Friday 13 November 2015 at the Academy Gallery, UTAS, Launceston.
Sawtooth ARI, Feb 2016, Launceston.
The layers and the possibilities about this work are so vast and at times I have felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. But if I reflect on my original thought - Communication - Communication and how we wear it - If I hold on to this and not stray then the work will stay focused and many questions may be raised, to be answered another time.
A place that we gather and connect - this could be in a mens shed, a cafe with friends or down at the pub, so many places. But due to my textile background I have chosen to stitch and connect.
Thinking of communication, community, and connection. Guilds, groups and clubs – a place to connect and talk. That as communities we often gather around a common interest and create with our hands as we open up and reconnect with stories and conversation.
Stich skin is looking at Lady Cassandra (the current pet name for this work ) being the super computer – the wearable skin tag - but pays homage to the groups and guilds that gather with busy hands and open minds to connect.
Referencing Chris Dancy’s thoughts on behaviour as the interface – our life the platform. – designing for calm technology, kind technology and designing for contemplation.
What if we gather to hack our skin tags, to custom fit, to re program and re connect. To sit and stitch circuitry to our tags?
The process of stitching a scoby/skin that is fresh and plump was far more confronting than stitching the tired scoby/skin – the tired dry scoby/skin was technically harder – but the plump young fleshy scoby required pressure to force the sharp needle into the surface -and then there would be an audible pop as the needle broke the surface on the other side. The pressure required would cause the scoby to leak a little liquid.
The stitching of circuits with conductive thread had me thinking again about how to interact with Lady Cassandra – and I think at this stage I will use the post grad space to set up a serries of interactive performances to help document and possibly start to resolve ways that may best connect people to this work. I know that I want people to be initially intrigued by the work - But I want them to walk away challenged.
During these performances Lady Cassandra will be treated as a new supercomputer that presents itself as a home grown skin created by a bio hacker and that this is the way of the future. The reason that she has been “hacked” is due to open source ethics and the voidance of large corporations. That we can reclaim our data.
So the plan at this stage is to invite people to Feed it, Kill it or sustain it.
If they choose to feed or sustain – they will then be invited to drink it.
Next they will be invited to stitch it.
Finally to take a selfie wearing the different tags.
This may lead to the final work being a polished version of this performance.
Or the support work being a resolved documentation of this process and the final work being more about coding and hacking?
Published: Jan 6, 2014 • References: elizabennett & wetheurban
Artist Eliza Bennett takes embroidery to the extreme, literally creating an art installation in her skin! She uses her own hand and skin as a base for embroidery to create immensely work worn hands; in hopes of challenging stigmas related to traditionally considered ‘women’s work’ (such as sewing and embroidery) in her work named 'A Women's Work is Never Done- Flesh/Thread.'
She uses her own hands to shed light on society’s problematic pre-conceived notions of ‘women’s work’ as being easy work. Bennett literally depicts the labor and pain that goes into the trade of embroidery. She also demonstrates how undervalued and under paid the trade is, along with other gendered trades.
Bennett claims that her work has a "narrative quality," even though it’s shocking and extreme. Most importantly she states, "To me what makes a powerful work of art is when it moves one to acknowledge the wealth of feelings inside, whilst embracing the incoherence of lived experience". Talk about being a dedicated artist!
6th October - Post Stitch Skin and the use of the Post Grad space.
Busy hands stitching.
Not surprisingly - most people were repelled by the idea of stitching a scoby. It is too fleshy, too skin like, it is slimy, its smells of vinegar. But one generous sole did stop to stitch with me.
Kathy had a previous interest in the work and the use of a scoby as Kathy also drinks and grows her own Kombucha tea. Kathy had also seen very early incarnations of the skintags, when I was making an entire wearable torso of scoby. This wearable torso was covered in the bruising of the penicillin. The work was confronting and did look like a victim of domestic violence. The torso was going to be worked into a bush dyed silk skirt and form a wedding dress. This work did not evolve past the bodice - even though the message would have been confronting and strong regarding the visual connection of badly bruised torso and domestic violence - this is not what my work is about for this Honours year. (So this became one of those ideas tucked away for another time)
Kathy has been following my blog and online posts about the work and was very keen to come in and stitch with me.
