Response to the Archive: Touch by Kirin Makker


Kirin Makker
Touch (cyanotype on watercolor paper, 3.75” x 6.5”)
Responding to Roberta Schwartz’s It’s About the Touch
Instagram: @kirinmakker

This is a postcard-sized print I made and sent to my dear friend Cadence, who lives just four miles from me and whom I see weekly on zoom. An accomplished dancer and dance instructor, Cadence is also a somatic movement therapist. She knows the power of human touch. But because of the pandemic, Cadence and I have not touched since March.

The Warp and Weft contributing writer Roberta Schwartz writes, “What I miss most during the pandemic is the ability to reach out and fearlessly, lovingly touch others…the sense of wellbeing that touch provides.” When I read this, I thought of Cadence and how much I miss not only being in her physical company, but the way that she engages with a friend, the space she gives in our interaction for a fearless loving hand on my shoulder, or a hand moving across my upper back as we hug.

This print is a cyanotype, made by applying a chemical solution to the surface of paper, then placing objects on that surface in sunlight to image-capture their touch and shape. These object memories are physically cast into the spongey surface of the paper, becoming an extension of that moment of contact. The image-impression is permanent. It cannot be washed away.

Within this print Touch are object memories of:

~One of my maternal grandmother’s fanciest hankies.

~Flower seeds and petals harvested from my summer pots, but with lineage to my dear friend Cadence’s garden beds.

~A vintage crystal ashtray I bought at an auction years ago when I was still married.

~Fabric scraps from an outfit from one of my paternal aunties, a hand me down, worn at a wedding.

~Fur shed from my cat Zora.

~Glass beads from my mom.

Until the advent of digital printing, the cyanotype was the most inexpensive and quickest way to reproduce large drawings.  More commonly known as “blueprints,” these drawings filled the hallowed halls of design studios, engineering firms, and government offices. Professions of white men drew up the world we live in today on sheets of white translucent vellum in black ink. When transferred onto blueprint paper, those ink lines became white lines in a sea of blue. Those crisp white lines then became our streets, subdivisions, houses, offices, classrooms, shopping centers, hospitals, jails.

Touch is part of a larger series of cyanotype works that seeks to flip the narrative of the architectural blueprint, wrestling it away from those who built our “manmade” world. These artworks visually record this contemporary moment of human frailty by capturing the touch of the everyday, recording the discarded, amplifying the hushed, and surfacing what’s just out of sight.

[Geneva, New York]

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