Marie Munk’s work relies on the body as a launch point in which to explore the many ways we relate to our bodies whether it be through body modifications or plastic surgery. The notion of skin/flesh factors prominently in her work. Sometimes, its real chicken skin. Other times, it’s synthetic, detailed down to the faint outlines of blood vessels.
In “Magic Wand,” Munk juxtaposes two skins: the digital (reflected in the grey and white check pattern made famous by Photoshop) and the organic (reflected in the flesh covered legs and patches of flesh peeking out from behind the digital). Acccording to the statement for the installation,”With ‘Magic Wand’ Marie Munk explores our role as a biological being in an increasingly digitalized and online world. The performance installation reflects upon how the human mind is constantly exploring new territories for the extension of our body’s identity and thereby challenging the boundaries of our biological form.”
SCIENTIFIC INQUIRER: How did you end up being an artist in the first place?
MARIE MUNK: I started my BA with the dream to become a fashion designer, but during my BA I realized that my way of thinking and executing was more suitable for the art world. My passion for the body and it’s role in society was not only centered around the dressing of the body and the art world allows me to explore this from other perspectives and express my thoughts in alternative medias. My work often sits somewhere between art and design, as I often think my art like speculative design, I use the commercial design language to invite people inside, but also to implement some sort of “realism”. The commercial language also have a huge impact in society and how people live their lives, that is why it is so relevant.
SI: How/why did you begin integrating aspects of science and medicine into your work?
MM: It naturally grew from my interest in the body and how this is perceived in our modern and technologic world. I investigate and get inspired by all the tendencies to manipulate the “nature” of our biological body, everything from vajazzling to implants to medical treatments to cyborgs. Science is vital in the development of the “future human” and therefore a natural aspect to integrate. I’m very interested in the manner that science inventions are received in society and the unforeseen consequences.
SI: In 2011, you did a series Moving Body that created metallic abstractions that reminded me of Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” and Boccioni’s “Unique Forms…” The following year, you did Body Manipulations which seems like an almost 180 degree change in direction. It was static and organic. You also started incorporating skin into your work. How did this transition come about?
MM: Moving Body was a study of the body’s movements and how to eliminate everything else than this in an abstract expression. I realized that I am more interested in the cultural and social aspects related to the body. I became fascinated by the idea of the skin being a symbol of our fleshiness as humans, but that we can actually add many non-biological things underneath the skin, and we accept them to be a part of our body, because they are under the skin. It felt almost like anything could be possible under the skin, I was fascinated by artists like Orlan and Patricia Piccinini, Hollywood plastic/cosmetic surgery and biohackers, I wanted to explore this as a media for art expression, why silicone as I use to create the “skin” with became a logic material to use for my work.
SI: How has your understanding and use of skin/flesh evolved through the years?
MM: Obviously I started out with no knowledge about the possibilities of the material what so ever, so I began with methods of pouring and casting. As my work grew in scale these methods were no longer suitable and I developed the method that I am using now. I use the silicone almost like paint on a canvas, I build up the skin textures of many thin layers, which allows me to work more freely and intuitively with the expression and the shape. I am still exploring the possibilities that the material contains and developing my methods, which is super exiting.
SI: In “Mixed Physicality,” you start with skin then it gradually gets covered by a second skin. It reminded me of microbes spreading over a surface like a biofilm. Can you just tell us about what’s going on there?
MM: Actually I was exploring the perception of flesh/skin in the physical world vs. the virtual world. I wanted to make a kind of liquid flesh that was both physical and virtual at the same time, questioning the role of our biological mass.
SI: “Moments” “Onesome” “Public Skin” “Synthetic Seduction” all deal with the private vs. public and the intimate vs the impersonal. Why?
MM: Yes that is true. All of this work explores how technology affects our social behavior and thereby our understanding of intimacy. The possibilities for communication that technology brings along messes with our previous understanding of a private or intimate space. In this context I am exploring how intimacy is increasingly becoming a commodity, in this sense something that we could consume like a latte on the way to work. Intimacy as a commodity is naturally questioning the intimate vs. the impersonal. Can intimacy or skin-to-skin contact be mass produced or programmed? Can the need for skin-to-skin contact be as natural a public need as the need to go to the toilet, in a future where physical contact with other humans is perhaps not a natural part of our everyday lives?
SI: In “Magic Wand” you shift a little and you explored the tension between the digital world and the carnal. Can you discuss where this came from?
MM: In a way I explore this in all my work. Here it is less socially related. It was an attempt to materialize a digital scenario and explore the increasing tension between the body and the mind that comes with the virtual world. I was playing with the post-human idea of a liquid and editable body, dissolved into carefully selected and vehemently retouched fragments. A physical scenario where the digital is clearly in power and keeping the biological somehow trapped or meaningless.
SI: Who are your biggest influences?
MM: People around me, scientific innovations, science fiction movies and special effect make up. I currently collaborate a lot with video and animation artist Stine Deja, her work and ideas inspires me a lot. I’m fascinated by artists like Anna Uddenberg, Hito Steyerl, Orlan, Stellarc, Ron Mueck, Patricia Piccinini and many fellow young artists.
SI: Finally, what is next for you?
MM: Right now I’m working on my first soloshow at Mega Melange in Cologne, which will open early January. After that Stine Deja and I will start a new collaborative project together.
IMAGE SOURCE: “Synthetic Seduction” courtesy of KH7 Artspace; “Magic Wand” courtesy of Annka Kultys Gallery.
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