Intimacy and proximity through distance
Amber Koroluk-Stephenson

Gloves are paradoxical in that one can simultaneously touch something without touching it at all. This idea of touching without touching, of forming intimacy through distance, has been significantly heightened in the current global pandemic. Isolation, social distancing, sanitisation and mask wearing have radically shifted normative relationships of tactility and intimacy through touch.

Zoom meetings and Facetime funerals. Virtual art exhibitions and world travel. Online shopping and schooling. Decisive supermarket plucking. Obsessive hand washing and surface wiping. Fresh air under the guise of exercise. Mimed hugs and cheek kisses. Prior to 2020 it seemed inconceivable that an innocent handshake could go against the grain of recently acquired instincts of hesitation and resistance.

Like Man Ray’s Hands Painted by Picasso (1935) or Elsa Schiaparelli’s Woman’s Gloves (1936–1937), hands pose as gloves and gloves pose as hands. Both the glove and the artists’ hand signify something they are not as a means to gesture something more. Duality. Multiplicity. Slippages of everyday fantasies.

Daily routines and modes of communication have been restructured in this current state, where measures of safety and protection have been necessitated in an effort to contain and prevent the spread of Covid-19. Forming new intimacies through distance and screen-based applications has been paramount for many to maintain connection (and sanity) with the outside world.

Gloves, like screens, act an intermediate membrane, a barrier between objects and subjects. As mediums they offer both comfort and protection, providing connection while being simultaneously disconnected and removed. Intimacy and proximity through distance. This push and pull effect in an ever-present paradox of this current age, where staying connected via web application is offset by doom-scrolling.

As the pace of life has slowed down for many, an appreciation of simple pleasures has been amplified. Small gestures are monumental. Acts of compassion and kindness. Awareness. While adaption and resilience have proved necessary to navigate the times and places in which we found ourselves, reflections on positions of power and privilege have become increasable apparent.

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