Nicole Alexandra Pruckermayr

Nicole Alexandra Puckermayr (2014), Skin as an Experience of Distance, Institute of Architectural Theory, History of Art and Cultural Studies; 1st reviewer: Peter Mörtenböck, 2nd reviewer: Elisabeth von Samsonow, 3rd reviewer: Hans Kupelwieser; 300 pages, German.

It is not that simple to leave your skin behind. Many-faceted and extensive, the least organ-like organ of the human body is close to us and yet often very far away. Sometimes it is desirable to have a greater distance to one’s own skin or even to leave it behind. This dissertation is exclusively concerned with corporeal skin and its special qualities. An examination of skin is unthinkable without the body and space. Like the human concept of skin, the body as well as space has a varied history nowhere close to its end. The main focus of this work is how the skin and chiefly the body has been conceived. How important has the skin been? What qualities of the skin can be discovered which might facilitate people living together or at least attempt to explain how they do so? Which abilities have been attributed to the skin? Which spaces open up between bodies and what ideas about space have been generated as a result of them? What relationships to distance and closeness are required to preserve an unscathed skin? Being human means being a body and being a skin, in all its aspects. Part of the fascination of the skin is the desire to divest oneself of it. The desire to establish a distance is a topic addressed in mythology as well as in contemporary blockbuster horror films. To no longer have a skin, to no longer use a skin or to use it more intensively than normal, for example full body tattooing, is an element that recurs in a variety of cultures. The skin also represents a Fühl-Hülle (cover for feelings). Everything negative that befalls the body stands in contrast to the experience of gentle touch and of happy moments that the skin can sense and convey. The closeness connected with being happy also communicated by the skin is one of its most important characteristics. Being a skin, a cover for feelings, life’s travel bag and also the changing views of the skin revolve around the concept of distance and closeness, whether from a material perspective or as interpersonal experience, and form a web of relationships. As one deals with the skin more intensively, it becomes clear very quickly that not only is the skin regarded differently in nearly every discipline but it also holds has an important position in both the natural sciences and the humanities. Here too the skin is close to us, even though it can be observed that an intensive examination of the skin did not begin until the early 2000s and there is no strict continuity in the natural sciences. This dissertation examines these two main threads in detail: the skin’s relationship to closeness in the Western cultural sphere and the connections that open up when findings and studies from the natural sciences, the arts and the humanities are combined. How the brain and skin are connected, how water, light and touch are perceived and how living together in communities is formulated from the perspective of the individual as well as in a broader context are brought together in order to determine the status quo of the skin and a contemporary vision of it.

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