Thursday, February 22, 2007


Gina Pane's Sentimental Action (1973). "This aggressive ambiguity towards the body – whether practised by Stuart Brisley or Marilyn Manson – has always pulled in two opposite directions, both towards and away from Western civilisation. Tribal cultures have often adopted painful initiation rites. The film A Man Called Horse (1970) shows Richard Harris suspended by hooks pierced through his chest muscles in a scene that could have been directed by Fluxus artists, but is said to be a rigorously authentic depiction of the rites of Native Americans. The tattoo parlours of the East Village conjure up a myth of man’s tribal nature through Maori and Celtic-inspired designs, breaking with the idea of the city as a civilised, stable regime (tattoo parlours within New York were illegal until very recently and at least one of the city’s dominant religions, Judaism, expressly forbids tattooing). The practitioners call it body art, and it proclaims that the city is chaotic and tribal: a jungle, I suppose. Yet at the same time a part of me recognises that there are no initiation rites; no one is compelling today’s youth to attack or adorn their bodies. More than an expression of tribal identity, body art is another way to assert a Western identity: a love of liberty and individuality. And the method of asserting this identity is also very Western: drawing attention to the weak and mortal body in order to proclaim the nobility of the mind or the soul."--Nicholas Blincoe

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