Beyond Skin


When we speak of borders, we often overlook one very important frontier: the flesh. Our skin is, in ways real and conceptual, the boundary between ourselves and the world that we perceive, and the status of that surface is currently just as contested as many geopolitical borders. In a major exhibition at FACT-Liverpool, entitled, "Sk-interfaces", 17 artists are presenting designer body parts, synthetic organisms, and artificially augmented organs in an effort to explore "the idea of skin as a place where art, science, philosophy, and social culture meet." These modifications reflect concurrent shifts in technology, architecture, and broader currents in art practice, according to curator Jens Hauser. The show features ground-breaking work like ORLAN's Harlequin Coat (2007), which is patched together of in vitro cells from various species; Eduardo Kac's Telepresence Garment (1996) in which the human body becomes the host for a robotic cloth meant to symbolize the fabric of "the mediascape;" and Stelarc's infamous Extra Ear: Ear on Arm (1997) in which the resulting implantation is self-explanatory. Many of the artists explore what it means to cohabitate, at a cellular level, with other species, while others explore the politics of corporeal trade. Benoit Mangin offers art collectors the opportunity to graft a piece of his skin onto their body, while Julia Reodica's provocative hymNext Designer Hymen Series (2004-2005) merges her own vaginal tissue with the muscles of other animals, to create a sculptural product that constitutes "re-virginization" and addresses international cultural discourses of female mutilation. Also included in the exhibition are the Tissue Culture and Art Project, Wim Delvoye, Art Orienté objet, Critical Art Ensemble, Zbigniew Oksiuta, Jun Takita, Julia Reodica, Maurice Benayoun with Jean-Baptiste Barriere, The Office of Experiments, Zane Berzina, Jill Scott, Olivier Goulet, Yann Marussich, and Kira O'Reilly. The show is accompanied by a book entitled, Sk-interfaces: Exploding Borders: Creating Membranes in Art, Technology and Society and a conference on February 8-9 will further explore the related issues. - Marisa Olson

Image: Wim Delvoye, "Sybille II," 1999