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Dialogue - issue #4

Notes on the Limit of Our Skin

Words by Sol Polo
Artwork by Maria Laet

Artist Maria Laet’s work seeks to mend the divide between the elements and reminds us that an imprint on the planet is an imprint on ourselves.

The horizon and the shoreline both give the impression that the ocean has a limit. Your senses interpret a disconnection between sky and sea; sea and shore. However, if you approach the shore and try to mark this limit with a thread you will end up performing an endless gesture that will never produce a sharp line, but multiple lines drawing a porous seam of varying width. In Notes on the Limit of the Sea, Brazilian artist Maria Laet attempts this Sisyphean task. Her method, stitching, suggests a desire to join that is highly symbolic. By stitching an apparent limit, she seems to highlight the often invisible continuity and connection between all the elements of nature.

The shoreline is not a limit but an ecotone, a term used in geology to describe the transition area between two biomes, or a place in tension where two ecosystems meet and integrate. The earth is full of ecotones and, in a way, our skin is an ecotone too. Through it, our natural organism meets and integrates with other elements of nature as we breathe, drink, eat and interact with our surroundings. Artist Maria Laet’s work seeks to mend the divide between the elements and reminds us that an imprint on the planet is an imprint on ourselves. This dynamic continuum between ecotones, present throughout Laet’s body of work, manifests in this piece as she chooses to follow the trace of water.

Water is, in many ways, a feminist element: it is what enables life in the blue planet and it nourishes and permeates everything. As Astrida Neimanis recalls in her beautiful essay Hydrofeminism: Or on Becoming a Body of Water, water performs as a body and across bodies, filtering into urban territories miles away from its apparent container, the sea. As such, water can be seen as an element that connects us and everything else. On the shoreline, the vanishing waves are also reminiscent of the consistent rhythm of feminist waves that throughout the last two hundred years have been reclaiming and trying to wash away the divide between men and women’s rights, and, more recently in the eco-feminist movement, between all natural beings, both human and non-human.

Stitching is also an act of care that takes on feminist connotations. In Laet’s art it has no end, suggesting that “women’s work is never done”. It reminds me of the undervalued affective labour that usually falls more on women, but primarily appears to me as a powerful metaphor for the eco-feminist desire to fix the broken link between humanity and the rest of nature. There is a beautiful poetry in the art of stitching the earth, but there is also a political statement in the implication that any imprint we make on the planet is an imprint we make on ourselves, as we are part of the same body. Considering the sea as our own skin might, therefore, be a poetic and political thought with transformative potential, as might noting their discontinuous limits or taking the time to heal the divide.

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