Writer Shelley Jackson invites participants in a new work entitled "Skin." Each participant must agree to have one word of the story tattooed upon his or her body. The text will be published nowhere else, and the author will not permit it to be summarized, quoted, described, set to music, or adapted for film, theater, television or any other medium. The full text will be known only to participants, who may, but need not choose to establish communication with one another. In the event that insufficiant participants come forward to complete the first and only edition of the story, the incomplete version will be considered definitive. If no participants come forward, this call itself is the work.
"I would very much like to be part of your book.
I have three tattoos, each with special significance to me, and all done in the last four years. Since the year 2000, when I divorced, started on a quest to find my family, began a spiritual quest, and finally began a quest to "become myself", I have marked each process with a tattoo. However, I have been waiting for something with which to mark my recent "process".
I should say that I had previously heard about your book, but did not fully understand what it was about. This evening, when I saw a program about tattooing which talked about your project, I knew what the inspiration for my next commemoration.
After spending so many years erasing myself in order to please others, the last 4 years have been about withdrawing and gaining knowledge about the me I barely knew. Recently, however, I have begun the process of connecting and appreciating the interconnectedness of all humanity. As a Unitarian, I accept and affirm the interconnectedness of all living things; that, as human beings, we are all equal; and that all living beings have dignity and worth.
More and more, I have come to understand and appreciate the diversity and sameness of humans. We all have commonalities and we all have differences. I have learned to celebrate both things in the people I encounter.
Your project really made an impression on me. Firstly, I am a writer of sorts and have lived and worked with books for nearly 25 years.
Currently, I work at deciphering documents pertaining to Indian Residential Schools. For me, words are concrete, and yet transient. Some of the documents I read give cold, hard facts detailing finances, outlining plans, defining laws and regulations. Others explain, complain, wheedle, order, and obscure.
I find it fascinating to read, for example, a letter dismissing a complaint about the lack of proper food or harsh treatment with "You know how Indians like to complain.", that we, today, would interpret as racist, offensive, and obviously criminal, would, 75 or even 50 years ago, was understood as exoneration.
I look at a documents that lists absences or truancy from school, and see the connection between the conditions in the schools and the lengths of the lists. I don't need anyone to tell me what would to cause two pages-worth of students to run away from one school in one month, the list of names is enough.
To me, words can be beautiful in their simplicity, but they can also be horrifying in their absence.
A single word, on its own, can mean nothing. Yet, it can also be awesomely profound. Likewise, many words together can mean nothing and everything.
What I find particularly striking about your project is that a single word can be interpreted by every person who sees it in in infinite number of ways. Even the person who is the word, the people who eventually "are" the book, and you, will interpret each word, and the whole book differently. In a way, the words, the book, and the people who wear and become them, are metaphors for themselves. Just as we can never know the "true" meaning of the words, but rather, interpret what we understand the meaning to be, we cannot truly know and understand the "true" person who wears the word. Like the word, we must interpret the person through our own life experience, perceptions, mores, and prejudices.
By participating in the project, each person is doing so for their own reasons, with their own moral and spiritual beliefs, and each will give and take away from the experience a different understanding of what the book is, and what their role in it is."
March 4, 2004 10:25 PM