Hand Journeys: yesterday and today

Manuela Alessandrini and Monica Bernacchia

The Table “Sudan – Paris”

“Sudan – Paris” is a tactile table created by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1921.
The artist, also author of the “Manifesto on Tactilism”, created that artwork to encourage public awareness in a dimension of art which wasn’t only visual, educating people about tactile values.

The table has to be interpreted only by hands, keeping it hidden by a cloth sheet.
The emotion arises from the tactile sensations transmitted by materials.
The softness, the warmth and sometimes the harshness of Sudanese desert are told by materials such as sponge, wire brush, wool, sandpaper; the freshness of the water of the Mediterranean Sea transmitted by silver paper; the smoothness of silk, the softness of velvet and the lightness of feathers for telling the story of the luxury and fashion of Paris in the years of the Belle Époque.

The Table “Morocco – Ancona”

“Morocco – Ancona” is a tactile table created by a teenage girl in 2023.
After having studied Marinetti’s “Sudan – Paris” table in the dark, the girl told one of her personal journeys using the same technique.
She obtained the roughness by tearing corrugated cardboard into irregular pieces for evoking tactilely the homes of Morocco, the fraying of shredded and tangled fabrics represent the strength of the Mediterranean Sea faced in a precarious situation; the softness and warmth of a white synthetic fur represent a tidy and well-kept, simple and welcoming home.
The final destination, Ancona is Home.

 Comparing tables

 Filippo Tommaso Marinetti told a return trip; his work was an artistic exercise to teach us new aesthetic paths. The girl accepted this exercise enriching it with her own experience of emigrant: a journey to a place she, today, calls “Home”.

Teenager projects

The “Morocco – Ancona” tactile table, together with other ones, was created within the “Teenager Project”, proposed by the Protection Unit of Minors of the Municipality of Ancona.

Over 2022-2023, the project involved the Omero Museum together with other local authorities in a cycle of rewarding activities, dedicated to ten adolescents who had successfully completed their rehabilitationprocess. The aim was to introduce them to the beauties and the resources of the city of Ancona.
The Omero Museum managed a couple of appointments: in the first meeting, a blindfolded visit to the Museum collection was organized; in the second, the practical activity “Journey of hands” was carried out.

Following the model of Marinetti’s table, the teenagers created the tactile stories of their personal journeys – an internal journey or a simple daily journey – through three stages: the place of departure, the journey itself and the place of arrival.
When the initial reticence was overcome, the girls and boys were able to open themselves to the stories of their personal experiences, often difficult, also using the exchange of their tactile tables.

Everybody tried to read a partner’s tactile table with hands; the author of the table spontaneously began integrating and enriching partner’s interpretation, allowing own emotions to flow freely. This operating method created an intimate and pleasant climate where telling own stories was easy. This was a surprising result, not only for the museum workers but also for the social workers.