Taboo:Body Modification

Since the dawn of the tattoo and piercing industry, people have explored the possibilities of what the human body can withstand. Creators of this age-old art grew unsatisfied with the same body modification products. Pushing the limits of the human body has never yielded the innovation it does today. Modern body modification has well exceeded the ancestral normalcy of traditional needle and ink.

Typically, body modification is defined as any act to alter or change a persons’ physical appearance for personal and often emotional benefit. Modification can range from tattoos and piercings to cross-dressing, plastic surgery, permanent makeup, and dental implants. Some unconventional methods of body modification may come as a shock. However, many people see it as an up-and-coming art form. The 2005 documentary “Modify” directed by Jason Gary and Greg Jacobson explores unconventional methods to alter personal appearance.

For people who are afraid of needles but crave the permanent art form, the process of “Scarification” is a thrilling alternative. There are two types of Scarification and both leave behind similar marks. The first type is known as cutting and uses a sharp blade to cut out the skin in the chosen image or design. The second type, branding, uses a cauterizer to burn the skin tissue rather than to remove it with a surgical blade. Both types of this body-altering procedure leave the skin to heal as a scar in the shape of the desired image. The process of cutting is intended to leave a wound which will heal as a series of dark scars in the skin to form the image whereas branding can produce a raised effect, often resulting in a puffy image. In comparison to tattooing, it is said to be extremely spiritual and cleansing to the body. The act of scarification symbolizes physical or emotional suffering, while the scar stands as a symbol of healing and overcoming of obstacles.

Another popular procedure in the body modification industry is known as 3-D body art. The process is accredited to Steve Haworth, an artist working out of Phoenix, AZ. Haworth designed and created subdermal and transdermal implants. The subdermal implant is a 3-D object, commonly made of silicone, which is placed under the skin. This type of body modification requires making an incision to place the implant, stretching the skin to make way for the object, and then stitching up the incision to sew the opening closed.

Implants come in a variety of different shapes and sizes (ranging from horns to ribs to beads) and can be custom made to fit the client’s personal needs. These implants are used primarily for physical-satisfaction and sexual purposes. The transdermal implants, are subdermals with one key difference: they rise out of the skin and jet forth from the body. Often these transdermals are in the shape of small cylindrical tunnels or spikes, allowing the “Metal Mohawk” to become possible.

Unlike scarification and tattooing, the effects are not permanent and can be removed. However, slight scarring is often a result.

One of the most extreme cases in which these 3-D modifications were implemented was in the transformation of Dennis Avner to “Stalking Cat.” Avner underwent several procedures to transform his facial structure to that of a large, predatory cat using tattooing, subdermal implants, bifurcating of the upper lip, pointing of the ears, dental filing and transdermal implants for whiskers.

The act of Suspending, piercing the skin with hooks and hanging from them, has also become a cultural phenomenon. In Texas alone, approximately five professional groups of Suspenders meet monthly to “hang-out,” including ThirdEyePerception out of San Antonio. The different types of suspension are based upon the displacement and location of the hooks, which are implemented by piercing professionals. Suspension types, such as the suicide suspension, are set up with two to four hooks through the back and get more extreme as the level of difficulty progresses. Other popular suspension types include the superman, the scarecrow/crucifix, coma, and the tandem suspension.

Although these body modifications aren’t for everyone, they have become a series of modern life-choices rather than cries for help or attention. These choices shape and satisfy the unique tastes of the body modification subculture and help broaden American cultural horizons.

With the numerous advances made in the field, human bodies have become capable of limitless transformation.