Skin is the only physical and visible interface between our inner subjectivities and the outside world. Scars, stretch-marks, veins, wrinkles, tattoos, its surface invites strangers to read its history, our history. We are always on display to others through our Skin conditions, whether we like it or not. Skin bears a deep meaning and is accountable for many dynamics in our identity-making. Shaved, exfoliated, pierced. A colour tone, an imperfection, a crust and our body falls into a specific hermetic normative box.
Although the Skin is a consciously malleable surface, to some extent, it is also a traitor to our deepest traumatic experiences: “the notion of skin memory draws on the work of Didier Anzieu (1989), who argues that the ego is first and foremost a skin ego: ‘the projection in the psychic of the body’.” Therefore, a Skin condition, and especially one with disorders, shows the state of one’s mental health. Hence the concept of “Skinscapes”, the Skin as a site of subconscious expression.
Anzieu, quite bluntly, further reveals that “the irritation of the epidermis becomes confused with mental irritation’ (1989: 32–33)”. In this view, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, and all those itchy and swollen epidermic patterns, endorse the role of signals, visual expressions of mental illnesses.
Skin disorders carry a heavy cultural weight as Anzieu explains: “he identifies a confusion of borders and limits as symptomatic of Western culture at the end of twentieth century (1989)”. Therefore, a problematic epidermis reveals the trauma in one’s inner history, both from a micro and a macro perspective. The body’s surface carries the memory of the dysfunctional family and society failures.
It is a vicious circle: those traumatic burdens come and squat on our Skins, embodied in skin disorders, like unwanted parasite, making our bodies even more difficult to live in, stigmatising them in Others’ eyes.
The concept of ‘skin autobiographies’ has been introduced by Jay Prosser: writing the Skin as a cathartic process. This is my visual Skin Autobiography, using my own Skin flaws as an aesthetic source of inspiration. I would also like to call for a wider comprehension of Skin and Body diversity, hoping to awaken a sense of compassion and understanding in the viewers’ eyes.
Poster by the talented Andrea Sisó.
View of the display at the Glove that Fits for Ricochet #4.
A3 C-type hand printing by Labyrinth.
Available to purchase, contact me via this form: