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Nomad, Rhizome - Page 49

staging area for recuperation. At the same time, however, one should not dismiss the tattoo as merely recuperated. The tattoo, like the T-shirt, transforms the body into another agora, a corporeal mini-mall, but for what we might call "fuzzy capital," part of the same "black market," the underground economy shuttling at a dizzying velocity between dreams of high finance and vows of poverty, that we witness in small scale drug dealing, in marginal rock bands, in various parasitical recycling enterprises (used clothes, used CDs), in the distribution of stupid "knowledge" (Amok, Loompanics, et al.), in stolen technologies, in freelance sex-industry workers. Fuzzy capital is an economy that is neither simply capital nor effectively subversive, neither recuperated nor liberated, but the collapse of any dialectical tension between them. The tattoo retains none of the critical distance someone like Hebdige or Orridge would like to claim for it, but nonetheless this peculiar embrace of the apparatus of recuperation, forcing oneself down the maw of commerce as if one were really indigestible, is not the production and circulation of a commodity like any other. The tattoo makes the skin a zone in which capital thrives under the aegis of its subversion and mutates even as it survives. Lingis proposes a distinction between western or Japanese tattoos that turn the body into a sign and those "savage," scarrified, African bodies on which tattoos are not signifiers, not semiotic, but forms of intensification that extend or distend the body's surface.32

The rhetoric of the stupid tattoo, however, as played out in Modern Primitives and a burgeoning fanzine and e-mail network, may render such distinctions unstable. It is no longer simply that, under capital, everything becomes a commodity and hence a sign (as in Baudrillard), nor that the underground is a space in the interstices of a power that is no longer hegemonically absolute but fractured and therefore open to the oldest sorts of oppositional agency and resistance; it is a question precisely of stupid space, fuzzy space. The tattoo is recuperated as a commodity, a sign, and yet it indicates that there is something primitive and non-signifying about the sign, something utterly atavistic about the commodity; stupid signification and stupid intensification converge and, by this means, inhibit an outmoded political critique. Is the girl on the tube subversive or recuperated? Hebdige would have us believe the former, in part because in his critical imaginary he wants to identify

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