Wound, Surface, Skin

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Sarah Nuttall


Cultural Studies, Volume 27, p.418–437 (2013)




The essay draws on four recent artworks which have been highly controversial or visible in South Africa since 2010, in order to explore concepts of wounding and political autopsy on the one hand, and of skin surface on the other. The discussion aims to elaborate on and render increasingly complex both the wounds that won't heal, and which erupt into public life through responses to artworks, and the healing over of a wound along a skin surface which artists are exploring in its multiple senses of a cover, a form of cladding, and as a membrane of feeling. Each of the artworks imply a complex relationship between the domains of public and private, and invoke the intimate, or sites of vulnerability, including the dead body, as a means of reimagining the social. They draw on histories of violence to re-compose the aesthetic project: histories of violence, that is, are resisted, forced open, surrendered to, and generative of unforeseen subjectivities.

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