DETROIT — The 2015 Detroit Design Festival brought a flurry of activity to the city’s environs, the capstone to a busy September. In a whirlwind of conferences, events, and openings, it becomes a little difficult to stand, and yet, there were a few really outstanding pieces that came through the chaos.
Cristin Richard upped the stakes with a brand new installation, Metabolism. Entering the candlelit and mostly empty main room of the former Detroit Savings Bank, one’s attention is immediately drawn to the full wall projection, which features a woman slowly peeling away petals that cover her skin to reveal her naked body, pale-white with high-contrast black tattoos. The petals seem a natural extension of her skin, suggesting feathers, or a snakelike process of molting — we cannot see her face, but the methodical plucking of these pieces, one by one, seems detached, calm, and somehow generates a Black Swan-esque level of horror as the petals progressively fall. So engrossing is this process, that it came as a surprise to notice that the model herself is lying prone in a coffin-like altar in front of the projection.
This is the sting of Richard’s work — she deals not only in sculptural creations made to look like skin or other bodily membranes, fashioned meticulously out of sausage casings sourced from local meatpackers, but in live female bodies, as well. Her models/collaborators are living pieces of the installation, and in this case the vulnerability of the projected body was shockingly amplified by the realization that the body itself was laid out before the viewer. Richard’s models are impressively passive, but the truly interesting moments are the ones where their inevitable humanity pokes through their pose.