constellation, Uncategorized

Skin representation in Art


Although not traditionally used as an item of artwork, Necropants are a type of trouser. They were made natively by Icelandic people in the 17th century. To make them, a person firstly needs to get permission to use another mans skin once he has deceased, he then had to dig up the body and peel of the skin from the waist downwards without making any holes or tears. The tradition then was that the wearer had to steal a coin from a widow at Christmas, Easter or Whitsun (a Christian festival of Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter). Which He’d then place it in the scrotum of the trousers along with a sign which was seen to be magical called nábrókarstafur which is drawn on a piece of paper. The meaning behind the tradition was that they believed that it would gather wealth by superficial means, it drew money into the scrotum from living people so it will never be empty as long as the original coin is not removed.

Necropants could be considered to be grotesque  as they show the naked body of another to the public which makes other people feel uncomfortable. The average person in todays society is used to their ‘norms’ for clothing in their culture so seeing something like this will make them feel uncomfortable as they would consider it grotesque as it is not socially acceptable to display one’s bare body. This  is discussed in Margrit Shildrick’s The embodying the monster encounters with the vulnerable self, that

“The disruption of corporeal integrity and the open display of body vulnerability is always a moment for anxiety and very often for hostility”

Furthermore, Necropants could be considered to be grotesque by the material used to make it, many different materials are used to create clothing in fashion however using skin could be considered to be particularly grotesque as it uses something which is unsanitary and not conventionally used. Warwick and Cavallero spoke about this in ‘fashioning the frame’ “the skin is a broken surface…

a site of abjection because of its existence of these millions of ultimately unpoliceable holes…produces a desire to fill the space, to plaster over the frissure that betrays the self as fragmented”

This elaborates on how skin itself is a strange surface and how it could be considered grotesque by the fact it has holes in it.

Moreover Necropants also links in with my research on the abject body as Necropants are considered grotesque to people outside this culture where it is a norm, so much so that people separate themselves from it or are in ” the state of being cast off”. Necropants are a good example of how something which could be considered to be art or fashion can create a state of abjection on people when created using ‘grotesque’ materials such as skin.


Marc Quinn is an British Visual Artist and Sculptor. Quinn is a member of the ‘Young British Artists’ group and is better known for a Sculpture he did of Alison Lapper which has been installed on the fourth plinth in trafalgar square, London. However the work Im interested in researching is his project called ‘Self’ Which is an ongoing project of self portraits made using blood and silicone moulds.

Quinn’s work could be considered to be abject art as he doesn’t typically  use conventional materials, He has used his own frozen blood, ice and faeces. These materials are considered to be grotesque to many viewers specially so because it is something we all have/ produce so it makes the work more personal to the viewer in making them feel abject as they try to separate themselves from the idea.

Quinn’s oeuvre displays a preoccupation with the mutability of the body and the dualisms that define human life—spiritual and physical, surface and depth, cerebral and sexual.

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