Monday, April 24, 2006


I’ve recently mentioned a few of the mods that I’m currently planning out. These include a cutting scarification by Brian Decker and a tattoo by an artist at the NYC Tattoo Convention. In trying to perfect the designs for both, and be sure that I am completely comfortable with them becoming a permanent part of my body, I have come to realize how much the mod-planning process has affected the way in which I view my own life.

Hopefully you'll be eternally happy with your mods, like this guy!

With this realization came a newfound understanding of the claim that body modification aids in identity formation. I have encountered this claim many times in my modification research, and had formerly viewed it as a statement about the use of body modification to associate oneself with a particular subculture and thus achieve a feeling of belonging. I never agreed or identified with this view, as I had always seen modding as an expression of one’s individual identity rather than a way of forming it through identification with a group. However, a new way of interpreting this claim allowed me to see why I have so often come across it.
I now realize that body modification can function as an aid in identity formation simply because it forces one to undergo an unexpected self-analysis. In choosing our mods, we often realize that each choice will either haunt or delight us for the rest of our lives. Making such a highly significant decision may force an individual to step back and take a look at his/her life thus far. This process allows one to determine what events or people have been meaningful enough to deserve a permanent place in one’s life. Choosing our mods not only leads to a look back on the past, but may also trigger a long, hard look at one’s direction in life. We may be compelled to wonder “How will this mod inspire me in the future?,” “How will it portray this particular time in my life?” or even “Where am I going, and am I happy with that path?” These are all questions that have the potential to alter one’s view of his/her life, or even to alter the life itself.
It seems that every day I come to recognize something new and remarkable about the concept of body modification. I now see that although there are many ways in which a person can form and express his/her identity, body modification is an extremely fun (well, for modders at least) way to do so. Planning mods and modding itself can both be catalysts for personal discovery, and certainly have been for me. So if you feel as if you don’t have a full understanding of your own life and identity, start designing your next permanent mod. It just may be the beginning of a new outlook on your inner self.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

On overcoming a dualistic society...

Once again I’m on the prowl, trying to figure out what it is that makes us modders do what we love most. My latest theory involves the complex and intriguing relationship between the body and the mind.
Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly alternating between states of having a body and being a body. In having a body, one is completely aware of the presence of his or her physical body. This state may occur as a result of such daily activities as bathing or examining oneself in a mirror. In being a body, one’s mind seizes control of the lived experience. It is in this state that we tend to dissociate from the body and essentially allow it to run on autopilot.
In undergoing body modifications, the body and mind are reunited in an act that calls for immediate awareness of the physical body. Even after a modification has been performed, there remains physical evidence of a life experience inscribed upon the body. Experiences are typically only imprinted upon one's mind in the form of memories, or captured in the form of photographs. In undergoing body modification, one retains a mental record of a particular event, as well as a physical (and often permanent) record. Although tattoos can fade, memories can spontaneously disappear altogether. An aged and faded tattoo on someone's arm may not appear to be meaningful, or even representative of anything (if it's badly damaged), but it is likely that the wearer is still reminded of its personal significance with every glance. Inspecting one's mods in such a way leads to a spontaneous reunion of the body and the mind.

A woman experiencing a spiritual trance during the Thaipusam Festival.

But what is the advantage of regaining this connection? Since the concept itself is so abstract, there is no factual information I can give as to why an open body/mind relationship is important to one's well-being. I can only give examples of some beneficial body/mind fusions, and note that I personally believe such harmony to be the essence of happiness.
First consider the nature of trances resulting from spiritual journeys or psychoactive drug use. Such occurrences are based around the fusion of the mind and body into what is often an extremely significant life experience. Another advantage of regaining the body/mind connection is the ability to at least partially normalize a distorted body image. Putting one's mind is in tune with one's body may result in a more comfortable bodily experience, and therefore help to lessen body-related anxieties.
The possibility of restoring a body/mind relationship may be just one more reason why many individuals find modding such a pleasurable experience. I’m actually off to stimulate my body/mind connection right now and figure out the placement for my new cutting! Hope the weather is as gorgeous where you are as it is here :o)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Meaningless? Ha. Just the opposite.

