Press release

Student work explores touch in times of Covid-19

Published on 3 September 2021

How our physical interactions with others have changed due to restrictions implemented as a result of the pandemic is the focus of one of dozens of exhibits at the University of Dundee’s Masters Showcase 2021

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Yingying Ren has explored the challenges and relationships between people during the Covid-19 pandemic as part of her final project of her Masters of Design (by Research) course. Her work features in the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design Masters Showcase 2021, which launches tonight.

Yingying (23), who is originally from China, is among the first group to partake in the University’s Masters of Design (by Research) course in the inaugural year of the programme. Since coming to Dundee she has been subjected to various lockdowns and restrictions due to Covid-19, so it is fitting that her work explores the changing relationships between people in a pandemic.

“I have a friend in Dundee and we've known each other for almost a year, but we only met for the first time a few days ago,” said Yingying. “Before that it seemed like we were just internet friends.

“In an epidemic, health comes first, and we can't increase the risks and pitfalls of unhealthiness for the sake of contact. We increase contact and interaction through the internet, but these are not alternatives to touch.”

As part of the research process for her course, Yingying focused on the qualities of skin and has been developing experimental materials that replicate the various qualities. Her research led her to ‘second skins’, the added layers of materials that are worn or carried, sometimes as protection.

At the heart of her exhibit is a large, orange-toned origami-like sculpture titled ‘Please don’t touch me’, which replicates the folds and creases of a face mask, one of the protective measures implemented worldwide to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“I chose this topic because most of human skin is covered by fabric, which is known as the second skin of human beings,” said Yingying.

“Material has more possibilities and expressions as a medium between self and society, inner thoughts and outer projection. I wanted to explore how to use experimental materials to shape the expansion of the meaning of skin and change the relationship between human beings and fabrics.

“Due to Covid-19, we cannot be in close contact with other people and relationships have changed. We reject the approach of others. I wanted to reflect on the state of people in the pandemic, to resonate with the people and to call for hope during these times.

“No one is an island. Touch is a physical and emotional need that can alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.”

The University’s Masters of Design (by Research) course provides a full-time student with the appropriate research experience and the refinement of research methods in order to apply with a proposal and portfolio to a PhD. Yingying will move from MDes (Res) to PhD studies next month.

The Masters Showcase is a staple event that has attracted thousands of visitors over the years both in-person and online.

More than 60 students will be displaying transformative design and visually stunning art created on the MSc Animation & VFX, MFA Art & Humanities, MSc Forensic Art & Facial Identification, MSc Medical Art, MDes (Res) Masters by Research, and MSc Product Design courses.


Jessica Rorke

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 388878