Eyeball tattooing above by Luna Cobra.
Many, too many, news headlines recently had a "point-n-laugh look at the freaks" quality, which seems to be inspired by images from the Venezuela Tattoo Expo, from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1. As this HuffPo piece shows, a lot of the body modification photographed by the press were "extreme," with the greatest attention given to eyeball tattooing and especially to Henry Damon, the Venezuelan man who had undergone surgery to look like the comic character Red Skull (shown below).
While I don't endorse high-risk bod mod procedures, I also don't agree with the way mainstream media vilifies those who undergo such procedures. And more often than not, they get the facts wrong.
For example, despite the headlines from the BBC to AsiaOne to Cosmo to the Washington Post, eyeball tattooing is not a trend or "a thing" today, as described by WaPo. It is true that, since BMEzine's Modblog first documented eyeball tattooing in the body modification community in 2007, more people around the world have gotten the procedure done. However, in reading the headlines, you'd think that the tattoo community en masse has run out to stick syringes in our sclera.
It seems that these outlets have picked up on statements made to the BBC by body modification artist Luna Cobra, who was one of those who performed the cosmetic eyeball tattooing in 2007, noted above. The BBC writes:
Luna Cobra says that what started as an experiment between friends, and fans of Dune, has run out of control. He's also heard that it's fashionable among Brazilian teenagers and in some Russian sub-cultures - and worries that people could be being harmed.
I fully agree that there is cause for alarm when people engage in dangerous practices as fashion, but an odd course does not make an epidemic. And if we did all run out to color our eyeballs, does that deserve that the mocking and vitriol of the media and society at large?
Many of these articles also question the mental state of people who undergo "extreme body modification," but we don't see that same level of discussion when some Real Housewife character blows up her lips and breasts to unnatural and unsafe proportions.
So will it take a real eyeball tattoo or nose-nipping "trend" to quiet the point-n-laughs? After all, it wasn't that long ago when people with just tattooed sleeves were the big "freaks."
Yesterday, Complex Art + Design blog posted this video of Polish rapper and mixed martial arts fighter Popek getting his eyeballs tattooed. The video, beautifully produced by Will Robson-Scott, is graphic. There are close-ups of the needle going into the eye. But if you can get beyond that, it's fascinating to watch Popek explain why he's doing it ["I will be complete"], how he handles the process [smoking], the result [lots of hugs] and the healing process [pain "like putting cigarettes in your eyes"].
Howie/LunaCobra is the one tattooing Popek as he has done many times before. Howie first experimented with eyeball tattooing in 2007 on BMEzine founder Shannon Larratt, Pauly Unstoppable, and Josh. It was all documented on Modblog starting at this post.
In BME's Wiki page on "eyeball tattooing," it is noted that corneal tattooing is "known and done now for over 2,000 years -- it became almost commonplace in the late 19th century and into the 20th century to correct defects such as corneal scarring and leucomas." The procedures on Shannon, Pauly and Josh were not to correct any defects, but as an experiment in body modification. For Popek, he says he felt compelled to do it but cannot really articulate why (beyond any language barrier).
It's easy to point and jeer, "Look at the freaks!" And it's easy to cheer "Bod Mod FTW!" Neither helps any discourse on the seriousness of this procedure. There's little argument that eyeball tattooing could leave people blind, among other complications, and it's difficult to understand why one would take that risk at all. I'd love to see a full length documentary that explores this in some depth.
I've written three drafts for a blog post, all sounding like I'm an angry person picking on the mentally ill for doing something that could inspire other mentally ill people to copycat in their collective desperation for attention. But of course, I wouldn't publish such a thing, so I'll just leave you with a post absolutely and completely unrelated:
This CNN video of Matt Gone's latest "endeavor": tattooing his eyeballs.
Yes, yes I know. It's been a while since I've done a review, but really I've been shielding your eyes from the ugliness of the tattoo headlines, a veritable ten-car pileup.
Rubberneckers may slow down for wrecks like reality show juice-heads bawling over tattoo pain, clown-face criminals, tributes to OD'd celebs (ala Corey and DJ AM) alongside tributes to booze, and of course, the incessant coverage of "Nazi tattoo models." Ok, the Tina Fey bit on Michelle McGee was really funny.
But not all news items have necessitated air bags. Here are my less painful picks:
First up, Dallas Observer photographers, Patrick Michels and Kevin Todora, offer an extensive slideshow of photos (like the one above) from the MusInk Festival this past weekend. It's a sweet mix of rockstars, Miss Tattoo contestants, and views from the convention floor.
The Down East Tattoo Show in Maine, a smaller convention this past weekend, had an interesting twist on its tattoo competition: the judges were art scholars from the University of Maine (and not one had a tattoo). Organizers of the show say that the professors are unbiased and decide strictly on the art (and not if their buddy tattooed it), but they also are aware of good technique like strong line work and smooth shading. As one judge said, "A well-designed but badly executed tattoo just doesn't cut it." [Also check the video interview of one collector from the show.]
On the tattoo law front (my fave!):
South Carolina, the last US state that required parental permission to get tattooed for those under 21 years of age, has now lowered the age requirement to 18. Considering you don't need parental consent to go to war at 18, this seems more logical.
And while the military has certain tattoo prohibitions itself, the number of heavily tattooed soldiers continues to grow.
Connecticut marshals fought a ban on visible tattoos and won. The tattoo policy said that "visible tattoos could pose a threat to safety and security" of the marshals. Huh? Happy that the Connecticut judiciary had the same reaction and nixed it.
And Canadian tattooists with poor spelling can relax now: a small claims court in Nova Scotia ruled that a woman who sued a studio for a misspelled tattoo was the "author of her own misfortune" as she had a chance to view the stencil before it was tattooed on her. She also didn't give the artist time to correct the work before suing. The misspelled word? "Beautiful" in the phrase "You're so beautiful." I know, it's a toughie.
Even dumber: Chicago law makers spending time and money crafting a ban on eyeball tattooing. I'll say this again: just because a couple of inmates and bod mod artists do it, does not mean tattooing your eyeball has become a trend. *primal scream*
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