You are here
Home >
Unfeasible Object experiment: Raised platform (1), brush (2), clay object (3), the participant (4), the experimenter (5).

The Rubber Hand Illusion [RHI] shows it is possible to convince participants that a rubber hand is their own by placing it in front of them while stroking it in the same way as their hidden real hand. The unfeasible object experiment uses a self-made clay object in place of the rubber hand to test the possibilities of this illusion. Furthermore, clay affords a further potential of changing the shape of the object during the experiment. Does the act of making an object increase our potential to feel ownership over an otherwise unfeasible object? What is the role of imagination in this illusion? And how do actions, i.e., how these objects are made and handled, affect how these objects are embodied?

The ‘Rubber Hand Illusion’ was discovered in 1998. It is now used widely in experimental psychology to study issues around embodiment and body ownership. Recently similar techniques are used to make participants believe they have embodied someone’s else’s body, have an invisible body or have moved out of their own bodies [simulated out of body experiences]. These experiments reveal vulnerabilities in our perceptual system and allow us to question the nature of our perceived realities.

The Unfeasible Object experiment uses this same experimental model; only participants build their own hand and other non-hand unfeasible objects in place of a replica rubber hand. Using clay, it is possible to distort and manipulate the clay while feeling ownership over it. The clay can be squashed, extended textured, spaces and gaps added.

The workshop was developed through a number of collaborations and projects. The first workshop took place at the Manchester Science Festival in 2011 developed in collaboration with Dr Elizibeth Lewis. Since then the workshop has been used as part of my ongoing research into art and perceptual illusion and resulted in “The Clay Hand Illusion And The Embodiment Of Unfeasible Objects” a paper written in collaboration with experimental psychologist Ellen Poliakoff, published in Perception Journal. Most recently the workshop has taken place at Whitworth Art Gallery, 2018 and Manchester Art Gallery 2019.

See the latest workshop edition here [opens new tab] :

See related blog posts:

PhD Exhibition instructions: Roll over the gallery plan above and click on the links; this will take you through a series of pages that constitutes the online exhibition, each page contains this same gallery plan. If you get lost in the blog, you can return to the exhibition via the ‘PHD EXHIBITION’ link in the main menu at the top of the page. [ See the exhibition press release here >>>]