Among the respondents there were several twenty-year-olds; the oldest “object of study” turned 53 years old.
Twenty-year-old Andrew, underwent hundreds of hours of painful procedures for tattooing, piercing, scarring, burning and “self-surgery.” In his worldview, the views of the postmodernist and cyberpunk were mixed. In order to change his appearance beyond recognition, Andrew used high-tech techniques and methods that were used in traditional culture societies (for example, New Zealand Maori).
The results of these experiments shock the respectable inhabitants. Scarred and painted, the young man experiences significant restrictions: he can’t visit certain shops and causes border guards to suspect. Many just consider him crazy. But, according to Andrew, “thanks to a change in his body, he was able to control things that he could not before.” Cyberpunks, like this young man, achieve the effect that was possible earlier only in science fiction novels.
Another extreme example is the French artist Orlan, who has turned her body into an object of creativity. To be honest, the silicone implants introduced by her in the area of the eyebrow make me a difficult impression, as well as the unusual color of the skin (Orlan was shown on Russian television). However, Orlan so often changed her appearance during her life (and she is not very young) that she can surprise again, being transformed beyond recognition.
Her most famous action was called “Reincarnation of St. Orlan “. In order to gain a new appearance, she underwent radical surgery and combined in her face the forehead of Mona Lisa and the chin of Venus Botticelli.
Since the early 1990s, Western journalists and sociologists have turned their attention to the phenomenon, soon called the “Renaissance of Tattoos.” This meant not only an increase in the number of people with tattoos, but also the introduction of new social groups — representatives of the middle class and women — to this tradition.
In addition to tattoos, some modern Europeans and Americans have borrowed scarification from traditional nations; branding with hot metal; piercing (not only the ears, but also the body); subcutaneous implants made of metal and other materials protruding from the body by volumetric figures; abnormal extension of the earlobe.
Public actions to change the body were held in the largest cultural capitals of the world – in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, London and Amsterdam. Of course, the environment for such performances was specific: sadomasochistic clubs, alternative music festivals, some art galleries.
During the action things happened, monstrous for the ordinary European perception. Scarring and stigma were still the most harmless occupation, but there were also needles driven under the skin, and balls nailed to the body. A procedure such as “hanging”, which is completely identical in form to the custom of some Indian religious fanatics, mentioned by me in the commentary to the fourth chapter, has also spread.
It cannot be denied that modifiers took the matter seriously. So, cyberpunks began to use the achievements of biomedicine and new information technologies for the introduction of subcutaneous implants or for laser scarring. New “body styles” have been created and are being created. The expansion of the possibilities for changing the body was accompanied by an increase in the number of studios, a public interest in body art, and the appearance of special magazines, websites, exhibitions, and books. In a short time, a new social movement was formed, aimed at changing the human body, given by nature. If you do not take into account the inevitable erotic and sexual aspects of such actions, we can say that they embodied some of the ideas of science fiction of the twentieth century about the creation of biomechanical creatures based on living organisms. In modern public consciousness, tattooing is the most respectable of these manipulations.
Even if we leave outside the scope of interest in non-Western civilizations, gender and sexual relationships, the phenomenon of the human body began to attract public interest as early as the eighties of the twentieth century. The object of social control on the part of the patriarchal society, medicine, religion – the human body, has come to be seen as a space for self-expression, pleasure, and strengthening ties with other people.
The publication in 1985 of a book entitled Modern Primitives was a turning point in the dissemination of new trends in the examination of the body. It described and illustrated the experience of the Euro-American who took the name Fakir Musafar. The fakir and his followers, who had previously been a marginal group practicing, in the opinion of the layman, extreme methods of self-harm, became known and popular.
It seems to the urbanized creators of this ideology that the bearers of traditional cultures, because of their proximity to nature, lead a natural, harmonious and unregulated lifestyle.