Skin – organ, boundary, shield, medium, metaphor. This permeable surface stands as a barrier to the “outer” world, an observable texture of our public persona, and at the same time a safeguard for our perceptual inner self that mediates and constructs our environment. Carved by the space and time, the skin is a (living) tissue, shaped by the chisel of time inscribing on it the contours of an individual’s autobiography. It is carnal, intimate, personal, always aware. It belongs to the senses and at the same time it is alienated, libidinous, even uncanny – it belongs to us, others… everyone – but at the same time, to no one at all. Skin is a part of a wider social tissue, framed by the gaze of others, seemingly animated by its own spirit. It is a membrane of the world and every individual – it equally radiates and inscribes identity.
The exhibition Skin unveils different photographic practices, touching the topic of skin, be it gently or roughly, from its superficial mindfulness, its microscopic structures, to its social embodiment – in the economy of the gaze, it oscillates between the desired and demanded, exposing physicality, the relations between the real and the created, between immersion and deconstruction. As does photography.
In the conversation, two of the most prominent New Zealand authors in the field of photography talk about the body of work of Anne Noble’s Antarctica photography projects. Had we lived is a re-photographic project reflecting on the tragedies of heroic age exploration (commemorating the centenary of the deaths of Robert Falcon Scott and his men on their return from the South Pole – Terra Nova Expedition or British Antarctic Expedition to the South Pole, 1912) and on the memory of Erebus tragedy of 1975, when a tourist plane flying over Antarctica crashed into Mt Erebus, killing all 257 people on board. Anne Noble re-photographed image taken by Herbert Bowers at the South Pole – the photograph of Scott and his men taken after they arrived at the South Pole to find Amundsen had already been and gone. Phantasms and Nieves Penitentes projects hint at the triumph of Antarctica over human endeavour and as a non-explorer type herself photographer Anne Noble states: “I rather liked this perverse reversal”. Both tragic events have a notable relationship to photography – Erebus in particular, as those who died were likely looking out of the aeroplane windows taking photographs at the time of impact. This relationship is addressed throughout the conversation between the two, providing an insightful commentary on the questions of authenticity, documentary value and the capacity of photography to exist in the in-between spaces of thoughtful imagining, and rational dreaming.