October 16, 2016 – February 12, 2017

Skin encloses the human body, acting first and foremost as a delimitating protection against the outside world, against cold, dampness and wounds. Apart from being a protective, defining cover, skin also permits interaction between the individual and its surroundings. Clothes can act as a substitute – a second skin, taking on this threshold function; they can protect and hide or can transport inner messages to the outside, as adornments expressing cultural or individual identity. This almost symbiotic relationship between skin, clothing and the outside world is increasingly explored in contemporary art as well. Organic and creatural materials are used more frequently in the creative process. The results are contemporary “natural clothes” made of blossoms, branches, fishes and hair – in their perishability and fragility, they also evoke thoughts of human transience. Just as natural materials are characterized and determined by a cycle of life and decay, the human being is subject to this life rhythm because of the human body. To cloak oneself in the “clothes” of nature seems like a conscious attempt to enter and inhabit this natural cycle.

Deborah Sengl, Killed to Be Dressed, 2010, © Deborah Sengl, Private Leihgabe
Dietmar Busse, December, 6, 2002 (Selfportrait), 2002, © Dietmar Busse
Karoline Hjorth und Riitta Ikonen, Eyes as Big as Plates # Agnes II (Norway 2011), 2011, © Karoline Hjorth und Riitta Ikonen
Nathalia Edenmont, Only Me, 2011, © Nathalia Edenmont, Courtesy Wetterling Gallery Stockholm
Huang Yan, Chinese Landscape – Tattoo No. 2, 1999, © Huang Yan, M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong. By donation
Riitta Päiväläinen, White Dress, 2000, © Riitta Päiväläinen, Courtesy Taik Persons Gallery
Jana Sterbak, Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic, 1987/2006, © Jana Sterbak, Courtesy Galerie Barbara Gross

“Clothes must fit people
as people must fit the landscape.”

Li Liweng (1611–1680)

In multiple ways, the exhibition at the Museum Sinclair-Haus examines and exemplifies the possible meanings of assuming another, a “Second Skin” – whether the goal is to distinguish oneself from nature or to become one with it, so to speak. Although clothing is an artificial covering for human beings, it is perceived as a kind of essential element of our bodies. As a constant companion of mankind, it has become a symbol for it. The physically present body expresses its unique form and figure in clothing – in the absence of the body it remains, like a negative, as a trace and proof of its former presence.

However, our coverings – whether skin or clothing – can also be deceptive: such “cloaks” are alluded to by enchanted figures from fairy-tales by the Brothers Grimm, such as the Frog King or the Prince from Snow White and Rose Red who has been turned into a bear. Ultimately, our surface can hide something quite different than what it suggests. In their works, the artists presented in this exhibition touch upon this interplay between appearance and essence, epitomized by skin and clothing.

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