AS MUCH AS we convince ourselves that beauty is merely skin deep, dismissing physical appearance as superficial, we tend to forget the innate beauty of skin in terms of its appearance and function.
The body is an archive. The scars we that crown our knees, the bumps we have from our shots as infants, the blemishes of past pubescent phases. Our bodies tell stories. The color of our eyes, the curves of our lips, the shape of our noses recount our history, the history of our parents, the history of our grandparents, of our ancestors. Beyond the presentation of our lineage, we express ourselves through make-up, tattoos, piercings and clothes that our skin and what we adorn it with becomes a physical manifestation of ourselves. The past desperation to define ourselves and seek solidarity and acceptance among our peers in our adolescence loses its importance as we inch closer to self-acceptance and realization, working towards getting comfortable in our own skin as adults.
Our bodies are archives, our skin the slowly battered cover that we are still in the process of writing. More than any other organ, this one (our largest) tells others, and most importantly, ourselves, who we are and what we have been through, what to expect and what to become, how one has to navigate this world.
We feel our way through life. First, we explore our environments but touching the objects around us, unconsciously committing textures to memory in neat categories. I (Desiree) remember how the curiosity in wanting to know if an iron still remained hot right after the power has been switched off led to having a scald hand as I burned with embarrassment. Soon, we take our sense of touch for granted and the curiosity to touch the world around us gets misplaced by other goals. But yet, our experience with touch as a mark of concern, empathy and camaraderie evolves into physical intimacy as another complimentary expression of love where desire and lust is discovered in its infancy.
At the same time, our skin is one of the hardiest, most regenerative parts of ourselves. When I (Syafiq) was a child (no older than six or seven), I had fallen off the high monkey bars at the playground close to my home. Tumbling into the sand, I had scraped my palm on what was a loose screw in the sand (the danger of childhood in the 90s). For hours my hand bled and I cried like a child. I was sure that I could no longer eat with my favorite palm. My mother dabbed patiently at my wound and after a while, it stopped bleeding. At that point (after remembering my previous accidents) I realized, at my tender age, that I could get hurt, but pain and blood was temporary, that my skin was stronger than any fall, any scrap, any bruise.
Our worldviews are in constant flux as we synchronously develop and adjust the physical presentation of our sense of self by using our skin and bodies as a canvas for art to dwell and mature. Our experiences with touch define who we are inside and out. The artists we have gathered in this issue use skin to tell different stories. Whether it be about home, family or loss, our surface is but at the forefront and the truth (all of it) is perhaps for once, must be taken at face value.