SPC: ModCon One (1999)

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How do you write an article about an event so private, so secretive, that it’s guests were made to sign nondisclosure agreements? Easy. Just be one of the ones who didn’t sign. Over the last fourteen years, the ModCon events have been shrouded in mystery. Fight Club jokes aplenty- the first rule of Modcon is that you don’t talk about ModCon and so on.

But today, we’re going to do just that. In a continuing series of articles on my life in the modern Body Modification community I’ve decided to shed a little light on ModCon; where the idea first came from, the 1998 event that never happened and more.

Obviously there will be a lot left out for the sake of discretion (as well as keeping some of the mystery) but if you’re a geek for this sort of thing…  read on. Continue reading

A turn for the worse

Something that often surprises people is just how quickly a trapped infection can move from nonexistent to serious. These cheek piercings were about two months old and by all appearance doing just fine, when the wearer decided to switch the jewelry. In the process, they somehow managed to drag bacteria into the still-healing fistula, probably bacteria that was on their hands. Within the week the piercings were seriously swollen or infected, so they headed to their doctor, who insisted that the piercings be removed and put her on antibiotics. This photo was taken when she got home from the doctor.

cheek infection

Mistake number one: Changing the jewelry in a still healing piercing without proper attention to contamination control. Be aware that cheek piercings often take a long time to heal, and perhaps more importantly, piercings of all types will appear healed long before they actually are healed (and even young technically healed piercings may have very thin skin, making them highly susceptible to injury). Ideally a piercing that’s still healing shouldn’t have its jewelry changed, but if it must, the jewelry needs to be sterilized and gloves and other appropriate cross-contamination must be in place. Whenever possible this should be done at a piercing studio — most will autoclave and change jewelry for a small reasonable charge, or even do it for free when you buy the jewelry.

Mistake number two: When a piercing is infected with significant amounts of swelling and discharge, the presence of jewelry is both good and bad. It’s bad because a foreign substance in a wound can greatly increase the population of bacteria by giving them a “foothold”, but it’s good because it can keep the wound open and is often the only thing keeping the infection from becoming an abscess. The piercing allows the wound to drain, as the antibiotics (or alternative treatments) work to eliminate the infection — saline soaks and other treatments can also work to draw out the discharge, but can only do so if the wound is open. Even if antibiotics eliminate the infection, you can still have serious complications if a large pocket of pus is trapped under the skin. For this reason I feel it’s important to always have someone familiar with the treatment of troubled piercings involved in such complications — doctors are notorious for making problems with piercings worse due to their unfamiliarity with them, even today. Any reputable piercer is always happy to take the time to look at a piercing having difficulty (whether they did the piercing or not) and give you advice on how best to treat it (and that advice in this case likely would have been “go to the doctor, but don’t let them take out the piercing”). Better yet, piercers, unlike doctors, rarely charge for this service in my experience — although you should always tip them!!!

Elio: DIY Human Experimentation

I first met Tucson, Arizona-based Elio when he wrote me after I posted some pictures of saline inflation done using food color, and mused about the idea of using tattoo ink in order to dye large areas of tissue using a single injection and, done carefully, minimal pain. After he sent the fascinating results of his experiments with that technique, I started learning about his other modifications, all of them self-done and often bizarre and unique, a number of them things that no one else that I knew of had ever tried before. A number of these were made even more unique by the fact of Elio being born with female genitals which have been sculpted and enhanced not just with body modification but with hormones as part of a female-to-male gender transformation. It was a huge pleasure talking to Elio — it’s always liberating hearing the story of people who go their own way.

While the body modification community these days can be rather hostile to DIY modifications and explorations that are arguably better left to experienced professionals, because my body modification journey started in the 1980s when DIY was often the only option I have never been particularly bothered by people choosing that path up the mountain. It’s not the safest path for sure, and it’s not one that I’d recommend to most people — and for me to do so would be irresponsible given that there are safe and well marked trails up that mountain — but there are unique benefits (and dangers) to free climbing new routes or even those others have previously marked as dangerously impossible. I hope that those people who have difficulty appreciating the DIY journey, for whatever reason, will still read this interview with an open mind and accept that it is possible that there are many different valid ways to live, and that even if someone’s approach to life isn’t right for you, it may well be right for them and that by learning about journeys other than your own you can gain insights into the human experience that you wouldn’t have found otherwise. It was a great pleasure getting to know Elio, and I’m happy to share this interview, an excerpt from my upcoming book, here on BME.

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A new method for large-scale tattooing?

