ISSUE Magazine

Curator’s Note for ISSUE #18: SKIN

The word SKIN and I have had a good long chat and now it is time to share that conversation. The band that has pulled this ISSUE together were found pondering upon questions like: What is the skin? What is outside it? Can we escape it? What is its purpose? Our skin seems to do little to protect us; it is fragile and permeable and through it we still feel pain, we bruise and we find it fallible – it gets calloused, scratched, pierced and stabbed.

Over the last couple of months many things have affected each of our conversations with the word. The months were heavy with haze, heat and a chain of events (both personal and at a national level) including the tragic disappearance of MH 370, which filled the spaces about us with heaviness and gloom. This, I think, has contributed to the very many shades — especially the darker ones — of our individual musings of the word ‘skin’. Looking through the issue we see a plethora of interpretations; many of which go beyond the physical sense of the word.

The word SKIN in its most obvious sense is the physical membrane — the external protective layer that covers us. The collaboration between Syar S. Alia, Dhiyanah Hassan, Michelle Francis and Muizz Adam, Where the Ink Spills, plays upon this physical aspect of the skin as the edge, and a boundary that keeps. And yes, our skin and the marks on it tells our stories.

 Jesse Dyer ‘s series of paintings show that while the skin defines the lines between us and others, those lines are obscure ones. He sees “the internet as one huge organism, a membrane of interconnected nerves, that resembles a skin”, and this skin “makes drawing the human figure so interesting and difficult.

The skin as Jiayueh Chong feels, is something we cannot, and should not, change. She told me that “discarding our skin would result in discarding an identity with all its culture and history that is unique.” However, she adds, we humans are made to interact, skin-to-skin, and as we do so we change from within. In this process we impact the lives of others.

But that aside, what are we within, and/or without it? Playwright Nassim Soleimanpour tells Syar S. Alia that he has often asked himself who exactly is inhabiting his skin. Meanwhile Afiq Rahmat investigates shallowness and depth, and the distance between black and white and grey for that perennial human dilemma — love.

In a series of self-portraits, Aisha Kallahan observes that while the skin shields us from the outside world, we need to take a good look at the selves that sit within and learn to be comfortable in our own skin — so the saying goes.

Our skin is just a figment of mortality, artist Kazimir Lee tells Syar S. Alia in an interview. It is something we “wear for the world” to pretend we can touch and feel each other. Touching for him, I suppose, needs to be beyond physical touch. And maybe that is why there is an escapist within him that identifies very much with the phrase “crawling out of my skin”. Maybe we all long to escape our skin once in a while, just to touch another.

That escapism seems to be a common theme the word has evoked. Our feature photographer Abby Tai, in her series of black and white photographs taken in Hong Kong and Tokyo attempts to show us that we sometimes wear our cities as our skins, hoping for its protection. This skin though does nothing to protect us but rather, it stops us from feeling, touching. She feels the need to step outside that skin, to travel and escape so we can open ourselves to the world and converse with it.

But what happens if or when we leave our skin? Without it do we still have the ability to feel, to grasp, to hold? Raina Ng spins a twisted fairytale of facades and the scary consequences of this reality. 

We also hear stories of ‘the one who got away’ much like the one Lutfi Hakim constructed here — do we only have that time in our skin to grab onto chances, opportunities, loves? What would we lose if we lose our skin?

There is something about bearing our skin that reminds us we are human. That heaviness of the skin can be tiresome, as  Adrian Ng of the band Trick Mammoth expresses in song, to love or be loved seems to be a way out of that tiredness. The resting upon another. In his song narratives, Adrian also explores the tragic stories of them who see escape only in death. But with death we escape our skin, forever, no turning back. By death a life we exit.

Which brings us to the next ISSUE theme and a message from editors Al-Zaquan and Syar S. Alia:

We started ISSUE unsure of the shape it would take, or the size it would grow to. So we never had an end in mind. That was probably a bit naive. We’ve managed to achieve a lot of things here: many times we were fortunate to have people actively reach out to us for an opportunity to interview, for a piece to publish, for a chance to collaborate as artists. But a lot of it was — and is — hard work. ISSUE gave us the chance to be creators, but with time, our energy and ideas inevitably start to deplete. Because we love what we do here, we did not want to continue only to find ourselves running on empty, compromising the quality of everything we’ve built with our readers and contributors. 

ISSUE: EXIT will be our next and last mission. From there, we stop publishing our bi-monthly online issues. It’ll give our minds time to rest, concoct new and devious ideas, think about what we’ll want to do next now that this is done. We’ll also be compiling PDF archives of our back issues for the benefit of past and future readers, and possibly a print collection of our best posts somewhere along the line. It’s been a great journey, and the next two months will be your last chance to contribute to our magazine and collaborate with us. Email us at to propose and submit content for EXIT.

With that I shall leave you to begin exploring all that is SKIN. I hope with all my heart you enjoy it.


Raina Ng

*Featured Image by Abby Tai

This entry was written by Raina and published on 13/04/2014 at 11:00. It’s filed under Editor's Note, ISSUE18, Raina Ng and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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