Laura Dima’s installation, 'The Finger Rub Rug' invites spectators into an enclosed room with a rug made of silicone fingers. They are encouraged to touch, play and interact with the rug in any way they want. In combination with the rug, Dima plays a soundtrack designed to hit 4 themes: humorous, creepy, sultry and neutral. The fingers are warm, thanks to the heater Dima installed underneath the rug.
The fingers point upwards: they could be accusatory, inviting, or sexual, and for Dima, the response the rug elicits from the audience is central to the artwork. It is oddly lifelike in its replication of the fingers, but obviously fake by way of the number of them, and their arrangement. This strange concoction is quite confronting and may elicit any combination of disgust, humour, arousal, fear, warmth or discomfort.
Once inside the room, Dima shuts the door, leaving the spectators alone with the rug and able to consider, and act on, their emotions. In this, there is a strange combination of intimacy and openness. The audience member is both in public and alone. Whilst they can do what they want with the rug, how far is too far?
One member of the audience did not want to touch the rug because the fingers are of Dima’s partner, as she said, ‘these are your boyfriend’s fingers, they are yours, I don’t want to interfere’. This response demonstrates a seriousness with which some audience members treated the work, sensing the intimacy and life of Dima and her partner through the fingers. Central to this piece is Dima's interest in transferring emotions through 'dead material and for this particular audience member, the reality of Dima's partner was stronger this 'dead' material.
Dima’s use of silicone is linked to her interest in fetish, and materials, ‘I became fascinated by how people experience (sexual) freedom with the use of physical materials. Why do people feel liberated by wearing plastic and latex? Why these materials? What exactly does it replace?’ Silicone and latex are often used in fetish culture, a second skin that allows a person freedom to express themselves: dressing up to be more of oneself. This piece takes this aspect of silicone literally, as the fingers are multiplied and with this in mind, the fingers become immediately more sexual, and more alive.
The music played is based on the rhythm of a heartbeat, and when a person lies on the fingers, their heartbeat can also interact with the music. This adds another layer of connection between the piece and the audience as one is asked to consider their own body and their physical relation to others. The audience are able to share intimacy with a dead material, or with Dima and her partner, or with themselves depending on how they react and feel towards the piece.
What about people who find the rug creepy, or disgusting? The mat is strange for the fingers are so meticulously replicated and lifelike in one sense, but also obviously artificial. If disgust is a reaction to the decaying body, perhaps there is something in this balance between artificiality and lifelikeness that reminds us of our own decay, giving rise to a feeling of disgust. Equally, disgust is an emotion often felt in tandem with others, especially humour or eroticism.
Dima's work does not elicit one uniform response from her audiences, and nor does she it want to. Interested in how environments and installations can shape human behaviour, Dima strives to create an environment for people that creates change. This can include changes in relationships with oneself, and others, changes in emotion or changes in perception. The work covers many themes, emotions, the body, human behaviours, eroticism and playfulness. How would you approach Dima's Finger Rub Rug, and how might it change you?