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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Body Art: Braille Tattoo

Aside from my interest in disability studies, I have done research about body art and modification. The two fields have many connections: for instance, people with disabilites and those who have chosen to modify their body in a non-traditional way can encounter stigma and animosity. People who have chosen to modify their bodies intrigue me--what is it that drove them to get a tattoo, a piercing, or non traditional body modification? Just as there is a wide range of disabilities, there is an equally diverse population interested in body modification.

The link between these two seemingly disparate groups was blurred when I read about a student, Klara Jirkova, at the University of Arts, Berlin, who came up with the idea of Braille Tattoos. Jirkova noted that the purpose of body art was not only to decorate but was meant to be read or interpreted by society. In an attempt to empower blind people to have meaningful body alteration Jorkova created Braille Tattoos. Not really a tattoo but a subdermal implant, this could be placed anywhere on the body. For example, a subdermal implant could be placed between the thumb and index finger that would be felt when two people shook hands. This could be read by a blind person.

Subdermal implants are not new but the term Braille Tattoo is certainly unique. I am not quite sure what to make of this. The idea is creative--a spin on existing and well established body art. I do not like the term Braille Tattoo--perhaps this is a matter of translation from German to English that has resulted in an odd phrasing. However, my dislike for the phrase is over ridden by a new use for an existing form of body modication.