“You look like cotton candy.” “Your hair reminds me of a Fruit-by-the-Foot.” “So, did you do this for Easter?”
Why am I being compared to so many foods?! I guess that I should have realized I would receive such comments in coloring my hair with shades of fluorescent pink and purple. Unfortunately, I did not anticipate such responses, and after the first few days of compliments and, err…remarks about my hair, I began to become annoyed. I’m sure that any of my readers with facial modifications or other readily visible body projects have shared in this very feeling.
Prior to dyeing my hair, I had never considered this process a form of body modification. However, I still do not deem the dyeing of hair to a relatively natural color to be body modification. So, then, what is considered a body modification? How can we distinguish between corporeal alterations and true body modifications?
Honestly, I have tried and tried, but I cannot come up with one catchall definition of body modification. Although I am compelled to try and create a definition that relates only to the forms of body modification in which I am interested (i.e. piercing, tattooing, scarification, suspension, amputation, etc.), I have come to realize through my recent unexpected experience with body modification that there are so many more ways in which modification can be achieved. Still, there is a huge grey area present when one attempts to pin down the slippery definition of body modification. Many, but not all mods, are artistic expressions. Even more are in conflict with western bodily norms. And, for those of us who are a bit ‘freaky’ on the inside, mods allow us to express our inner self through altering our external appearance. All of these statements are true for some modifications, but certainly not for all.
So what is one to do when the meaning of the most pleasurable aspect of his/her life is ambiguous? Create your own meaning. That is the beauty of body modification. It holds different meanings and comes in different forms for every person whose life it has affected. Even more beautiful is that, as I have found, there are enough body modification processes in existence to last a lifetime of modding. So, whatever your personal modification pursuits may be, and for whatever reasons you may pursue them, they are yours. As long as they make YOU happy, who cares if there isn’t a bodybuilding gallery on BMEzine (ahem…feel free to send me any such pictures…).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Radical duuuuude...

I realized today that I haven't been posting about any kinds of extreme body modification recently. I think that needs to change. Sure, I love checking out information on mods of all kinds, but the more radical ones are always a treat.

On that note, I think that you should check out this article in an online guide to London's Camden section. It gives a wonderfully unbiased view of a day in the life of two heavily modified chicks from the UK. In addition to being insightful and clearly written, this article features a few awe-inspiring photos of the girls, who are clearly comfortable in their uniquely adorned bodies. It's definitely worth a look.

AJ, pictured at left, is one of the modders from the story. She told camdenguide that her mods reflect her "philosophy of life," which includes being "really into robots and androids, almost into believing I am one." Although she does not specifically identify herself with the 'cyberpunk' subculture, AJ's explanations of the meaning behind and reasons for her mods are very similar to those of self-proclaimed cyberpunks. AJ has thus inspired me to finally finish the chapter on cyberpunks in Victoria Pitts' book "In the Flesh: The Cultural Politics of Body Modification" (which, in my opinion, is one of the best books out right now on modification). I definitely don't encounter nearly as much information about this intriguing subculture as I do about more mainstream groups of modders, so I hope to explore it further in an upcoming post. I'm definitely excited to see if Pitts will once again bring to my attention aspects of body modification that I had never before been aware of. She hasn't disappointed me yet :o)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

On being in control...

“To decide, to be at the level of choice, is to take responsibility for your life and to be in control of your life.”
Abbie M. Dale

