Second part – Touch and Art. By Giancarlo Galeazzi

Giancarlo Galeazzi, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the Istituto teologico marchigiano of the Pontifical Lateran University

A work of art can be viewed from at least two standpoints: that of the artist who produces it and the individual who enjoys it. Both roles may involve all five organs of sense: in the creativity of the artist (which favours one sense rather than another according to the specific conditions) and in the perceptions of the onlookers. As regards the visual arts, it used to seem that one organ of sense – touch – could not be brought into play by the visually impaired in their appreciation of the artwork; but today that is no longer the case because the “look but don’t touch” rule has been challenged, greatly to the credit of those who have  shown that touch, too, provides means of drawing close to works of art.

This approach has offered the blind and partially sighted a “tactile encounter” with the artwork, enabling them to touch the original or a reproduction or a copy to scale. It is an opportunity which turned out to be of even greater significance when it was shown that exploring artworks through touch is also a rewarding experience  for the normally sighted, allowing them to approach the work in a different way and enriching their merely visual appreciation. So, placing art “at our fingertips” allows us to “discover the values of tactility” and to formulate “an aesthetic of tactility”, to draw on the language of Aldo Frassini, used in the titles of various publications by the Museo Tattile Statale “Omero”. It is a way of insisting that, in the enjoyment of art, “tactility” offers opportunities to everyone – sighted and non-sighted alike – and has implications not just at an aesthetic level but at one that can properly be called existential.