Zora Situ More than an Itch

  • Tauira / Student
    Zora Situ
  • Kaitautoko / Contributor
    Jonathan Aquino
  • Kaiako / Lecturer
    Steve Reay
  • School
    AUT Art + Design

Can you remember a time when your skin broke out? Maybe it was a huge pimple on your nose? Or a cluster of them on your forehead? How did that make you feel? Did it feel like all eyes were on you?

Eczema is a readily noticeable chronic skin condition. It causes your skin to become dry and inflamed. This dryness makes you itch to relieve yourself. Your skin breaks, heals, then it breaks again. It is a never-ending, unbreakable cycle. Currently, treatment for eczema is limited to the physical signs. There is a lack of support for adults to manage their emotional symptoms.

Eczema can impact your personal relationships. When you have a bad flare-up, you don’t want to see other people, so you cancel your plans to go out. It also interferes with ordinary activities like exercising. Exercise is vital to maintaining your physical and mental health. But heat and sweat triggers the skin, limiting affected adults in their efforts to be active.

So, imagine your skin is cracked, bloody, and inflamed. You have spent all day and night resisting the itch, using cold compresses, and moisturising. These physical symptoms are bad. But what’s worse is when unaffected adults make flippant remarks, stare, or move away from you. These things can linger in your mind, making you overthink and over-analyse everything. Along with pain, itchiness, and lost sleep. Eczema becomes emotionally draining leading to depression in 7 out of 10 affected adults.

We need to have open and honest conversations about eczema. Skin conditions must become normalised. If unaffected people can empathise with the experiences of those affected, we can generate awareness and understanding. Due to the chronic nature of eczema, design is not in a position to cure it. But design can be used to address the emotional symptoms with critical artefacts.

More than an itch is a travelling public installation. The participant begins by itching a scratchie card. This reveals 3 different personal quotes. They then peep into the opaque steel-framed chest which matches the quote theme. Inside each box is a confronting artefact that visually represents the quote. These artefacts are all based on the physical sensations of eczema. They are made of delicate and beautiful materials like silk and porcelain, yet they are extreme and unsafe to use. There is a jarring contrast of jagged chicken wire on silk, rusty nails in porcelain, and a heap of skin flakes on an elegant ceramic vessel with fine goat hair. This is intended to shock unaffected adults in order to spark meaningful conversations with those affected by eczema. These artefacts help those affected by eczema to resonate with, reflect, and share their own experiences.