As those of you who are BME members who’ve spent a lot of time exploring the saline injection galleries already know, one of the tricks that people figured out to make it more amusing is that you can add food colouring to the saline solution — and let me preemptively say that this is risky both because food colouring is not generally safe to inject, and because it compromises the sterile saline by adding a non-sterile component and thereby increases the risk of post-procedure infection. Anyway, when someone does this, it tints the inflated tissue quite evenly — the photo below shows it having been done in a penis. When the saline is absorbed by the body, is starts breaking down and removing the food colouring, and the tissue rapidly reverts to it’s normal tone.

Ever since seeing stained deep tissue from eyeball tattooing procedures (where the face becomes stained via ink leakage into subcutaneous tissue), I have been thinking that it’s likely that if instead of using food colouring one could use tattoo ink or India Ink — India Ink is generally more biocompatible and may be safer, but it’s a guess — to tint a large area all at once. Imagine being able for example to tattoo a penis solid black (or whatever) in a single relatively pain-free procedure. After all, we’re talking about a single pinprick rather than thousands. And of course saline isn’t just for wieners — we’ve all seen the so-called “bagelheads” where foreheads are inflated, but cheeks and lips and even the tongue can be done as well. Could one tint the face in a single pain-free procedure? What if different colors were added at different points? It’s quite likely that they would blend and combine in ways impossible to achieve with traditional tattooing. It’s also possible that because subcutaneous tissue is being tinted that appearance impossible to achieve with a tattoo machine could be done.

Of course it’s also possible that because of the way the ink is introduced, and the way the body needs to deal with it, that there are significant and perhaps even deadly side-effects. I do think this technique merits further exploration — and to the best of my knowledge this is the first serious proposal of this method — but I hope that if someone does go ahead with it, and not just research the risks, but they start on a very small scale to explore the results carefully. I have to admit I’m half tempted to try it myself. If I end up with a bright blue scrotum to match my eyes, I’ll be sure to let y’all know. Please let me know if you try it as well.

The Eyeball Tattoo FAQ

Eyeball Tattooing FAQ
by Shannon Larratt

INTRODUCTORY NOTES

  • Unless otherwise indicated, this document refers to scleral tattooing (over the white of the eye) using the ink injection method, rather than to corneal tattooing (over the iris) using repetitive needle punctures.
  • This document is under constant revision and reflects the current amateur understanding of the art of eyeball tattooing. It should not be taken as definitive or absolute advice. This document is not medical advice. This document will be updated whenever relevant and possible, so please check back for updates.
  • Eyeball tattooing carries with it significant risks up to and including blindness and life-threatening complications. Nothing in this document should be taken as condoning or recommending or encouraging eyeball tattoos, or presenting it as safe. Proceed at your own risk.
  • Because this FAQ is constantly changing, please do not reprint it elsewhere. Instead, please link directly to BME.com where it is hosted: http://news.bme.com/2012/10/18/the-eyeball-tattoo-faq/

FAQ REVISION HISTORY

Current Version: 1.1 / November 21, 2012

Updates since the previous version are highlighted in red (like this).

1.1 – Added additional risks information (glaucoma, ocular hypotension, etc.), multicolor inks, and various notes.
1.0 – FAQ updated after long talk with Howie/LunaCobra
0.9 – Original version written by Shannon Larratt


** What is eyeball tattooing?

Eyeball tattooing, in the context of this FAQ, is the process of permanently altering the color of the eye. Generally this refers to the injection of ink under the surface of the white of the eye, rather than changing the color of the iris, although this is theoretically possible.

** Why would someone want to tattoo their eye?

This is a rude question that no one should feel obligated to answer to anyone but themselves. But to generalize, people get eyeball tattoos for the same reasons people would get any tattoo or make any permanent change to themselves — because it makes them happy or feels right in some way. Because they like the way it looks. Because it suits them spiritually. Because they find it sexually appealing. Because they want to differentiate themselves from others. Because they feel tattooing has gotten to mainstream and want something more socially offensive. Because they saw it in a dream. Because it appeals to them as an artist. Because they want to make a political statement. Because they’re mad at their mommy for not hugging them enough. Because it’s none of your business.

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The so-called latest trend: Bagelheads

The mainstream media just loves saline injection in the forehead, and because it’s so weird and rare — and most of all, photogenic — they just love printing it. It gives them permission to print human oddity freakshow photos without feeling exploitative. They don’t get to see it often, and thus every time they see it, they ignorantly and hilariously insist on calling it “the latest trend” — often “the latest Japanese trend” to be specific — and thanks to last night’s episode of National Geographic’s fun but clueless “Taboo” series, it’s all over the media, with sites like Jezebel running headlines about “Bagel Heads“. Here’s a screen cap from the show.

