S K I I N
Statement of Intention
Director Henry McGrath
I’ve had eczema all my life. It disappeared for a while during my teens but as a child and from my last year of university back in 2011 it has been a wild and tumultuous journey of fire. It’s taken me a long time to understand how to live with it and more still to meet it head on and ultimately, to heal. I have risen to this often-daunting task many times and through different approaches, changing diet, buying exotic supplements from other countries, religiously juicing, using natural oils, seeking spiritual guidance, dancing ferociously. But the roots go deep, perhaps too deep for me to penetrate in this lifetime, because in the end these fingers take to the skin like furious birds, talons opening flesh like they’ve been starved for a century.
I’d already explored many routes of healing prior to the moment in May 2018, when deciding to come off steroids completely, I descended into hell. If no one has told you what it is like to abandon civilised medicine that has suppressed the truth of what lies beneath, then I will tell you here. First there is a light reddening, then an increased itching, then sores and bursting ulcers, then fevers. The body shakes like a rabid dog and sheds its skin, not in one gracious snake-like transformation, but constantly – thousands of flakes in heaped masses on the floor. And the sensation, the need to scratch, the need to pierce those places and draw blood is so violently strong that it screams, a constant wailing voice that takes you into the throngs of madness, a sirens sound stealing all sanity. In that month of May, I came off steroids and became the fire-drake, all burn. It was an unbearable time. And I decided then to hold onto something and to write, and therein wrote 35 poems called ‘The Red Poems’ that are my prayers and confessions from the depths of that underworld. And I also decided that I must create an artistic work around my skin and eczema, that would not be just for me but for all who suffered alone, invisibly, silently, unseen.
It is my interest in all those who suffer in the way I have suffered and my fierce devotion that the wider public acknowledge the debilitating effects of eczema that this project has manifested. For it is the hidden life away from the mayhem of civilisation, away from the raving music and chaotic thrum of everyday life, behind closed doors, in a bathroom somewhere or bedroom that private battles take place. There dwells the deep desire to unleash chaos. There two voices shout, one whose impulse is violence, the other pleading for peace.
But this is also about more than eczema, because small, seemingly insignificant but deadly wars are taking place everywhere. The war of identity. The war of perfection. The war with the truth under the skin. This fight is the conflict with the mirror and the desire to be perfect because we’ve been told to be perfect, to be unflawed, to be divine. Oh, how we want to be kings and queens in this world, to rise to the top and beyond. And if anything blocks our ascent, any discrepancy or glitch in the machine, we pail, we push down, suppress and manage. And it is this suppression that sits at the heart of western civilisations so-called curing of eczema. Instead of taking the time to deeply learn about what it is, where this disease has come from, to take the time to transform slowly over time, we suppress it with creams and ointments.
What would it be like to meet the truth, to shed our constructs of identity and perfection, to betray what we know through revolt and descend, sometimes quietly, other times violently, to see what dwells under the skin, to see what strange golden eyes are staring right back at us.
This battle is at the heart of the SKIIN Project, a film duology, Red Bird and Let There Be Fire. These projects are about eczema, but travel far beyond it.
I look forward to meeting with you on the journey.