Their Lips Met

Fuddling Cup, 1635-1645. Museum no. C.358-1919

Artist Richard Wentworth has curated a display specially for Touch Me.

Like many special words in spoken language the word 'touch' leaves the mouth in its very own gentle way. We arrive in the world as babies. We search and cling, cling and search, and we may be rewarded for our efforts. The mouth is the great explorer, first homing in on the breast, then on everything else that the world offers. We follow our desires, we taste, we experiment.

Language is full of physics - we say 'we don't get it' if we don't understand something. We say we need to get 'a grip of ourselves'. We can even say that somebody is a 'bit touched'. The things we find 'touching' are things which affect our feelings, things that move us.

Finger tips and hands are our primary tools to check out the world, to test whether objects are rough or smooth, sharp or blunt, wet or dry, hot or cold. We learn to do this visually too, so that we can imagine all sorts of material experience way beyond our reach. For certain kinds of sophisticated knowledge we can say that somebody has a 'good eye', or that they have 'taste' - another term that we use figuratively. Eyes are good tools, but the brain is better. We are able to speculate and imagine. We learn to fantasise. We are sometimes taken by surprise by what the eye sees, but, since the eye is only a lens, we are really only surprised by our own minds.

The mouth is our third hand, holding door keys while we fumble for a purse, or an envelope while we look for stamps. The lips that enable us to speak are also the gates for all our food and drink, the point of decision for whether things are good or bad for us, orthodox or taboo. A kiss or a sip are sensual acts full of information about how the world feels, and what we feel about the feeling.

Richard Wentworth