I offered kathy a section of sizes and thickness to work with and we both started to design our miniature works. The conversation was initially about the response the work has had and this then moved between what threads would be used and how do you knot off when you start embroidering such a flesh like material.
Originally Kathy had designed a small badge about Refugees being welcome. I am pleased that she re thought this initial idea as the words embroidered onto a flesh like disk may not translate as she had hoped. instead Kathy worked on a floral motif and our conversation was strong about inclusivity, refugees, politics and other creative people that we know that are also supporting refugees and assisting people with valuable connections into communities and a mutual sharing of culture.
The Tattoo tags started with great intentions. Scoby .5cm thick (8 weeks growing time) were taken to Loyalty Ink. Hesitant that I was making a he fool of myself I asked that ‘I hope this is not the most unusual request?’ And I produced from my red fur handbag a roll of paper towel – unrolling this to reveal the flesh like scoby. The tattoo artist greeted the home grown skin with enthusiasm showing it to all n the studio to touch and caress. They asked if they could dry it more as it was too wet for their guns and ink – I was to collect the works three days later.
The designs requested were the retro heart with a ribbon across it and the word mum – as a homage to the original mother scoby – that the offspring’s are always connected to the original mother. Scales were the second choice - to pay tribute to ancient tattoos - but also as an armour. The final tattoo was to be Gallifreyan for Lady as a reference to Lady Cassandra in Dr Who and the world end.
Sadly the scoby was allowed to dry to the point of being a very aged wrinkly skin with a leather quality - so again not suitable for tattooing.
I tried to reproduce a tattoo with a pen – but the scoby reacted to the pen and blocked the ink – so in the end a brush and ink gave a successful result.
The idea was to have tattoo tags to support the TXT tags,Braille tags , LCD tags,, Coded tags etc made so far. With the end result being a series of selfies taken wearing the different tags and # back to my blog .
Conductive hair skin tag - the hairy mole tag - was inspired by Piccinini’ s work and previous doll work I have done stitching wigs and beards with human hair.
This mole tag could be a series of antenna – to receive passages from far away and to be used to alleviate poor reception.
The drying process of the scoby has such a dramatic effect of he visual message the Scooby can really. Is it young fresh plump skin – or is it tired with many stories to tell. The dryness also has a significant effect on what can be done with the scoby. Yet when too wet – you can literally wring liquid from the socby.
The dryness of the scoby could also effect the body choice to wear the tag.
Recycling a sample that was left with Loyalty Ink.
The skin was very dry and brittle, no life left, no moisture – dry and easily tore and ripped. Proved to have very little tolerance for any stress.
Leaving marks in the scoby as a means of adornment, code and communication. Again referring back to scarification.
Creating more tags – hopefull that the henna did not have the same response as ink - but it curdled!
The scoby at my home and traditionally is grown lovingly in the kitchen – the heart of the home, fed and nourished so that it continues to grow and in return the tea is drunk, feeding and nourishing the family.
The scoby farm in the studio was only ever set up as one of convenience – growing many samples to then work with. As the scoby is not a simple tool or medium that can be purchased, it needs the right environment and patience. As each sample takes a month at least to grow. And each week the samples are feed sweet black tea and kept warm.
But is a takeaway container the way that I want to present the scoby? Does this cheapen the scoby? Or does it help create intrigue? That any one can grow a communicating skin? Does it suggest that it is a bio hacker creating the communicating skin? Or will the Petri dish help create a more scientific approach? Maybe the adolescent body pictured wearing a skin tag is the bio hacker? That lady Cassandra is the new drug? That there is a home made lab growing as may as possible in any containers available ready to sell on the black market as this is open source – Lady Cassandra is not owned by a large cooperation – she has no intellectual property – she is achievable via shared instructions you have downloaded and a bacteria you purchased on the internet.
