Monday, February 26, 2007

Story as Performance Art

This is one of the most interesting pieces I've seen in a while. Author Shelley Jackson has taken volunteers to get one word of the 2,095 in her story "Skin" tattooed on his or her body. The story is sent to each participant upon completion of the tattoo. So far, over 10,000 people have expressed interest. Several hundred have all ready been inked. Jackson only sends the story to participants; no one else can read it. She also refers to participants as "her words" and says that she will "make every effort to attend the funeral of a word."

This appeals to me, but I had to think for a few minutes to figure out why. Every author wants (on some level) this kind of intense reader response when they write. A tattoo is pretty intense. Although, I suppose good literature does change people's lives--or at least people's perspectives on life, which is just as good. At what point does this desire turn into unhealthy arrogance? Does calling participants "words" marginalize them? It seems strange to me. Almost as if, when a word dies, Jackson feels that a part of her story has died too. (Really, should one be worried about a tattoo when a person has died.)

In short, I love the creativity but wonder about the motivation. Also, I love the way these typical fonts look on skin. Some of the tattoos, and a description of the project, are available for viewing here.

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