The normative drift of bødy related practices. by Lukas Zpira

Intrinsically of ritualistic nature and serving as symbolic markings, body related practices in western societies became means of expression for the voiceless and the outcasts, an opening of the flesh and onto the world, before entering into mainstream customs. The development of these practices has given birth to an exponential number of storefront studios and corporatist associations ; the general terms describing these practices -tattooing, piercing, bodmods- over time, have become classification codes and terms of normalization. Out of self-interest of protection, thirst for recognition and a need to acquire social status, the various branches of these practices have been gathered in a formal and informal manner under the banner of representatives or associations. It is these same representatives and associations who try to define and categorize these practices to better impose their regulations, often surpassing governmental requirements to which they have submitted to. The shunning of these practices, may they be individualistic, ritualistic, ancestral, marginal or simply not answering to the newly imposed regulations, is one of the many consequences of this subjection. Tattoos become the affair of the “tattooers”- piercings, for the piercers- body modifications, for the bodmoders, all (self proclaimed) to be sole holders of the knowledge or right to touch our body.
Those supposed to defend these practices are the same ones who now condemn individuals or practices which are in their opinions too dangerous (for their juicy business) and in which personal exploration and self expression have very little meaning left.
After the various obediences, governments, medical lobbies, now comes new corporations trying to dictate rights; how and what we can do to/with our body. What these associations are demanding is not individual freedom of speech, where the body can be used as the medium of expression, but rather an extension of property rights for themselves and the representatives of the profession.
These practices, up until now ritualistic, have become pseudo medical; somewhat hypocritical.
The act is now sterile, aseptic and devoid of its original meaning.
Claims in the name of art is often just an alibi.
Who are they trying to fool?

Certainly these practices can be considered an art, but it does not necessarily make the practitioner an artist, far from it. A career plan is not a synonym of artistic concept.The settings and context in which these practices are performed can not be so easily categorized or defined. No one can judge these as they are each and everyone’s own responsibility and choice.
The virulent criticism and threats fired at those who dare modify their body without the consent of these corporations, or performed outside the imposed norms, is absolutely unacceptable.
But let there be no misunderstanding, obviously the profession must be subjected to regulations, but this can not become a pretext to condemn all acts that do not serve a commercial purpose. Here lies the problem, in a mere commercial thinking, where the body is defined as a limited surface to cover, calculated in centimetres or hourly rate, the individual is seen as just another potential client.
Hidden under a so called occupational protection, available for the few “established”, lies the protection of personal interests.
The profession suffers form an identity crisis. In an attempt of cultural hegemony based on the negation of the “other(s)”, of their practices and background, having as a main goal to satisfy a few egos and supply with commodities an industry in full expansion, it has denied in its evolution, its sacred dimension.

1 Comment

  1. Very well said. I think this is a reflection of the lack of purpose that Western societies suffer from. Consumption in and of itself is not enough of a reason to live.

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