To date I have sculpted the scoby into life size human forms – but given the time constraints of an Honours program and the time it takes to grow large sheets of scoby (months) – time is not on my side for growing any more large experimental sheets – so this was an opportunity to cover most of the body with scoby – As if some one had decided to replace most of their skin with a new technology – rather than wearing a skin tag. The result was mush more macabre than I anticipated. One of the key elements I discovered earlier on is that the work is slightly less repelling when viewed from the lens – the camera takes the immediacy and the reality away – you will not feel the warm slime like texture, you will not smell the vinegar or receive a disturbed puff of penicillin spore up your nose – you are safe – you are removed from any threat.
This removal from threat via the image is one of the issues I need to resolve when presenting the work. Do I want people to feel lest confronted ? will this help the questioning if they feel safe? Or will the feeling of being overwhelmed with smell and touch make be so confronting that people will not engage.
I have yet to finalise a title for the work
A speculative enquiry of transhumanism.
In this synthesized dystopia. Home-grown bacteria is generated to create coded landscapes, bodyscapes, suggestive of future communication technologies.
Second Skin. (working title)
Are we willing to modify ourselves, to evolve, to permanently change in order to stay connected?
An inquiry of organic materials and their ability to form a wearable skin that has the ability to communicate.
Braille TXT - Braille Skin
Looking at coding and communication – the TXT skin and Txtng was transcribed into braille with the intention of sculpting the scoby of the TXT braille molds and then end result being a scarification skin tag that when felt would ready braille txt. As of yet these samples have not been successful. I will try again but with a thicker scoby.
Setting up more samples as there are not many weeks left before my final paper and work is up for assessment. I have containers in the fridge at Uni and at home with cultivated scoby waiting to be used in photo shoots, skintags, skin moulds, skinscapes, for stitching and, binding into books plus tattooing. I am confident that the samples at Uni are safe - as no one else appears to be using the fridge! - BUT - my samples at home - well - I think I need a sign that reads "Please do not eat or drink my Honours work" I found my daughter drinking the Kombucha tea on the weekend - not that it would hurt her - as it does taste like fizzy apple juice and is full of health benefits - BUT it is my UNI work!
Continuing to explore the landscapes – this time bubbles in the tea.
In ‘Teenage Riot: Representations of Adolescence in Contemporary Art’ (Artlink, vol. 21, no. 4), K P Hall wrote:
When contemplating images of childhood and particularly adolescence, we enter a complicated site of desire and longing, inextricably tied to the yearning for our own lost innocence—a kind of memorialising of the last steps on the path to adulthood. At the same time, our desire to protect children and preserve the wobbly sanctity of childhood ensures that there will always be a different kind of anxiety attached to looking at these images.
Looking at TXT skin tags.
Clay molds for the scoby to dry on.
So far the work I have been doing has been on human forms – but what about communication and linking this back to body modification – looking beyond tattoos and scarification – looking at combining scarification with Txting and creating skin tags.
So I put the call out on facebook and asked for peoples favorite XT talk and made clay molds for with the aim of drying scoby in these and then having txt skin tags.
After the orange/penicillingate (do not all networking conspiracy theories finish with the word “gate’!) I let some of the samples grow more penicillin. These samples were washed in vinegar – removing the sage green carpet.
To my surprise I was left with marks on the flesh like scoby that looked like bruising. The bruising on the scoby – particularly when left on the mannequin to dry, took the work to a different place.
This home grown bruised flesh was now talking about violence – self harm or inflicted harm. A very dark and violent place. Was this a direction I wanted to take the work this year? This would be a very powerful piece – home grown skin, bruised by networking with penicillin then sculpted to create a hollow flesh human form.
Or is this a work for another time?
A collection of works exploring notions of the body in the face of rapidly escalating technological change.