Tag Archives: Zhang Huan

Getting beneath your skin

11 Sep

Beauty is only skin deep. Or so the saying goes. It’s that well-worn cliché that’s been attributed to Thomas Overbury’s 1613 poem “A Wife“…whose subject matter is probably just that. Adherents to the adage must sleep well at night knowing that even though their ingrown hairs are getting worse, that the embarrassing rash may be here to stay, inside their humble exteriors lies a goldmine of morality, kindness and sincerity. Let’s take things literally for a second….

If you were really to pull back that superficial and supple veneer of skin you’d be kidding yourself if you weren’t left with a pulpy mess of blood, subcutaneous fat and tissue that smells something like a poorly maintained butcher in summer. Not pretty.

Just think of all the euphemisms, symbolisms and turns of language aimed to disguise the putrid intricacies of the human bodies. You think love lies somewhere in the centre of your chest? Just let Clive Owen in Closer (2006) tell ya’: your heart, that poeticized organ of love (no, not the one in your pants), is nothing more than a fist wrapped in blood.

Maybe it’s a rude awakening to the machinations of the world, a welcome home to the muck that we live in as human beings. Sure there’s no harm in being idealistic, but a good dose of cynicism (I like to call it “being realistic”) helps keep you grounded. In fact, there’s cynicism in saying beauty’s superficial because it supposes the trickery of appearances.

But just like Keats’ well-wrought urn, there is truth in beauty, and there is beauty in truth, whether that truth is the metaphysical kind we can only strive towards; or the truth of our existence: flesh, blood, bone and shit. The beauty’s in the fact that out of the base materials of the world, designs of infinite complexity have come into being (with or without the help of some divine force); biological systems survive even in the most hostile conditions; civilizations have been built and have crumbled; old people continue to have sex, much to the horror of…well, anyone.

Considering that there’s a lot of crap out there that’ll ruin you (drugs, sex, alcohol, scientology, etc.) we’re doing just fine. Life always manages to weather the worst, to climb the junkpile of our own filth and history to create ever greater piles. C’mon, we’ve made it through 17 days of political indecision so that’s saying something. And if you’ve seen “Double Rainbow” guy, who says illusions can’t be satisfying?


Images courtesy of Fumie Sasabuchi, Zhang Huan and \\\.
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