I have always considered the skin as a sense organ, or perhaps the most important one. On our skin delicately lands the most significant philosophical question, that is: where do I end?
Maybe for this reason at times so much energy and tension accumulates on our skin so, by giving it a massage, it allows us to deeply relax.
In English we have a play on words between Skin and Kin, skin our bodily covering, kin – ancestors, family, generating alliances.
This article focuses on a new concept that I call S/Kin, meaning white noise, fibrillation, the vibration that produces the overlapping of having a skin and being part of everything that surrounds us, of saving one’s skin and being, in the end, nothing else than somebody else’s dream.
Was there a beginning to this confinement? How come we have ended up in this cultural archetype, where we are individuals held within the boundaries of our skin and we try to defend ourselves from what we call Nature using the powerful means of science and technology? In the final stage of modernism, where we now are, capitalism has made individualism become its banner. Calculation and the transformation of what exists into units for calculation have become its religion. Everything that happens seems to be a continuous replica of interconnected data that make everything work technically and defines what is useful and what is not.
During the last two centuries science seems to have become the new religion defining everything that works well, creating a specious and fictitious distinction between what is useful and what is dispensable. In reality the science commonly studied is unavoidably steeped in ideology and makes us believe what our culture expresses (mostly neoliberal, the competitive neodarwinism, patriarchy, colonialism and extraction of resources) to be normal. To get out of this impasse, Bruno Latour proposes to reply to Galileo, that the Earth still “moves and touches our hearts”.
I believe the most urgent cultural battle at present is to give a political and conscious function to what we call nature and what we call objects, including the more abstract ones such as machines and concepts. This is the cultural operation I feel to be most necessary and which we need to investigate: how do we give eyes to everything we relate to?
Everything is responsive. Everything is interconnected and therefore perceives. We are a collective. I do not end exactly within my skin but I am in the air around me, in the waves that touch my retina. This sound and light make your face appear and sculpt themselves into the form of my synapsis and, entering and exiting, model my brain. Like the waves on the beach, they come and go, reaffirm and slightly shift this boundary. Where do I begin and where do you end?
Why do I respond to you and you respond to me?
All things and all organisms are capable of being sentient since they are in this continuum. Knowledge is nothing else than the ability of doing or letting oneself be guided by the being one is relating to. A few years ago I happened to be working as an artist with Gilles Clement. He had invented the concept of “Third landscape” which made me stronger and enabled me to think what I shall now repropose in this essay. That is to say that the communal plants are a political subject which defines a landscape with autopoietic and self-organisation at the same level as the human group (or even more strongly, lasting and present in terms of force). To be a gardener and a landscaper involves being an expert observer of how the vegetable world organizes itself, combines in perfect harmony and conflict, and what small portion in this design can man and his activity take part in Gilles Clement also wrote a small, unexpected and marvellous book about clouds. By cataloguing the shapes of clouds, the sky appears as writing in movement narrating how the air itself perceives and organises itself in relation to the Earth and all that happens down here. Could meteorology be considered a kind of neuronal structure? Could the recursive structures of atmospheric currents, cyclones and anticyclones be similar to the synapsis in the brains of the animal world? The consequences of climate change, these two centuries of pollution based on fossil fuels, exploitation of workers and genocides that capitalocene has produced, could these be considered a trauma, an unforgettable memory for centuries to come, realistically represented in the form in which meteorology organises itself in this geological era? If we put some colours at the vortexes and curls that model the air currents, could we not begin to perceive a kind of giant thinking structure building the memory of what happens? Why don’t we ask ourselves in our language how much longer the sky will remember this wound, and how we can heal this trauma we have caused to the clouds?
Emanuele Braga is an artist, researcher and activist, operating on the relationship between art, economy, and new technologies. In the past years he co-founded and developed several projects: Balletto Civile dance company in which he operated as a choreographer, performer and teacher; Macao, new centre for art and culture in Milano, Landscape Choreography cross-sectors, performative and research project, in which he operated as director, curator and researcher, IRI Institute of Radical Imagination, transnational artistic think tank questioning postcapitalism alternative, Ebony decolonize work, design platform for asylum seekers, and KIN lab, an art space in Milano.