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This story is so silly, and really, is ancient news. The short version of the history of “bagel heads” is that Montreal photographer Jerome Abramovitch (chapter9photography.com) created the concept for performance art and photographic purposes (and a little amusement), presumably after seeing fetish-scene saline inflation and artistically extrapolating the technique in new directions. He brought this to ModCon — many people first saw this on the cover of the ModCon book in fact (download a free copy here since it’s out of print) — and we later shot some fun footage of his doing it again for the still hibernating BME movie. Another good friend, journalist and charming body mod superenthusiast Ryoichi Keroppy Maeda, was here for all of that from Japan and brought the idea back home with him, where he walked many other people through it. For whatever reason — and Ryoichi deserves the credit for this I’m sure — it was much more popular in Japan, seeming to find a niche inside both the fetish and suspension worlds. Much of the footage floating around the net of forehead saline is from Ryoichi’s events in Japan, and you can actually see Ryoichi being interviewed about it in the clip above.

These pictures are from the ModBlog cover and Jerome’s video shoots with me.

saline2

In the photos on the right we’ve inflated his cheeks as well as just his forehead by the way. In the fetish community breast inflations (of both men and women), are also quite popular — as are the penis and scrotum, the clitoris, the anus, and the lips (both genital and facial). BME has massive galleries on this subject — literally hundreds of thousands of images, stories, and interviews, and my new book also covers it extensively. If you don’t have a BME membership yet, you can find some free saline content with the appropriate ModBlog search (although you’ll get some false positives talking about saline in other contexts), and this NSFW interview (a preview from the new book I just mentioned) also covers fetish-saline in depth: Impgrin Inflated

I probably should have started with this instead of mentioning it as a footnote, but for those that are unaware of what you’re seeing in these stories, it’s basically voluntarily induced pitting edema. Saline is dripped via a needle into the forehead (virtually any body part can be inflated), engorging the tissue dramatically until the body gradually reabsorbs it over about 24 hours. Like the medical condition pitting edema, while the tissue is full (of interstitial fluid in the case of an edema, saline in the case of an inflation), it is maleable and can be “sculpted” by pressing into it. Unlike a scrotum inflation, which is more of a “water balloon” when full, normal skin is more like a “sponge” than a “balloon”. Since the saline is held in place by the tissue and can’t flow freely, when you force it into a new shape, it holds that shape for a time. Assuming that proper sterile precautions are followed this is not particularly dangerous.

As to how it feels, well, few people would say it feels good. Most would say it’s mildly unpleasant, but not unpleasant in the way that suspension hurts and can lead to an altered state. More like unpleasant as in a headache. To be honest, it’s more of an “art trick” than a ritual experience. The sort of thing you do for great photos or curiosity, not the sort of thing that teaches you about yourself or gives you a high or all the wonderful things that people get out of suspension. Of course I’m generalizing and some people will get all of that, but overall this is just a cool looking trick that people have been doing for about fifteen years. It’s not new, and it’s certainly not a trend.

But all of this truth that I’ve just typed out is completely irrelevant to the media. Nothing I’ve said here is hard to find out with a minimum of research. But if I’ve learned anything in almost twenty years of first-hand dealings with the media, it’s that the truth is the very last thing they care about. The truth isn’t a virus. The truth is an irrelevancy. All that matters to anyone — be it trash media or be it fallen media aristocracy like National Geographic — is a dumbed down moment of meaningless amusement to sell advertising for garbage we’d be better off without.

Gem-set Jewelry Experiment FAIL

You’ve all probably seen horror stories about rusty jewelry or “titanium” jewelry that turns out to be cheap steel that was painted, revealed with the colour peels off. But this jewelry comparison is more subtle, the difference not between high quality and garbage, but more like the difference between high quality and mid-range “meh” jewelry that might not instantly set off alarm bells. A.J. Goldman took some “expensive” jewelry and some cheap jewelry (not that either of these will break the bank) and put them both in a saline bath for the weekend. Both bars had the same sparkling clear stones when the experiment started. The saline should have basically zero effect on the jewelry, and thankfully it didn’t seem to alter or damage either bar (one being stainless and the other titanium), but what did happen is the gems in the cheaper jewelry turned dull and discolored. The most likely explanation is the cheap foil-backed “gems” they used, or even the epoxy used to set them, reacting to the saline. The quality jewelry uses gems that are held in place by the metal’s shape itself, so there is no foil backing or epoxy to discolour.

gemproblem

Feel free to distribute this picture

Think about how long the jewelry is going to be in your body — and the fact that you’re getting the piercing to enhance your body. If you’re not willing to spend that extra $10 or $20 to do it right, is it really worth doing? What is it saying about what you think of your body when you put low-quality tarnished or dulled or discoloured crap in yourself? From my point of view, it is better to wait a little longer until you can afford top-notch jewelry, and wear something that will look beautiful for the life of the piercing. There is nothing worse than getting a body modification that you thought would be a thing of beauty, only to be betrayed by it because someone decided to cut-corners on the jewelry to save or make a few dollars.

