eliza bennett embroiders a self-inflicted sculpture into her flesh
eliza bennett embroiders a self-inflicted sculpture into her flesh eliza bennett embroiders a self-inflicted sculpture into her flesh
dec 27, 2013

eliza bennett embroiders a self-inflicted sculpture into her flesh

eliza bennett embroiders a self-inflicted sculpture into her flesh
all images courtesy of eliza bennett




using her own skin as a canvas, british artist eliza bennett has realized a self-inflicted sculpture, woven into the palm of her hand. considering the flesh as a base material, bennett carefully stitches patterns and lines into the epidermis of her body using colored thread; ‘a woman’s work is never done’ results as an incredibly worn-looking hand, overworked and fatigued. by using intricate embroidery techniques — traditionally used to symbolize femininity — and applying it to a context of its opposite, bennett challenges the pre-conceived notion that ‘women’s work’ is light and easy. ‘through a personally charged perception, I explore a range of issues relating to the formlessness of both individual and social reality’, the artist says of her ephemeral sculpture’s significance. the administered piece on the surface of her skin aims to chronicle the effects of labor intensive work, while drawing attention to low paid jobs such as cleaning, caring, and catering, all of which are traditionally considered to be gender specific towards women.



a detail of the weaving applied to her skin



a close-up of thread carefully sewn into the palm of the artist’s hand



cross-stitched thread into the hand



the process of weaving thread into her skin

  • There is nothing self inflicted about this. You are just piercing the top most layer of skin. Lame project.

    Aj says:
  • I guess they have closed most ‘Institutions’ in the UK also, eh?


    JimCan says:
  • It’s a controversial artform but certainly makes its point about the toil of so many women around the world, often unsung heroines.

    Lucy George says:
  • Sorry but this is disgusting.

    Marcusön says:
  • Nonesense. The true meaning of Art is getting lost and lost. It’s like the movie Idiocracy. What is going to be next?

    Coastline says:
  • Adore.

    mkc says:
  • This is ridiculous, a waste of time, go save the environment or do something of meaning. This is antiquated like writing poetry for money.

    Jason says:
  • Wow. Such harsh criticism. Why should an artist be condemned for wanting to express herself? You may not agree with the method or medium, but the mere fact that her art elicited such reactions, approval or distaste, does in fact, validate it. I viscerally despise de Kooning’s work, but I have to respect it’s impact on me…
    Lighten up, people. If we lose or suppress our desire for expression, we all just become drones….

    k says:
  • Cause you’re obviously doing so much to save the environment sitting on the internet attempting to troll

    Exo says:
  • Heartbreaking and exquisite. Bravo.

    Marrilee says:
  • what is this? art form? self explanatory? sculpture??????????
    honestly it’s beautiful and interesting but it is useless……………………………. it’s only for her ego… it is similar to the “hey guys.. im cutting my hand off look at me and what do you think?”

    and nope it does not drawing attention to low paid jobs such as cleaning, caring, and catering, all of which are traditionally considered to be gender specific towards women. It seems that the artist just hating herself for being woman which shows in her art works. Well it works to get attention… I’ll remember her as a woman who hates herself.

    gus says:
  • I am curious: how do you exhibit this handywork other than here on designboom or in photographs? I assume people would like to see the hand in person. So do you become a “traveling hand”? Does it become performance art? Will you allow people to add to the embroidery?

    I have to hand it to you though: I have never seen anything like it.

    peen says:
  • I think that part of the meaning of this artwork (this or any other one) is attributed by ourselves, with our perceptions. It doesn’t matter if it creates aversion, if it is pointless, beautiful or else. As long as it creates any room for thought or discussion, in my humble opinion, that is a pretty decent and successful artwork.

    For me, this one kind of reminds me of my younger days, with my grandmother teaching me how to sew. Eventually I would play around with the needle on my fingers (just a couple of stitches, with the thread and the skin). So when I see this artwork, I don’t think of it as being horrid or pointless, but as a trip to a place that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore, since she has passed away. So seeing this fleeting artwork that cannot be displayed for itself, but on pictures, video or as being told, just brings another dimension to it.

