Fringe 2017: Art & Skin

"Who taught you to write in blood on my back? Who taught you to use your hands as branding irons? You have scored your name into my shoulders, referenced me with your mark. The pads of your fingers have become printing blocks, you tap a message on to my skin, tap meaning into my body."

— Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body

The largest organ of the human's body is the skin—a vessel for protection, identification, attraction and stimulation.

It sweats, stretches, tears, heals and scars. It defends, dies, shreds and regenerates. It crawls and tingles, calluses and ruptures.

It burns, blisters, blushes, bruises and peels. It chaps and scales, it tingles, inflames and wrinkles.

Each square inch of human skin is home to approximately 30 million bacteria and 20 feet of blood vessels. We renew our skin monthly, shedding approximately 600,000 skin particles a day. It is said that up to half the dust in our homes is made up of our dead skin.

"The finest clothing made is a person's skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this."

— Mark Twain

Through the ages, we have whitened and defined our skin, in both Eastern and Western societies, using everything from poisonous copper and lead, to rice powder, egg whites, and various toxic chemicals. The skin whitening market's value is in the many billions, thriving most enormously in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The skin is a landscape, a playground, a minefield, a map, a text, a canvas. Some of us recoil in naked shame, and others strip and strut with exhibitive celebration.

"It is easy to display a wound, the proud scars of combat. It is hard to show a pimple."

— Leonard Cohen, The Favourite Game

To toughen up is to grow thick skin. To get under someone's skin is to know them more intimately. Touch can be abusive, but it can also be healing and even boost our body's immunity.

Animals, fruit, cigarettes and mobile phones have skins too. Who among us isn't wearing, housing or carrying an animal skin of one sort or another?

Matters of skin colour and skin covering have a long history of dividing the human race, even fuelling wars. Classes and castes, colour preference, colourism, colonialism, shadism and pigmentocracy remain divisive modern inheritances and realities.

In an age where we are more aware than ever of our image, our identity, and our potential to alter our own appearance, we hope that the theme of Art & Skin will welcome a creative exploration and dialogue into matters of identity, beauty, intimacy, sensitivity, pleasure, pain and shame.

"We live in an atmosphere of shame. We are ashamed of everything that is real about us; ashamed of ourselves, of our relatives, of our incomes, of our accents, of our opinion, of our experience, just as we are ashamed of our naked skins."

— George Bernard Shaw

What are we keeping out? What are we holding inside? What are we flashing all about?

By the way, did you know that Sunburn Art is a thing? Yes, it is. ;)

"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance."


Art & Skin.
4 – 15 January 2017.
Get involved.

Sean Tobin
Artistic Director
M1 Singapore Fringe Festival