Contract With The Skin

by Paulo Henrique


A Collaborative, multimedia based movement project where the concept developed from the cell nucleus. Approached in allegorical and symbolic terms, allowing distinct readings, thus transforming the notions that are stereotypically understood to be society's unwritten "contract with the skin". The piece encompasses the theme of how the "Skin" relates to: shelter, home, identity, gender, geography. It envelopes the multiple textures of the body, the voice, sugesting many separate and unique interpretations.

In this project technology was used to sample and zoom in on different textures and surfaces that were used as a morphing background to the stage. The computer images were triggered in a random way by the performers map space. Two TV monitors were used with a surveillance camera that would be intercepted with pre-recorded textures of the performance space or external textures. Simultaneously another computer would project words to the left wing of the stage with live writing.

A scanner is also used, scanning the skin of a male performer and this is projected on the back of the stage on a full length screen. This overlaps visually with the female performer's movement dynamics. The movement ideas were developed from the cell structure, nucleus, cytoplasm membrane, the skin as an envelope; it's fluid architecture and flexibility, a constantly regenerating cover, serving as genesis of the creative tissue. The lighting design was computerized in sharp sequences - having the cell membrane as the main structural idea, as well using segmentation and localization applied to the performance space / performance bodies.

In terms of sound, several corridors of sound were created (synthetic sounds, organic sounds, various samples of: instruments, the performer's voices and political speachs) and they would be mixed in real time according to the path of the day's performance. There was a basic specific structure/sound map that could be intersected by new sounds but always respecting the established environment.

There is still the possibility to foster this multimedia set-up on a next stage by working with sensors (temperature and proximity) and having room for audience to trigger changes to the imagery that envelope trough the use of mobile phones (vibration sensors).

This piece encompasses the theme of how the “Skin” relates to: shelter, home, identity, gender, geography, politics. It envelopes the multiple textures of the body, the voice, allowing many separate and distinct readings. The human cell structure – “Nucleus, Cytoplasm, Membrane”, provides the ‘creative tissue’ for “Contract With The Skin” concept.

The piece opens with a female performer as allegory to our largest organ (skin) that walks around of the tightly lit perimeter of a stage (membrane). All the movement happens inside of the space (nucleus / cytoplasm) being the home of several allegorical and symbolic performative & imagery sequences: a performer struggles to get out of her costume ‘skin’, as she appears to be trying to escape from a membrane to another ‘skin’. The only time she dances it’s when after to hands gently create several actions with her skin belly, the protective ‘home’ and our first ‘shelter’ before birth. She dances at the sound of Edith Piaf’s (Non rien, de rien) – sung in English – underlining what we have for granted: Edith Piaf’s = France, but here singing in English – displacement / contradiction – the voice being identity / geography, voice as an outsider layer that also reveals a fragmented ‘home’/ 'entity'.

A voice over says: Is our skin contract inevitable ?… Did we choose our contract ?… A contract with the skin is inevitable !… My skin is preconceived… It is inevitable being the colour of skin that I am. Would you change your colour contract? Temporarily, socially, culturally? A contract with the skin. I am a contract with the skin. I am, politically, socially, culturally, individually, inevitably, a contract with the skin.

As the voice over goes on, a naked female dancer enters the space with a phallic, clear vase, in a symbol of a male orgasm, slowly pulls a long, dripping wet, translucent piece of plastic from the vase and dresses herself with it, a new skin that clings to her. A sense of openness, respect, and love for the human body – its shapes, its forms, its identity, it’s skin.

The skin as an envelope; it’s fluid architecture and flexibility, a constantly regenerating cover, serving as genesis of the 'contract with the skin'.

[ x ] Migration & variations of the projet into other versions and mediums :

"Partial Disclosures" (a series of wall mounted photo installations) by Robert Flynt was shown alongside "Contract with the skin", creating a continuous symbiotic relationship. The respective examinations of corporeality and its discontents provided a rich, provocative source for a wide-ranging audience.

• The interactive website "Contract with The Skin" by Manuel Granja, was included in the 'Excellent Artists' list in the Art On the Net 2001 competition by the Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, Tokyo : - project and video for CD-ROM & interactive Online FLASH code CWTS

• Video 1 and 2 by Luciana Fina & Olga Ramos, Scarfone 2000 and 2014 Revisited version. DVD / PAL / Colour and MP4 Video for the Internet :

1 ) C o n t r a c t W i t h T h e S k i n

2 ) R e v i s i t e d


Performers/dancers - Maria Joao Neves, Susana Mendes, Joana Trindade, Vania Rovisco, Paulo Henrique
Dramaturgy - Ezequiel Santos
Sound - Rui Leitao
Set Design /Costumes - André Guedes & Catarina Campino
Multimedia - Manuel Granja / Helder Luis
Photography - Robert Flynt
Assistance: Ana Mira / Margarida Pinto Coelho

Executive Production - Ana Isidro, Production - Rumo do Fumo.

Co-Production: C.C.B., Forum Dança, IPAE/ Ministério da Cultura

Venue: Belém Cultural Center, Grande Auditorium, Lisbon

Date: Premiered in Lisbon on the 1st of November 2000 at Belém Cultural Center

Technology: Digital projection, Macintosh, Digital video camera, Sony MiniDisc, Digital AV mixer WJ-AVE70, Sony scanner XV-T600,