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Skin - Page 48

detournement. We could refer here to Dick Hebdige's notion of "confrontation dressing" (actually, Vivienne Westwood's phrase), epitomized by the punk swastika, riot grrl grunge, and middle-class girls decked out in the "sluttiest" gear (hooker chic, or underwear worn as outerwear, made famous and hence evacuated by the stupid icon named Madonna).31  One submits to the objectification of the human body by the fashion industry but, in Hebdige's view, exaggerates it and thereby "detourns" it. That nothing comes of this confrontation and reversal goes, for the moment, without saying. Such projects are still caught up in a completely unconsidered modernist mythology of media manipulation and image subversion, and of the dialectical exposure of truth. However uncomfortable a few London punk girls managed to make a few pillars of the City during rush hour on the tube, business went on as usual; the confrontation was ephemeral and proved nothing but the inanity of both parties, who a few hours later were happy to forget that the episode ever occurred. In the great ocean of T-shirts, a few with swastikas cause an uproar only if it is convenient for all parties that they do so; and in the end, what difference does another uproar make in the spectacle? Surrogate revolt meets surrogate shock in a "space" that has already shrunk to nothing.

[39] In the movement toward the "sub" of all signs, T-shirt and skin converge. Despite all the claims are made for the neo-tattoo, again: that it is a way to repossess one's alienated body, that it connects one symbolically with more integrated societies, that it is a sacralizing sacrifice, that it is a spiritual record, that it is a protective charm against spiritual and political demons, that the subjective intensity of the experience subverts cultural anaesthesis--the very proliferation of the tattoo indicates that, like just about everything else proposed as an exercise of difference, it too links the individual with the "economy of signs" in his or her most intimate dimensions. If we have not yet been subjected to the tattooed corporate logo, its time is doubtless imminent. Nor should we underestimate the way stupid inflations of the sacred serve finally to trivialize it, and guarantee it for this economy. That is perhaps the real importance of the influential handbook that gave us the phrase, Modern Primitives: it signaled the end of the radical tattoo simply by announcing its appearance. Skin is "marked" as yet another

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