‘The body is the inscribed surface of events (traced by language and dissolved by ideas), the locus of dissociated self (adopting the illusion of a substantial unity), and a volume in perpetual disintegration.’ (Michael Foucault, 1977)1
In research considering the way societal values ‘inscribe’ themselves into the framework of the everyday, I was drawn to how ubiquitous items such as; clothing, domestic objects, fabrics and textures, can physically ‘imprint’ themselves or elements of their form, onto the surface of the body.
Indentations made on the skin are a kind of ‘blunt trauma’, leaving a trace of the thing that made it. In this trace the object materialises as an inscription that can often be vaguely deciphered; the crumpled bed sheets telling of their position during sleep; the seam of the jeans disclosing their construction - ‘writing’ their narrative onto/into the skin.
In this way, our relationship to the things that surround us, literally pattern our sense of being and shape the sense of self within our physical, emotional and environmental landscape.
These traces have a temporal quality, appearing through impact and pressure, they wane over time to seemingly become immaterial. However, in the example of the palimpsest, the surface is struck (in wax) or inscribed (on paper), and each time an inscription is made, the previous inscription is over-written - with every successive encounter, the surface accretes inscriptions, generating layers of unseen, historical narrative.
1Foucault, M., 1977. ‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History’. In: Bouchard, D., and Simon, S., (eds and transl) Language, Counter-Memory, Practice; Selected Essays and Interviews. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, (p148)