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a surface reflection

by Nicole Pruckermayr last modified 2008-10-11 12:18

nap, 2007

This is a surface reflection about the skin.

My video deals with the human skin, marks and sex/gender systems. An injury and the resulting healing process show the mutability and the state of flux of the skin, and relate them to the instability of sex/gender.

a surface reflection snapshot

The associative reflection about skin is in the center of the decomposition of the dual sex/gender system into a multidimensional system. The multidimensional system is also called „dynamic field“ (e.g. by Anne Fausto-Sterling). The dynamic field in the discussion of sex/gender systems means, that every person has its own and changeable place in an open field, because the hormons, age and other factors are just as well important and must not be neglected. The biologist Fausto-Sterling proves that the set of chromosomes is not that meaningful as commonly thought to define the physical „sex“. The chromosomal level is only one out of many axes in the wide system that define our genderedness. Fausto-Sterling describes this system as the multidimensional genderspace that offers space for all of us. We can define ourselves at another spot within this space every day, just as our hormonal balance is different every day – we get older, change sexual characteristics,... And of course social and cultural body practices have a strong influence on bodily shaping. „It might seem natural to regard intersexuals and transgendered people as living midway between the poles of male and female. But male and female, masculine and feminine, cannot be parsed as some kind of continuum. Rather, sex and gender are best conceptualized as points in a multidimensional space.“(see Fausto-Sterling, Anne; The Five Sexes, Revisited. The Varieties of Sex Will Test Medical Values and Social Norms; in: The Sciences; p. 22)

The film focuses on the skin, because of its role to give identity and its corporeal component in the sex/gender system.

The sight on the skin changed rapidly through the last centuries. Until the end of the 18th century, the skin had been seen as fragile, unordered and freely osmotic. Afterwards, it has been seen as a two-dimensional border. According to modern medical research, the „contemporary“ skin is three-dimensional and it is a contact space which is at the same time in the state of creation and decomposition.

However, the skin is still the instance that makes us describable and by which we can communicate. The surface-ness of the skin is no longer the only dimension to categorize the skin. But it is still relevant because it is one of our primary means of presentation.

The skin is one of the intermediatory instances in the question of sex/gender-systems. On the one hand, the skin is an essential part of the body, and bodies always have a sex. But is it necessary to classify „sex“ within a dualistic system? Particularly time is a non negligible category, not only bodies but also views are changing. Most researchers in the natural sciences do not question the current dualistic division at all. Anne Fausto-Sterling is one of the few biologists which challenge this system. On the other hand, the sexually connoted sociological human body becomes manifested by means of the skin. The behavior of a human with their particular role is engraved in their skin. It is manifest upon special features.

Why should the question of sexes be solved in a non-dualistic way? Even the achievement of the celebrated duality between sex and gender has shown to be inappropriate for a non-hierarchic classification. It is therefore necessary to work in an interdisciplinary way in the question of sex/gender and to not allow the cultural sciences to define the ascription of gender alone. Biology and the other natural sciences are therefore demanded to research.


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