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Skin - Page 47

of self-expression, an intense and immediate means of repossessing the body, taking it back from all the social systems that, one believes, have stolen it. In various claims, developed more through repetition than through thorough investigation, the tattoo is a risk, an adventure, a gamble with permanence (although these days, laser treatments may make even that decision reversible, if you can afford them); it resexualizes and resacralizes the body and is hence an attack on a desacralized culture, a culture that separates spirit and body, purity and sexuality; it is transcendentally abject (so much going down to go up!); it is a provocation aimed at the straight world (we could begin to speak of something like "critical atavism"); it is a way to link those who have undergone the ritual of tattooing in a sub-community, and therefore a mode of communication as well; it is also, as we shall see, a peculiar and stupidly characteristic instance of fun. Or so it is claimed. But for all its "modern primitivism," for all its stupid rousseauism and wannabe identifications with fringe subcultures (biker, carny, sailor, con), it is quite likely that the resurgence in the late '80s of the tattoo and the piercing--within a few years adorning insurance brokers and high-schoolers in the most fashion-remote suburbs--owed its genesis most of all to the T-shirt. The proliferation of tattoos followed upon the proliferation of insignia and logo clothing, the T-shirt emblazoned with band or team trademarks (functionally, the rock band and the sports team are quite close: fantasy identification with groups of ersatz heroes to which one does not in fact belong), art reproductions (the dissolution of Benjamin's aura taken to its limit), kitsch signs, slogans, and cliches, tourist-sites, commodities, etc. One attaches oneself by means of this insignia to the apparatus of fandom; every T-shirt is the sign of an advocacy, even if one is not particularly invested in the product. One is identified with a product or image, one feels oneself so identified in the eyes of passersby and it is not, after all, so horrible a feeling. One is "recognized", even if it is by proxy. It might even be amusing to associate oneself with a product one loathes, or to lend one's image to the debasement of a product (imagine skinheads wearing polo shirts). The T-shirt is thus a dream object for culture critics, what they would call a space or surface of mediation between the individual and mass culture (have we discovered interactive advertising?), and hence, according to the logic of cultural criticism, a site for its

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