Just Look At Those Baby Blues

When we first tattooed our eyes in 2007, I don’t think any of us ever thought it would explode like it did. It makes me both very happy — and terrifies me a little bit — that it has exploded like it has. Many body modification artists all over the world are now offering this service, to say nothing of nutcases in prison tattooing their own eyeballs with smuggled-in supplies. All the anecdotal evidence and experience as well as the limited medical information on the subject suggests that this is a safe body modification — assuming that nothing goes catastrophically wrong during the procedure, which I’m sure will eventually happen when some scratcher fool decides they can do it and messes up. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s safe long term since the evidence just isn’t extensive enough yet — the oldest full eye tattoos are only five years old. The eye is capable of handling calcium deposits in those layers (which is why Rachel’s doctor was willing to do the platinum implant in her eye a few years before eyeball tattooing started), but that’s a small amount of “pollution” in comparison to the serious amount of ink that some people are having injected. To say nothing of the glycerine and other ingredients in tattoo ink that may well be quite foolhardy to inject into an eye — after all, it’s not as if tattoo ink is an inert solid powder pigment in a sterile saline solution. And then of course there’s “regret” — I would argue that an eyeball tattoo may well push social alienation way farther than any facial tattoo could, and while you may think that’s a good thing, it can’t be removed. And even if you have no regrets, it doesn’t mean the people around you won’t feel differently — don’t underestimate the impact this could have on your partner for example, who may not like lovingly gazing into a set of eyes different than the ones they fell in love with.

babyblues

Anyway, even though I am and probably always will be one of eyeball tattooing’s biggest cheerleaders — to say nothing of being one of the “patient zero” guinea pigs — I really truly hope that people will treat this mod with caution and restraint. All that said, it makes me so happy to see these super-cool blue eyeballs that Venezuelan bodmod superstar Emilio Gonzalez (who now also has a shop in California, and will also be at the Costa Rica convention in September) did while guesting at Sin City in Hawaii recently.

Finally, I’d like to address the rumor that’s being spread lately that by tattooing the white of your eye you damage your vision, under the theory that the white is somehow “neccessary” for resolving colour — I don’t know what the reasoning is, because it’s complete bullshit, but maybe someone has it in their head that the white of the eye is some sort of “white balance” creator like in a camera. Other people have said it has to do with reflected light. Either way… NO. It makes no difference. If it did, your eye would not have a colored pupil. If it did, animals, which often show very little or no white eye, would have worse vision, when in fact, they often have better. I’ve even seen people claim that doctors backed them up, or medical journals back them up. While I have no doubt that there are doctors who will go on record saying this is a bad idea, when I got my eye done I spent a great many hours being examined by eye experts — including the eye doctor who invented the ocular ultrasound technology that is the industry standard in imaging the inside of eyes. He used this on me, and gave my eye — which I should add has a terrible cyst of ink and is a “worst case scenario” a clean bill of health. Rachel’s doctor, who invented eyeball implants, also invented much of the modern laser eye surgery. I have additionally had my eyes examined by a several senior ocular surgeons when I was considering LASIK and they all gave my eye a clean bill of health and believed there was no inherent risk in the procedure short of damaging the eye during the procedure. In addition, what limited medical literature there is on eyeball tattooing (it has been done historically, as I mentioned, and is still done on eyes with iris deformities) shows that it is quite safe and carries a lower rate of complications than normal dermal tattooing. So please, while I want people to be cautious, I also don’t want to see pointless fear-mongering. By telling lies about safety and claiming that your lies have medical backing, you distract from honest debate about the risks, and make yourself look like an ignorant jackass in the process.

The Transdermal Implants of Samppa Von Cyborg

This article is a based on the seminar notes from Samppa Von Cyborg on his transdermal implants, as prepared by Alix Fox. In this abridged form it was edited by Shannon Larratt for public presentation. While parts of this article do discuss procedural techniques, it should be emphasized that this is in no way a “how to” or training of any sort. It is being shared here to help those with an interest and passion for body modification understand the development history of transdermal implants as well as some of the medical and “wearer” issues involved.

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THE TRANSDERMAL IMPLANTS OF SAMPPA VON CYBORG

Influential body modification artist Steve Haworth is credited with inventing the transdermal implant, with the first instance being installed in 1996 as Joe Aylward’s famous “Metal Mohawk”. Four years later, Samppa Von Cyborg began implanting transdermals using posts of his own design. While these procedures were largely successful, the designs left much room for improvement. It is Samppa’s philosophy that even if something works reasonably well, it is crucial to keep researching, reassessing, and redeveloping designs and procedures in order to push body modification innovation forward and always strive strive for better results.

aneta-and-samppa-portrait

Aneta and Samppa Von Cyborg

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