Skin Come Leather, Vol. I
As part of A Perfomance Affair, Brussels Gallery Weekend
Brought by SVIT
September 7, 2019
Allergy, eczema, itches and scratches as our hyperactive immune systems throw a fit. Porous skin bordering between ourselves and the world, its cells spreading and turning to dust.
In an allergic reaction, a self-deterrent, over-protective body chooses to consume itself. It sends out histamines in an effort to cope with itself and responds xenophobically to the environment around it. Skin is a permeable border and such failures of a hypersensitive immune system can be freely transposed onto wider societal issues. The term allergy, which was only scientifically described in the early 20th century, comes from the Greek allos, meaning different, and ergia, energy. A number of studies support the so-called hygienic hypothesis, according to which we have constructed our late-capitalist urban environment as overly hygienic, clean and sanitary. Too clean for life to work in it.
Skin has become an autobiographic theme for Lukas Hofmann, himself suffering from a dry eczematic skin condition. The act examines allergy as a process of self-sabotage, dry peeled skin as a motor of restorative power. The performance constitutes a loose allegory of biological xenophobia but also individual - but widespread - forms of anxiety. The theme of body cell replacement offers scope for exploring alternatives to such sentiments. Dust, which the artist’s own skin produces an extraordinary amount of is read by Hofmann largely a signifier of self-destruction and self-renewal, the body being able to exchange almost all its cells in 7-15 years, all its upper skin layer in about 3 weeks.
The title of Hofmann’s work, Skin Come Leather I, finds source in the liminal occurrence when an animal creature undergoes a rather rudimentary process of having fat and hairs removed, being stored in salt, undergoing chrome treatment rendering its skin blue, then being re-colored and given its "natural" look. The skin at that time becomes an elastic commodity, skin to leather.
During the performance, vials of Water of Life and Water of Death will be in use. According to Slavic mythology trickling all the way down into modern TV fairy tales, which Hofmann grew up with in the post-communist Czech Republic, these liquids were to bring back the dead to life and heal wounds, respectively. Using tinctures developed in cooperation with a perfumeur, Hofmann’s group of actants opens and closes wounds inflicted by the contemporary condition.
Performers: Daena Phan, Elena Veleckaite, Lukas Hofmann, Marat Zakirov. Styling by Elena Veleckaite.