The skin has been a vessel for artistic expression from time immemorial. The body can be seen as man’s natural canvas and societies all over the world have used body modification as a symbol of cultural identity - from scarification in various African cultures, to tattooing in Polynesia. Dutch artist and photographer Juuke Schoorl is fascinated with the aesthetic possibilities of skin. The project ‘Rek’ (Dutch for stretch) is the result of her exploration. This project showcases skin’s malleable nature, revealing a variety of textures which form a newfound expression.
Author: Siphilele Magagula
Image: courtesy of Juuke Schoorl
Rek: Reimagining The Skin
‘Rek’ - The experimental skin manipulations photographed by Dutch artist and Juuke Schoorl augment the appearance of skin, causing one to assess the skin’s aesthetic possibilities. Schoorl’s works often question the physical capabilities of materials, objects and people in order to transform their appearance. In this instance, like with the ancient cultural practices of scarifications and marking, Juuke’s fascination with the malleable nature of skin leads her to use skin as a blank canvas, transforming its appearance, while testing its limits, however temporarily unlike these ancient traditions. Using everyday stretchable materials such as cello tape, nylon thread Schoorl is able to shape the skin into various unthinkable textures - emphasizing its flexibility, resilience and adaptability, quite like upholstery. ‘Rather than only seeing the body as a complete entity‘, she describes, ‘I also see it as a collection of meticulously curated components, shapes, materials and textures, that can be challenged.’
Image: Courtesy of Juuke Schoorl -Indentations on the skin, reminiscent of scarification reimagine the skin's texture, giving it a new context.
Image: Courtesy of Juuke Schoorl - Left: Tape is used to distort the appearance of skin on the back
Right: Nylon fishing rope is used to reshape the surface of the skin, revealing more folds and dimensions.
Much like cultural marking rituals, the experiment also highlights the skin’s aesthetic expression. Seeing the various ways in which the skin cane be transformed evokes a sense of pride admirable, seeing the extent the skin can be manipulated.
In an increasingly digital world it is important not to lose connection with what is intrinsically human. Studying the human form is key to understanding how best to design for it. Technological advances and human comfort should not be mutually exclusive. In her work Schoorl, a graduate of the Photography programme at the Royal College of Art in The Hague, serves to explore the barriers between the natural and the artificial. Her explorations are shared with her audience through provocative visual narratives through film and photography - bringing attention to what she perceives as sensual qualities in both scientific principles and modern day technological developments.
Image: Courtesy of Juuke Schoorl
Her awe-inspiring works are created without the help of digital manipulation, to allow the experiments to speak for themselves. Juuke's process is simple, yet produces jarring reactions, such as the pieces above.
Video: Courtesy of Juuke Schoorl
The malleable and transformative nature of skin’s surface can serve as inspiration for responsive architecture and building materials inspired by the body - further connecting with the person in the space.