Photography THE BOOK OF SKIN


Giorgia Massari

Referring to the concept of Shangri-la, an imaginary place in Tibet described as a paradise in James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizonphotographer Melody Melamed (Los Angeles) imagines a world where our skin and bodies are not subject to judgment, but are seen and conceived only in their intimate relationship with nature. «Shangri-la: remote beautiful imaginary place where life approaches perfection: Utopia» Melamed explains when talking about her photography project The Book Of Skin, «Our queer bodies mimic and reflect nature’s perfectionism as a reminder: we are connected to and come from its core.» With this project, Melody Melamed explores the human body-more specifically its skin, understood as the container and content of our essence-by placing it in continuous dialogue with nature and its transformative property. Just as valleys, trees and the earth itself change with the passing of the seasons and the passage of time, our bodies also expand and evolve “into our own personal Shangri-la.”

Thinking skin, the skin that thinks

Melody Melamed devotes her research to the exploration of the perception of gender identity, the dualism between masculinity and femininity, and sexuality more generally with a feminist gaze, where feminist means “love, care, equal rights and equal treatment” because according to her «we are all part of the same body and the same space.» In The Book Of Skin, her investigation focuses on skin and the role it plays in our existence, referring to Steven Connor ‘s book – The Book Of Skin, from which she draws inspiration – in which the author explores the multiple functions of skin in the cultures of the West. Melamed embraces Connor’s theory that skin is a thinking organ and a form of thought itself. «Think about how hard it is to think without touching your skin,» Connor writes, «Forefinger to lip, say– then you feel yourself and you feel yourself feeling. You are simaltaneously an object in the world and a subject giving rise to itself as it advances to meet the world in that object.» In this pondering and observing the changing bodies in dialogue with nature-also changing-we realize how difficult it actually is to think of skin as mere matter because, as Melamed suggests, skin is what we think with and is directly involved in thought.

Unlike other animals we have a relation to our bodies– a relation that we invent and a relation that is our bodies. Our bodies are the kind that are always in question or transition, are always a work in progress.

The Book Of Skin reflects on the deep interconnection between the individual and the environment he or she inhabits, within which the skin becomes a conduit between the body and the world. The skin becomes a kind of mirror of the world and the view of the world as an intermittent “skin,” emphasizing the continuous mutual influence between subject and object.

Courtesy Melody Melamed

Written by Giorgia Massari
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