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ABOUT THE WORK
Material: Bathtub containing a Kombucha Culture,3 screens and 2 speakers,2 Go Pro cameras
Skin/Out is a video installation created by Gloria Dorliguzzo that consists of three video channels and a bathtub containing a culture... Read More
Skin/Out is a video installation created by Gloria Dorliguzzo that consists of three video channels and a bathtub containing a culture of kombucha. Two channels monitor the kombucha fermentation process via a couple of GoPro cameras located in the bathtub; the other channel shows a video performance in a loop where the artist seems to awaken after an incubation period and raise while slowly removing from her body the bacterial cellulose produced by the kombucha culture. Skin/Out aims to investigate the phenomenon of the birth and transformations that this event entails while suggesting the possibility for hybrid identities which blur the canonical distinctions between the human being and the other biological species.
Commercially known as a lightly effervescent, sweetened drink, kombucha is produced by brewing a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), commonly called a "mother", in sugared tea. During the fermenting process, the Kombucha culture generates on the surface a microbial cellulose that, when dried, becomes a leather-like textile that can be moulded onto multiple forms. Over the last decade, kombucha has drawn the attention of numbers of artists working in the field of BioArt who have been extensively scrutinising this material. Combining creative practice and scientific methods, those investigations have addressed different issues bringing new perspectives to ongoing debates. The observation of the complex social behaviour of microorganisms contained in the kombucha culture has contributed to the discussion about anthropocentrism and the way human beings interact with other biological species. These studies allowed us to think about current issues like climate change through the lens of a non-human ecology. Projects based on growing and fermenting processes have merged into the techno feminism research to reconsider the instrumentalizations of bodies or emphasise witchcraft as the art that deals with the mystical side of organic matters. On the side of biodesign, the microbial cellulose produced by kombucha throughout the time of fermentation has been studied on several occasions and identified as a suitable material for sustainable textile production.
Drawing from the wide range of research developed so far, Gloria Dorliguzzo examines the proliferation process of kombucha to rethink the mystery of birth in the light of a post-humanistic perspective. Dorliguzzo comes across kombucha three years ago when a friend gifts her of a mother and a recipe to make a kombucha drink. After two months during which she has forgotten the jar with the SCOBY, Dorliguzzo notices that this uninterrupted incubation period has allowed the colony of microorganisms to form a biofilm on the surface of the liquid. Mesmerised by the cellulose, Dorliguzzo set up a serial production of biofilm to carry on her investigation on this material. Dorliguzzo observes how the microorganisms in the SCOBY interact with each other as well as the transformations of the cellulose throughout its different stages of growth; she tests the qualities of the cellulose like elasticity, water and touch resistance, viscosity; she tests the cellulose’s behaviour when exposed to natural dyes or external agents like threads, plastic fragments, rice papers, flowers.
Finally, inspired by her long training in dancing, Dorliguzzo wears the cellulose as it was an extra layer of skin and performs some simple movements to test its response to solicitations. From that moment on, she starts routinely performing. Dorliguzzo wears the cellulose until it dries and shrinks. Then, she casts the biofilm off by peeling or scratching it, and even twitching her body as an animal would do during moulting.
Skin/Out is the result of this long period of experimentation. The artwork is presented as an audio/visual installation and consists of three video channels and a bathtub containing a kombucha culture. One channel shows a video performance that the artist created at the end of her research. The other two channels monitor in real-time the kombucha fermentation process via a couple of GoPro cameras located both inside the bathtub and on the surface of the liquid aligned with the cellulose. Two speakers amplify the microsounds coming from the fermentation process.
Skin/Out stems from the experiences that Dorliguzzo has gained throughout her research. In the video performance, an enigmatic body awakens at the end of its incubation period and rises from the dark liquid of a bathtub. The body shakes, twists, screams suggesting the pain of its birth. Slowly the body removes its cocoon. It grabs the placenta and tears it off violently to mark the beginning of its new life. The soundtrack resonates with the strain of birth as it deploys sounds that remind the breaking of maternal waters. The bathtub with the kombucha culture complements the video performance. Used here a sculptural element, the bathtub relates the emotional experience of the video to a tangible object; also, it fosters visitors to associate the mysterious body awakening from its incubation period with the microorganisms of the kombucha and the proliferation process they undergo. Through the two cameras, viewers are in the position of monitoring in real-time the transformations undergone by the symbiotic colony both monitoring the slow growth of the biofilm and listening to the subtle sound of the fermentation.
Skin/Out conveys the intimate connection that the artist has formed with the cellulose. While still in the liquid, the cellulose swirls in the water driven by the artist’s fingers; the cellulose slips away from the artist’s body or wreaths her limbs tightly as if it was yearning for symbiosis. However, as time passes, the cellulose dehydrates, loses its elasticity and eventually gets shredded. The camera goes deep into the cracks created by the tension showing them like wounds or scars that hint at the pain of the labour.
According to Dorliguzzo, if the skin is a barrier that protects each of us from the outside, the moulting process that some animals endure has to be seen as a physical struggle to achieve a form that can adapt to the external changes. Although the video performance hints at human birth, the event holds an intentional halo of mystery. The artist’s body is never fully revealed. Fragments of her face and her limbs come up from the dark liquid of culture. This uncertainty questions the true nature of the living being arising from the bathtub. As a matter of the fact, the birth process shown in the video merges elements that belong to human labour as well as to animals, plants and even microorganisms’ generation. If the cellulose hints at the placenta found in mammals, the struggle to cast it off relates to hatching when the newborn push from inside the egg and break out of the shell. Furthermore, the incubation period that the mysterious being seems to spend inside the cellulose alludes to the metamorphosis that some insects undergo inside their cocoons when they turn their juvenile into their adult form. Finally, the biological culture where the being is immersed suggests that its body was formed through a frenetic proliferation of the cells in the liquid, the same that allows kombucha to ferment. Such an intentional ambiguity aims to blur categorical distinctions between humans and other species and enables a critique of anthropocentrism. The artwork, thus, investigates the possibility of flexible and multiple identities that follow processes of hybridization. As a result, the traditional humanistic unity of the subject is displaced and the human being is now located in a position of becoming to achieve its full potential.
Skin/Out aims to present an aesthetic work on the themes of transformation and birth that invite us to think critically about our individuality. A silent room in an abandoned building turns into a stage for a brutal and painful transformation that marks the beginning of infinite possibilities where the new coexists with the old, the human with the non-human.
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