Don't touch me (2003)

Don’t touch me is a piece about intimacy and attitudes in front of the computer screen.

I want to tell you a story. Males might think it is about ‘desire,’ females will tell you it’s about the painful change from adolescence to being an adult.

Don’t touch me displays the photograph of a woman lying on a bed, as a voice – that of Annie Abrahams – starts telling a story. “Don’t touch me tells a dream I had when I was a teenager,” says Annie Abrahams. This dream can be interpreted as the sometimes painful transition from teenage to adulthood for a young woman exposed to the gaze and the desire of men.

The player listens to the voice, and, at the same time, experiences her story through interactive elements. Being passive, looking and listening without using the mouse is not always easy for the user, who is often prompted to click compulsively. But if the cursor of the mouse hovers over the picture as if caressing the body, a text immediately appears on the screen, expressing the woman’s refusal (“don’t touch me”) and she changes positions. The vocal tale stops immediately and restarts from the beginning. On the fourth attempt of caress with the mouse, the window closes up.

The story Don’t touch me (Ne me touchez pas) has a vocal, visual (the young woman displayed) as well as a textual dimension (the three messages of refusal). It also has a gestural dimension: it is only through the action of the user that the vocal narrative unfolds its full meaning.

It is also an interactive story that not only uses but stages its own interactivity and narrativity and both their interplay. Interactivity even prevents narrativity when it is the user’s gesture that pauses the narrative. On the other hand, however, the vocal narrative can only be interpreted through the gesture of the user: it makes sense because it is interactive.

Such, the author plays on the seeming incompatibility between narrativity and interactivity to invite the user to resist the desire to click and to apprehend the different representations – especially online – of the female body.

Review: Serge Bouchardon