    Paula says:
  • Sorry this is just “sensationalim” and it does not make sense.

    Roberto says:
  • what is contemporary art is all about if not discussion?

    claudia says:
  • I like how, when someone isn’t totally sure how to convey what the art form is, they refer to it as a sculpture. That is clearly an embroidery but since it’s in her skin they don’t want to call it that… So it’s a sculpture.

    Human says:
  • I am surprised by the negativity of comments here. Useless? Not more than any other form of art, sculpture, writing, film, performance. Its brilliant…why? Because in te 21st century it’s getting difficult to do something new, different, and memorable.

    I look forward to seeing more from this artist. There could be volumes discussed about the piece above….I celebrate it!

    Mary Anne Enriquez says:
  • Letting a person express him or herself is different than paying too much attention or ennobling it. We certainly dwont become drones if we just stop paying attention to this forms of expression instead of trying to make it be called art. This deserves not that much attention, it´s not a big deal.

  • It’s too bad that with the enormous reach of the internet and the anonymity it affords, that so many of us take the time to criticize and dismiss (perhaps less profane and insulting here, as on YouTube) another’s work in such offhanded and pompous tones..
    That said – I get what the artist has done, but,… ick.

    Ralph Waddell says:
  • I initially despised this, like felt a tinge of hatred rise up, like ‘what is this sick, crazy woman doing? this is totally gross and twisted’, but then after a minute I felt…’okay wow, look at this depiction of bruised, overworked, callused hands expressed through this dainty, literally painstaking needlework that is so symbolic and contradictory all at once. She makes light of this toiling though something as seemingly frivolous as embroidery and thus, makes its significance so strongly present that it inspires anger. Brilliant. True art SHOULD confuse you and make you feel extreme feelings all at once, if it’s real art. Bravo.

    Sofia says:
  • interesting that most male responses are negative and female responses are positive.
    I’m very interested in this work and where it can be taken to literally or not – it’s a living sculpture. Does the artist carry this with her for some time and will she add to other parts i.e. the feet? how will it wear out?
    Obviously there are links to indian henna of the hands but it also seems to connote imprisonment with the net like structure.

    dominic says:
  • This is another kind of art-concept but work with a similar technic…

    David Catà spanish artist in 2011


    See his work in this video

    Senén says:
  • Well going by comments alone I believe that eliza bennett has evoked enough emotional response that there is no way that this could not be considered art. The natural human response (which is evident) towards self mutilation brings more depth and awareness to the subject matter. Well done Eliza, stand by your convictions!

    MN says:
  • It’s really interesting to me that so many people react to this with disgust. Of all the ways people harm themselves, through abusing substances, remaining in abusive relationships, unnecessary surgeries, etc- this is really mild in comparison. And the discomfort in creating the art, IS the art.

    I think these comments are a reflection of people, and how they react to something extremely different and beautiful with hatred and revulsion.

    maddiebabble says:
  • Very effective. It is not very painful to do this sort of thing but of course it comes as a shock. Head then kicks in with judgements and how these go depends on how open a person is to something out of the ordinary. To those of us that can cope with the shock we can be curious about the what and why as well as the artists point of view. For others the discomfort is to great and revulsion and negativity take hold. I guess there are many shades of view between those responses. The Internet of course adds in the element where some passers by have their own form of expression which is trolling. A troll by definition never breaks from their point of view and this can be frustrating but ends up with the engager adopting the similar attitude but directed against the troll. The art of life I guess.

    Frank A says:
  • I discovered skin embroidry through a French web wool magazine I had subscribed to. Not only do I find this revolting but looking at the magazine is (was now) a special time for my little 4 years old boy. They did not warn about this “art” and we received the images without warning – now, your “art” is giving him nightmares!
    Am I upser? YOU BET I AM! If this gives nightmare to a little boy, it is certainely NO ART!

    Doridar says:

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