Impermanence: Tattoo Fascination

Tattoos fascinate me but perhaps not for the usual reasons. The act of self-inscription with these “permanent” symbols and glyphs is in some ways an aspirational (yet empty) bargain struck with one’s own impermanence. That symbolic, notional permanence of visual inscription might seek to obscure the actual and constitutively transient reality of the vessel upon which it signifies even the possibility of endurance, of an indefinite tenure in this world.

Much of the communicative method and disembodied (i.e. shared) cognitive practice we engage in serves to attach ourselves to an indefinitely-continuing existence that we know deep down that we can never obtain. The justification for self-inscription is often in “how it makes me feel” and in this the game of internalised Other and orientation towards a shared culture, language and symbolic (or semiotic) grammar underlines the irony of this art: investment in inscribed permanence and attachment to continuing body or concept and symbol is the very thing which emphasises and reminds us of the ultimate and inevitable transience-into-disassembly-and-nonexistence of this vessel and mind.

Even where impermanence and mortality are the topic of tattoo art, the curiosity and semiotic resonance of aspirationally permanent self-inscription shines a bright light on this same game of psychological self-deception.

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