Thursday, November 21, 2013

Recycling Tattoos



- In the last couple of days I talked with two UCLA students. Both told me that our society based on buying and selling things, and the control of government by those who succeed most in controlling markets, is right, necessary, unavoidable.
- And?
- I was hardly listening. I was thinking of their tattoos.
- What about them?
- If the internet allows variable ties, then tattooing your body constructs an imaginary internet.
- What good is that?
- Nothing at all, if there wasn't something special about the material our imaginary lives are written down on.
- Our bodies are the border between public and private*. Is that what you mean?
- I mean that connections of modern life are inherently insecure. Associations between people represented by chosen images written on our skins seem to have reality and permanence.
- They can be removed.
- The director of the free clinic in Silverlake told me they photograph the tattoos they remove and later the owners of the tattoo salons down Sunset came to copy them.
- They're recyced.
- Yes. But the canvas is limited. That it is limited is essential to the function tattoos have of giving a feeling of being in control. Each tattoo occupies certain space and sets the conditions for the choice and placement of subsequent tattoos, each of which symbolizes relations you have to the world. Without the limitation, the "frame" you could say, there would be freedom of choice but no security of self identification through your symbolized relationships. When your relationship can be anything you feel like you are nothing, no particular thing.
- I don't want to be any particular thing.
- You're not the kind of person who gets tattoos.
- What kind of person gets tattoos?
- The kind that feels uneasy in the world of unpredictable and changing associations. That is happy to make exchange of goods and services the model of human relations.
- But if you identify yourself with the small collection of images you can write on your skin isn't that a great loss of freedom?
- In getting tattooed, filling the frame is what's important, not the particular symbols. The number of symbols you can acquire to identify yourself is limited, but there is a sense of individuality and freedom in the theme and variation process, the creative act of filling the frame. People get tattooed to give themselves a sense of securely possessed creative freedom in networking that they don't find in the real world.
- But it's a false sense of security.
- And what's worse, since the security is built on relation between types of people, images of types of people, yourself and others, anyone attempting to establish relations between people not based of types of people becomes threatening.
- Like you trying to talk with the students.
- Talking with them you never get past buying and selling. One seeks to sell at the highest price something of a little value as possible, and the other seeks to buy something of the highest value and the lowest price; one exchanges images with personally outdated connectivity for images of personally more promising connectivity. We are defined in our relation to each other as buyer and seller, and there is no common ground we share.
- So buying and selling is like tattooing. Images and types establishing relations to each other.
- Yes. Exchanges are limited by your supply of money, as tattoos are limited by surface area of your skin. Human relations other than defensive acquisition can't be expressed in buying and selling. They also can't be expressed by getting tattooed.
- In a way, human relations have become like tattoo recycling.
- Images passed back and forward, with each party constructing a fortress of images within their separate skins.

Private In Public