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Not on display

Artist
Regina José Galindo born 1974
Original title
Piel
Medium
Video, colour and sound (stereo)
Dimensions
None
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with the assistance of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee and Boris Hirmas 2017
Reference
T14802

Summary

Skin is a video of a public performance, also called Skin, by Guatemalan artist Regina José Galindo that took place in Venice in 2001 as part of the forty-ninth Venice Biennale. The video was edited and presented in 2005 at the fifty-first Venice Biennale, where Galindo was awarded the Golden Lion for Best Young Artist. It shows Galindo meticulously removing all the hair from her head and body with almost surgical precision, starting with her head, from which the mass of her shaved hair falls onto the white cobblestones of a Venetian alleyway, before moving on in quick succession to her armpits and genital area. With each new shaven area the artist also discards a piece of clothing until she is naked. Once the action is complete, the camera follows Galindo as she walks through alleys and across bridges near to the Arsenale, one of the main exhibition sites of the Venice Biennale and the location of the film screening in 2005.

The performance Skin was Galindo’s contribution to the exhibition Plateau of Humankind curated by Harald Szeemann for the Venice Biennale in 2001. Galindo has described the action in straightforward terms: ‘I shave all the hair off my body and head and walk like this down the streets of Venice’ (Regina José Galindo, interview with Francisco Goldman, Bomb, 1 January 2006, https://bombmagazine.org/articles/regina-jos%C3%A9-galindo, accessed 12 February 2018). Despite this simplicity Galindo’s performance invoked a strong emotional charge. In the video passers-by cast near-indifferent looks towards the artist as she walks naked through the Venetian streets. Her exposed body is out of place in the picturesque city, foregrounding the vulnerability of her bare flesh and feet in even the most manicured of environs. The title of Galindo’s work is taken from The Skin (1949), a book by the Italian writer Curzio Malaparte who sees in the human skin the ultimate emblem of the separation between the individual’s inner self and the outside world. Yet just as Galindo stages insecurity and isolation, she appears resilient as she makes her way through the city.

Galindo uses performance as a means of highlighting issues around identity in post-colonial Latin America, in particular the violation of human rights and the idea of the indigenous. Her work reflects on and is a product of the social, political and cultural violence that has affected and still affects her native Guatemala. The civil war in Guatemala (1960–96) threw the country into a state of upheaval for thirty-six years and continues to have widespread repercussions. The indigenous Mayan population suffered the brunt of the conflict, with many women becoming victims of sexual assault and brutality. Galindo uses her own body, subjecting it to self-inflicted, degrading and often violent acts in order to highlight the disparities in class and ethnicity, as well as the violence and discrimination suffered by women in Guatemala. Her carefully enacted ritualistic performances, including surgical procedures, sedation and seclusion in small spaces, expose mass violence through personal degradation (see, for example, Bitch 2005). In Skin, by displaying herself in her full nakedness, Galindo shows how the vilification of the individual through suffering and abuse ultimately depersonalises people and strips them of their identity.

Skin was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2005 together with Who can erase the traces? 2005, also in Tate’s collection (Tate T14801). Although the two works were conceived independently, they can be displayed alongside each other or separately. Galindo created a joint edition of these two works and this copy is the third of three artist’s proofs. Both works can be shown either on monitors or as projections.

Further reading
Livia Savorelli (ed.), Regina José Galindo, Albissola Marina 2006.
Rosina Cazali and Fernando Castro Florez, Regina José Galindo, Milan 2011.
Diego Sileo and Eugenio Viola (eds.), Regina José Galindo: Estoy viva, Milan 2014.

Flavia Frigeri
October 2014

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