchanges, the wet clay recording some traces of our exchange. Perhaps as I learn more about handling the clay I can capture the nuances of that exchange, unspoken but palpable in the time of holding each other.