Skin is an ambiguous construct. It is the external cover of the body, its soft and firm protection, as well as its visual representation. Yet, as it wraps the body tightly, it cannot be taken off nor changed. Moreover, skin not only represents the body but also dooms it to the particular look. It is skin that signalizes individual’s identity which criteria – gender, race, age – are frequently employed as fixed definitions and imposed in order to structure political, economic and social hierarchies.
The photographic series combines of self-portraits in disguise. The realistic, silicone costumes imitating female face and body are broadly used by Female Masking fetish and crossdressing subculture that has become a direct inspiration for the series.
The idea of “second skin” is thus dubious and symbolic. On one hand, it provides a tool for embodying an alter-ego and expressing individual’s freedom of choice of their identity – and as such it is employed by the Masking community. On the other hand, the act of wearing the female mask by a woman puts the disguise into a far different context. Costumes claustrophobic features and its nature as a palimpsest of female body comes to front and emphasizes subversive character of the relation between disguise, photography and self-representation. In fact, the joint of photographic self-portraiture and masquerade has been long used by artists such as Claude Cahun, Pierre Molinier, Marcel Bascoulard and Andy Warhol. For these artists, masquerade and performative, photographic self-representation were means employed to express their non-normative identity.
Agata Wieczorek (1992) is a Polish artist based in Lodz, where she is currently completing her Masters at the National Film School. She previously graduated with honors from Strzeminski Art Academy in Lodz, where she studied graphic arts and painting.