How can we go beyond our biological makeup to heal the earth and ourselves within the Anthropocene? Is it possible to shed disquietude by creating a new technological surface to our skin that cools down the earth and protects ourselves from an eminently violent world? Inspired by the protective and spectacular display of the male chameleons’ skin, I started to envision new skin that protects the human body from its environment while also giving back.
The first layer of the chameleons’ skin consists of iripopher cells. These cells’ primary protective capability is to reflect the surface around them. The thinner top layer of the skin is made up of smaller iripopher cells which are activated by movement, causing a shift to reflect light differently. This, in turn, determines the color change that human eyes detect.
I started to wonder what other artists are interested in ways in which we protect ourselves in response to the environment. “Obliteration” is a common thread in Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms, which are spaces filled with mirrors, sculptures, and lights. Upon entering the rooms, the viewer dissipates and becomes part of the environment that Kusama made. Their use of mirrors recollected this idea of the “albedo effect” which in atmospheric sciences describes the amount of reflective capabilities that color or texture may have. Mirrors have a high albedo effect which means that they reflect almost all light into the environment.
What if our skin could reflect the sun out into the earth to help cool it down, or stop it from warming anymore? What would our skin look like if it had an output that unveiled how we are reacting to our planet’s temperatures or anxieties? Questions that I would like to tackle more in the future of this project are how do we source the materials for our new skin responsibility? Who will be making our new skin? Would individuals be taught how to make their skin? Otherwise, who will have access to adopt a new biological makeup? How can the fashion industry, designers, and consumers play an active role in transforming industry with has been notoriously unaware of the effects of its sourcing into a tool of protection, healing, and expression?