Skin this Summer (exhibition and conference at the Wellcome)

Posted in books, conferences (to attend), exhibitions by Editor on July 8, 2010

The Wellcome Collection in London currently hosts an exhibition on Skin that includes various anatomical images from the eighteenth century (and a fine online component). Next week, there will be a symposium on the topic of Skin Exposed. While the latter is far-ranging in period and approach, it does raise the question of what a conference focused entirely on skin in the eighteenth-century might look like.

Wellcome Collection, London, 10 June — 26 September 2010

A suspended lower arm from which the skin and fatty layer has been removed to reveal the muscles. Next to it is a knife and a surgical instrument case with its lid. Gérard de Lairesse after Govard Bidloo and William Cowper, 1739 (Wellcome Library)

The Skin exhibition invites you to re-evaluate the largest and probably most overlooked human organ. We consider the changing importance of skin, from anatomical thought in the 16th century through to contemporary artistic exploration. Covering four themes (Objects, Marks, Impressions and Afterlives), Skin takes a philosophical approach. It begins by looking at the skin as a frontier between the inside and the outside of the body. Early anatomists saw it as having little value and sought to flay it to reveal the workings of the body beneath.

The exhibition then moves to look at the skin as a living document: with tattoos, scars, wrinkles or various pathologies, our skin tells a story of our life so far. Finally, the skin is considered as a sensory organ of touch and as a delicate threshold between life and death.

Skin Lab, which features artistic responses to cutting-edge research and technological developments in skin science from the mid-20th century onwards, will complement the exhibition.

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Symposium — Skin: Exposed
Wellcome Collection, London, 16-17 July 2010

Nudity is an intimate state, perceived differently across times and cultures. For some it is a taboo, for others something to be celebrated. Join us for this special two-part ‘skin-posium’ to explore nakedness in all its guises.

Friday: Literary reading, 19.00-21.00
Bask in words of literary masterminds Milton, Keats, Tennyson and others. The evening includes a drinks reception so you can get to know your fellow guests.

Philip Carr-Gomm, "A Brief History of Nakedness" (May 2010), $30

Saturday: Talks and discussions, 10.30-17.00
Experts from the worlds of history of art, evolutionary science and more will explore how bare skin is understood in different cultures, how nudity makes us feel and how our ancestors evolved to reveal their bare skin in the first place.

Our multidisciplinary speakers include ‘Skin’ curator Javier Moscoso; fashion historian Rebecca Arnold; geneticist Walter Bodmer; historian of art Jill Burke; author of A Brief History of Nakedness, Philip Carr-Gomm; human geographer Glenn Smith; and anthropologist and film-maker Michael Yorke. Friday evening is curated by Steven Connor, author of The Book of Skin.

Tickets must be booked in advance. £30 full price/£20 concession for both days, including drinks on Friday evening and lunch, tea and coffee on Saturday. Please call 020 7611 2222 to book.

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