The film is a recording of Libera’s anthropological research: his pursuit of the “traces of cultural man” such as marks left on the skin by underwear or other clothing. The artist encourages his friends to show off their marks to the camera.
He compares those traces to ritual skin cuts made by, for example, certain African tribes. Other ways of marking the body include scarification, tattoos and body painting, described by Claude Levi-Strauss, among others.
In some cultures scarification serves the purpose of demonstrating one’s affiliation with a group, or marks a rite of passage, such as sexual initiation (as described by Arnold van Gennep) where an individual is marked to emphasise their special state.
Libera refers to the research of the most prominent (as quoted above) anthropologists of the 20th century and tries to find similar marks on the body of a contemporary individual. However, at the same time the artist infringes upon their private areas. Some of them find it impossible to unveil any part of their body, while others don’t seem to mind it at all.
© Zbigniew Libera, courtesy Raster Gallery