We all want to feel in control of our lives. However, we can never really be in full control of everything that occurs. We may have freedom of choice at times, but more often than not we are mere pawns in the game of life. With this in mind, I have been pondering over the past few weeks whether body modification is inextricably tied to a desire for, and an attempt to attain, a sense of control in life.
I have recently been exploring “In the Flesh: The Cultural Politics of Body Modification” by Victoria Pitts, and in her chapter dedicated to female body modifiers she makes reference to a phrase that I have frequently encountered in learning about the many reasons for body modification: “reclaiming the body.” There are a variety of different reasons for which the body may need reclamation, but Pitts specifically addresses reclamation in response to the abuse or marginalization of women. In reconsidering the idea of reclamation as it relates to that ever-coveted sense of control, I realized that as opposed to many other justifications for modding (aesthetic appeal, desire to feel connected to one’s ancestry, or identification with a particular subculture, just to name a few), the women Pitts interviewed cited a conscious effort to actively accomplish something through their modding pursuits.
In essence, the womens’ mods are vehicles for experiencing some form of immediately accessible control over a particular aspect of life: the body. It will ALWAYS be present, for as long as we live. As a result, we will ALWAYS have the option of altering our bodies in an expression of individual power. So when these women speak of ‘reclaiming’ their bodies, they are really referring to their seizure of power from those who previously held power over them. And due to the nature of their reclamations, these women are able to attain a new daily experience of life that is intended to usher them out of a period of abuse and into one of happiness.
Another issue that Pitts briefly addresses in “In the Flesh” is the use of body modification to combat such body image disorders as anorexia and bulimia. Persons afflicted with such disorders are often preoccupied with efforts to take control over their physical appearance. Unfortunately, our culture has been conditioned to utilize a variety of physical signifiers for analysis of a person’s personality. For example, persons donning a “fat suit” for the purpose of a social experiment often report a significant change in their interactions with others.
Many of those persons with body image disorders, myself included, have become fed up with our irrational efforts to conform to seemingly inherent cultural beauty ideals. I am merely theorizing here, but I wonder if perhaps my modifications reflect a desire to rebel against western beauty ideals and instead assume the authority to alter my body in ways that I believe contribute to a complete sense of my self. Perhaps modification provides us with an alternative to taking control of our bodies in ways that force us to conform to someone else’s standards, and instead allows us to take control in ways that make us unique.
The last issue that I want to address here relates to an article by the ever-insightful Shannon Larratt. The article focuses on heavily modified individuals who are “legally changing their ‘real’ names to match the identity they've created for themselves.” I was intrigued by the apparent correlation between extreme modification and a desire to change something (other than the body) that has been with an individual since birth. As with the women that Pitts interviewed, these persons have voluntarily reworked their everyday experience of life. In being an active participant in momentous life changes, one can achieve at least a temporary power trip that may help to satisfy what I believe is a natural human desire for control.
On a side note, I want to apologize for the lack of posts over the past week, but I’ve been completely stressed out recently. Luckily, things are starting to even out now. Oh, and my trip to New Zealand has been officially confirmed! Even though it is still a long four months away, I am incredibly excited. So, now that things are back to normal, expect regular posting to resume :o)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A little update

The lovely Rebekah at recently did a review of my blog that you can view here. I'm so honored to have been recognized by one of my daily reads! Also, I'm happy to report that my trip to New Zealand to study the Maori art of ta moko has been confirmed and I'm making reservations this weekend! It promises to be an incredible experience, and will definitely give me tons to blog about. The final tidbit I want to report is that I have recently gotten in contact with Blair of Toronto's Passage Tattoo and Piercing, and we have made arrangements for him to perform a cutting on me during his guest appearance at Pure Body Arts this May. I'm currently working on finding the perfect design, a process which has served to substantially enhance my anticipation of the procedure. I plan to grace my ribs with a few calla lilies, so if anyone happens to find a nice design feel free to send me the link!

Oh yea...and I dyed my hair...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


I am quite unhappy to report that my most recent (and ironically titled) post on the CoBM was a result of poor research. I discovered the CoBM site and was so excited to see that such an institution even existed, that I didn't bother to check up on it's legitimacy. As it turns out, the CoBM was a scam devised by Steve Haworth in 2000 to prevent employers from dismissing their modified employees on the grounds of inappropriate attire. Although the FAQ section of the CoBM's website is quite thoroughly constructed to accord with the beliefs of true spiritually motivated modifiers, I really should have realized that the organization was a fraud upon seeing that some of the FAQs directly addressed the legal adavntages of becoming a church member. Despite claims by the church, Shannon Larratt (a former member) describes in his BME Encyclopedia entry on the CoBM that their "core legal premise (that it can protect the rights of the pierced/modified)" has never even been tested in courts.
Although the CoBM did respond to Shannon's revealing Encyclopedia entry, it was in the same inarticulate fashion that I had become accustomed to in exploring their church "doctrine." The response is filled with excuses and apologies, yet the author seems to feel offended that his church has been so negatively portrayed. If there is something to apologize for at all, the CoBM should quietly take responsibility and stop trying to cover up their past mistakes. It is quite sad that what many believed to be a revolutionary organization based around the spiritual power of body modification resulted in the deception and exploitation of its authentically devoted church members. Luckily for them, one doesn't need a church believe in the spirituality of body modification.
I have found that in the world of body modification, it is difficult to know whom to trust. My recent experience with this illegitimate establishment has been just another discouraging encounter. Although I was initially disappointed to discover the truth about the CoBM, there were some positive results of such. It has encouraged me to more thoroughly research the information on which I am posting, and it has also taught me that even in the body modification community is it true that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

P.S. - Thanks to woz for pointing out my error :o)