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Skin "Safari”: (Other)Worlding the Skin and Transforming Skin-Based Narratives

Workshop Convenor: Dr Freya Verlander
Speakers: Consultant Dermatologist Dr Simon Tso, Dr Maha Egail (Dermatology Registrar), Dr Ilona Blee (Medical Doctor with interests in skin microbiome), and Artist Mellissa Fisher (Twitter: @MellEJFisher Insta: @mellissafisherartist)
Online: Zoom
Date: Monday June 14th 14:00 – 15:30 pm. ** This event has now reached capacity, please feel free to register your availability/interest below for any future events (or in case a space becomes available) **

You are invited on a virtual skin "safari.” It’s your skin but as you’ve never seen it before. The first half of this “skinteractive” workshop is led by dermatologist Dr Simon Tso and involves using digital microscopes (which we will send free of charge) to show you your skin in an entirely new way. As part of the tour, you will learn about the skin’s microbiome, its flora and fauna, including the demodex mites (living on your skin right now!). After being guided on this virtual skin "safari,” artist Mellissa Fisher will discuss her "Microbial Me" project which visualises the bacteria by taking microbial swabs of the skin and growing them as agar sculptures. It asks the “viewer to relate to what is on their own skin” (Fisher). This will enable you to literally see the skin’s microbial communities as part of a living ecology and artwork (see images, right). Mellissa will then guide you in an arts-based activity, using the digital microscopes. You will be invited not only to activate your skin as a site of experience but to begin to think through it creatively.

This medical humanities workshop draws dermatology and the arts into productive conversation. It encourages participants to think about the skin – the body’s largest organ –and their own skin-based narratives. It aims to transform the way in which participants see, understand, think through, experience, and even represent, their skin. W.H. Auden’s poem "A New Year Greeting" (inspired by microbiologist Mary J. Marples’ article “Life on the Human Skin”) illustrates one way in which this workshop will encourage participants to re-think the skin and their relationship to it. Auden’s poem imaginatively worlds the skin – with imagery of natural landscapes and disasters – and addresses its flora, fauna, and microclimates.

I’ll leave you with an extract:

“For creatures your size I offer
a free choice of habitat,
so settle yourselves in the zone
that suits you best, in the pools
of my pores or the tropical
forests of arm-pit and crotch,
in the deserts of my fore-arms,
or the cool woods of my scalp.

Build colonies: I will supply
adequate warmth and moisture,
the sebum and lipids you need,
on condition you never
do me annoy with your presence,
but behave as good guests should,
not rioting into acne
or athlete's-foot or a boil.” (Auden 1969)

Places for this workshop are limited. Registration will close on 24th May or when the event reaches capacity. We encourage you to confirm your availability and register your interest as soon as possible. We will be in touch to arrange delivery of free workshop materials once your place is confirmed.

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Microbial me picture

Microbial me - Melissa Fisher

(image credits: Mellissa Fisher)