Image credit: Liz Atkin
Image credit: Marion Mitchell
Image credit: Keith Clapson
Image caption: Corinne

Unable to Think Without Touching


21st June – 1st October 2021

Open 8am – 4pm, Mon – Fri

Open now at the ORTUS, 82-96 Grove Lane, London, SE5 8SN

Nearest rail station: Denmark Hill

Featuring artists who combine physical and digital approaches in the making and sharing of their art; connecting people through embodied experiences of the world. Unable to Think Without Touching looks at the importance of bodily experiences and the use of digital technologies to connect with other people through the pandemic and beyond.

The relationship between our bodies and our environment may have changed through the pandemic and through lockdown, but what does the end of lockdown signify for people living with chronic illness, physical disabilities and mental health conditions, some of whom were already living in a state of isolation pre-pandemic? The exhibition features four artists who have developed inspiring artistic projects born out of the constraints and limitations of isolation and illness.

Liz Atkin

Artist Liz Atkin started using #texturehuntergatherer on 12 March 2020 on social media. In unsettling times throughout the pandemic, this creative refocus helped her ‘manage my anxiety & skin picking’. Through Liz’s photographs of various textures, she found on her daily walks, she invited others to slow down, take time to notice and to capture textures; to ‘find solidarity in minutiae’. The hashtag become popular with people from all over the world experiencing similar limitations to their daily lives, taking up the call to hunt textures, capture them and share them with the growing online community. The exhibition will feature various images from the #texturehuntergatherer and over the summer, Liz will be working with people accessing mental health services and staff at the Maudsley Hospital to run texture hunter gatherer walks of local area.

Watch a video of Liz and curator Sam Curtis talk about Liz’s project, about how textures relate to our bodily experience of the world and the impact of such a project that forms an online community.

Marion Michell

Over the past 12 months, artist Marion Michell has been developing a project that we have been lucky enough to witness unfolding on Instagram. The artist says… ‘I am housebound with #MyalgicE and P.O.T.S., mostly supine, and – due to a loss of function in my hands a few years back – sadly cannot crochet anymore, which I used to manage lying down. The tentative return of nimble fingers has allowed a little slo-mo sewing lately, and so revived my artist-self – to my great delight. Precision and ambition have given way to playfulness: I have shared the months of shielding from Covid19 with an imaginary four-year-old called Siddhling (pronouns: they/them), and make outfits and ragdolls for them, from old clothes and materials I had stored away. Luckily my lockdown companion doesn’t mind wonky seams! I miss having conversations about issues close to my heart (I’m often too fatigued to speak) – this way I can communicate a little. Best though: the project’s sweetness has elevated anxiety-ridden days. I’ve even laughed more…”‘. In the exhibition Marion will be sharing with us some of Siddhling’s personal artifacts and clothing as well as news of their newly formed friendship group, The Marigold Squad!

Keith Clapson

For many people, walking as a daily activity has become important through the pandemic. For artist Keith Clapson, walking and photographing his environment became a way to capture the city under lockdown and as we have never known it before. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Keith has been exploring areas of London reachable on foot from his home in Farringdon and using his mobile phone camera to document intriguing views and objects of interest. Keith’s photographs show us a city we once knew as being full of people going about their everyday lives, of bodies bustling together through busy streets; now deserted, empty and silent. By sharing these visual diaries on Instagram, Keith opened up a space for others to   think about the city and urban spaces in a different way, to focus on some of the details we might have missed when caught up in the frenetic pace of life before the pandemic. Keith will be exhibiting a series of photographs from his walks.


Despite being confined to her bed over the pandemic, artist Corinne found ways to gain agency over her situation by utilising photography and painting to make an intimate and emotive series of self-portraits ‘A Bedtime Story’.  Corinne’s photography opens up a space where her body and bed become a vehicle for dreaming, for telling her story and for connecting with the wider world via Instagram. Corinne will be exhibiting three photos from ‘A Bedtime Story’ #7, #9 & #10.

‘I’m a disabled artist working mainly with photographic self-portraiture. My distinctively dark and evocative self-depictions intimately reflect my ongoing struggles with mental illness. ‘A Bedtime Story’ was produced in response to the debilitating effects the pandemics had upon my already fragile mental health. My anxiety and depression have severally worsened and my nights are now plagued with voices (auditory hallucinations). I’m currently bed bound so produce all my work in this 2 by 1.5 metre space. My life and art have become inextricably entwined, to bury my struggles deep within would allow them to thrive, but through my use of art as therapy, I’m offered a cathartic release.‘ – Corinne

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