re:skin Hits a Nerve

re:skin... book coverA Review of re:skin
Edited by Mary Flanagan and Austin Booth
The MIT Press, 2007

In re:skin, Grand Text Auto’s own Mary Flanagan and co-editor Austin Booth suture essays, stories, and documentation of projects to flesh out a book that explores our ever-present bodily boundary. The items collected in re:skin are not just about the metaphorical “re-skinning” that one can undertake with a browser or with WinAmp, and not just about the virtual covering that some seek to wrap around 3-D characters. Rather, the book explores how we allow our actual, literal skin to define and segment us and how it can be a medium for expression or a provocation to rethink our concepts of boundary.

From plastic surgery to fur implants, from illegal tattooing to skin grafts, the use of technology to alter the physical body is, for women writers, less a tool for empowerment than a means to construct alternative, multiple selves. Bodily boundaries are malleable, and bodily markers which distinguish bodies are reprogrammable. The pieces gathered in re:skin claim that the technologically mutable body is neither simply liberating nor limiting, but offers instead narratives of ways of living in, and adapting to, a technological culture.