Sheelah Murthy

January 7– 31 2013


Economies of Touch is a participatory video installation that explores controversial ambiguities around the experience of physical intimacy.

US-born and Thailand-based feminist artist Sheelah Murthy will transform H Project Space with a specially designed hut in which her performance of deep-tissue, therapeutic massage is linked to digital representations that fluctuate according to stock market reports. When stocks descend a surveillance camera reveals disconcerting close-ups of the bodies at work and when stocks rise these bodies are distanced. Related imagery extends this metaphoric dynamic between private and public realms and the politicising of relations between intimate experience and economic forces.

Economies of Touch is a provocative deliberation on our typically unacknowledged engagement or complicity with a complex system that can grate the edges of personal experience in terms of sensual-yet-cold exchange and financial appropriations of health, self and well-being. The installation makes visible the often insidious relationships that bind different bodies.

Murthy is collaborating with Gregory Wildes and the NGOs Dignity Returns and No Chains. Visitors can provide donations to activate video footage and this money will be donated to the NGOs.

Sheelah Murthy began her work as a massage therapist working at a HIV Wellness Clinic and her practice has continuously engaged with artists and non-artists including community organizations, the US public school system, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College. Working in the country of co-conspirators Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Michael Shaowanasai from graduate school in Chicago and her mentor and sculpture professor Thana Lahaukaikul in Texas, Murthy now continues her practice as an artist and educator in Asia. Past exhibitions and awards include: Beyond Pressure Performance Art Festival, Myanmar; The Kitchen, NYC; PS 122, NYC; Women’s International Film Festival, Seoul; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The Pedagogies of the Oppressed Conference, Los Angeles; Performance Studies International Conference, Singapore; Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance, NYC; Chicago Cultural Grants; Texas Commission on the Arts; Rockefeller New Generation; Columbia Faculty Enrichment Grant; and an Illinois Arts Fellowship.

Gregory Wildes’ work ranges from multi-instrumental improvisation to digital sample library production, circuit design and interactive programming. Wildes is the founder of legendary DIY electro-acoustic bands Ski-A-Delics and Gas Tank Orchestra. While majoring in contemporary music at Wesleyan University with composers Alvin Lucier and Ron Kuivila he also studied with masters of African, Indian, and Javanese music. He has presented work in the USA, France, Finland, Denmark, and Hong Kong.

No Chains is a network of worker cooperatives that aims to serve as a model of self-management and sweat-free labour. Members include cooperatives based in Argentina, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Hong Kong.

Dignity Returns is a Bangkok-based cooperative that produces garments under conditions of democratic control.