Judit Florenciano – Techosmetics: The synthetic skin salon
Judit Florenciano’s MA Wearable Futures project Techosmetics: Synthetic Skin Salon uses speculative design to explore what the impact of biotechnological advancements might be on how we represent and relate to the human body.
Techosmetics: Synthetic Skin Salon is a concept installation where viewers are encouraged to handle and choose from an archive of bioengineered ‘skin’ samples. This fictional cosmetic enhancement service offers procedures to genetically modify human skin, providing a space for analysis and critique of such ideas.
In this scenario, a techosmetic procedure for skin enhancement would involve a series of biotechnology techniques, including tissue engineering, gene therapy and bioprinting. The skins in the skin salon are modified for different functionalities, to deliver protection from environmental factors, to augment sensory modalities, or provide auxiliary support to our bodies.
Since the modifications on offer appear to be superficial, or at least in excess of therapeutic purposes, there’s an ambiguity which makes the installation feel quite eery. Perhaps it is what skin represents. Skin is a barometer of vitality and health, a point of contact and communication, yet at the same time, it is a barrier between our inside and outside, kept in health by an ecosystem of protective bacteria. To say that one feels comfortable in their own skin is an expression of acceptance of self and, in turn, of others. Maybe it’s the commodification of skin – a practice to which we only subject animals – which makes this ‘skin shop’ feel so uncanny, creepy even. This sense of discomfort, in turn, illuminates some of Florenciano’s leading questions around processes of cultural and social acceptance in relation to body modification practices. For instance, while cosmetic surgery procedures were once considered extreme, they are now relatively common place. Despite this, tens of thousands of women suffered as a result of their PIP-manufactured breast implants rupturing to leak fraudulently sold industrial-grade silicone into their bodies. Here we see a real-life outcome with consequences reminding of the risk we face when it comes to the lure of new technologies and how they are applied to our bodies.