Lukáš Hofmann: Skin Come Leather

Lukáš Hofmann: Skin Come Leather

Water of Death
Ingredients: Alcohol denat, Aqua, Achillea millefolium, Cupressus sempervirens, Boswellia carterii, Citrus aurantium.

Water of Life
Ingredients: Sphagnum, Aqua, Alcohol denat, Nardostachys jatamansi, Aquilaria malaccensis, Matricaria chamomilla, Acacia dealbata, Tilia cordata, Resina myrrhae, Myrtus communis, Boswellia sacra, Rosa damascena, Cedrus atlantica, Ocimum sanctum.

The Skin Come Leather exhibition is a laureate project of Lukáš Hofmann, who was awarded the Jindřich Chalupecký Award in 2018 for his installation at the Veletržní Palace, National Gallery Prague and the performance Sospiri.

Hofmann’s newly commissioned work consisting of video, objects, installation and performance centers around concept of skin conditions, such as eczema, itching, dry skin and others, as a multi-layered metaphor and sphere for interaction, manipulation, (self)violation, sensation, or exploitation. Skin as a membrane or border has been a reappearing theme throughout Hofmann’s practice and the present exhibition investigates its aesthetic, somatic and symbolical layers. Skin is seen as a semi-translucent membrane, both dividing the bodily self from the rest of the world, and providing access to it; a sphere of the most intimate contact, letting the environmental elements enter the body, holding the body together and yet being so vulnerable to outer powers. Hofmann follows the rudimentary process of turning skin into leather—a commodity—alongside skin examinations and experiments. His new video piece obsessively exposes all these aspects through a degree of consciously mystifying, and consequently disturbing aestheticization and close-up inspection, typical for Hofmann’s artistic process.

The multi-sensorial installation in the gallery space metaphorically stretches out and transforms skin into its urban counterpart: a scaffolding net. The stimuli in the exhibition bring only partial clues—do the climbing holds suggest past or future physical contact, strength or the lack of it? The tinctures of Water of Life and Death are involved in a mysterious process on the edge of medicine and witchcraft. According to local mythology trickling through modern TV fairy tales that Hofmann grew up with in the post-communist Czech Republic, these liquids were to bring back the dead to life and heal wounds, respectively. Here they act as a fickle element, which might turn the tide of perception. Carried in ancient-like, yet hypermodern glass carafes designed by the artist in collaboration with the glass-making company Lasvit, they carefully balance the line between realms of fetish, commercialized wellness and empowerment.

The physical installation creates a negative space for the live performance, which will be presented at the exhibition opening and documented for its duration as a video work on view inside the exhibition. Typically for Hofmann, a group of several performers will engage in escalated forms of (bodily) presence, pressing onto glass surfaces of the gallery space or exhibited objects, leaving traces, deforming, exchanging remains of breath, which might turn into a momentary song. Art in General will become a two-way portal, where the audience will suddenly find itself observed. Through their intense choreography, Hofmann’s group of actants aim to open and close wounds inflicted by the contemporary condition, causing both restlessness and relief.