Siri Skjerve

Visual Artist

About

I live and work in Todalen, Trollheimen, Norway. The core of my work is hide and skin as artistic material, the conceptual possibilities and the language of this material. In the hunting season I collect skins from the local hunting teams here in Todalen. I see skinned animal bodies emitting steam as they hang from the ceiling. Entrails lie heaped in a wheelbarrow and the skins lie on the floor, still warm.

My starting point for working with skin is the human being per se. Skin is a material that is also part of me; it is something we all have. This material is a constant reminder of shared existence, community and interdependence between humans and animals. Is the animal estranged when its body is gone and I am left only with its outer enveloping layer? The eyes are extinguished, the individual has left and the body has become meat, food. I transform and insist on turning the animal into a new story. But the material will never be devoid of history.

The term ‘skin’ refers to the outermost layer of both humans and animals. It is also used to denote an abject thing, a torn-away part of ourselves. Skin is a reminder of our origin, transience and the boundary between ourselves and the world. It is the divider between me and everything that is not me. Raw and tanned hide visualises reflections about ourselves as human beings seen from a distance as well as from an intrusively close vantage point. It is a visual language that belongs to the human body, is body and at the same time is estranged.

Human life involves constant movement, both physically and through time. Our surroundings change and we use different approaches to tune into them. Our identity is inconstant. Who we are is an ongoing process. Some years ago, I moved to Todalen, a village with 300 inhabitants. I grew up in Oslo and studied in Bergen. In what way is artistic research influenced by changes in one’s geographical starting point? In my case, it took a long time before I discovered, some years ago, that raw and tanned hide would be what created continuity between the place I had moved to and the core within me. In my own way, I situated myself in a tradition and culture that have formed this place for many generations.

In the innermost part of the body are the lungs. Outermost is the skin that packs you in. It is permeable, opening its pours every time you breathe, every time you sweat and every time you get so close to another body that there is no space to intervene. Skin that breathes is like an open border. It stores experiences and tells stories about lived life, aging, illness, joy, external influences and geography. As a material, it tells about life and death, the certainty that one day your body will no longer be part of you. Skin without a body has a different kind of breath.

I stand at the bedroom window and look out. It’s cold, but I’m not cold. I see that the snow has fallen like a protective blanket between the ground and the night. It turns the moonlight blue. Like a crystallisation of the forest’s darkness, I see thirteen shadows standing with bowed necks. I hear the silence and the sound of noses digging for dry grass and mouths pulling it loose and chewing.

Together, we are fourteen. Do they know who I am?

We breathe in the same air. We are this place.

© 2021 Siri Skjerve

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