According to custom, something like this would have been my first installment for Through the Modified Looking Glass, wherein I explain my choice of column title, plans for future subject matter, and background. The problem with that is that I have always felt such pieces tend to be cop-outs which avoid a true effort. And while I try to maintain a familiarity and respect for custom, I quite often find myself circumventing it. So, as a sort of additional piece for this month I will do the classic ‘intro’.
First, why ‘Through the Modified Looking Glass’? The reference is, mostly, obvious — if not cliché. I am, as it happens, a Lewis Carroll fan but the greater motivation behind my choice is the use of the looking glass reference by another tattooed sideshow aficionado and performer: Mike Wilson. In his interview that appeared in Modern Primitives, Wilson describes the idea of becoming heavily tattooed:
"...signifying a possible way of going through the looking glass for me to achieve a whole other frame of reference, and to elicit experiences beyond the 'normal'... presenting yourself as a signal beacon drawing things to happen to you."
I shared with Mike some similar influences — surrealism and circus sideshow history so it’s not surprising that we also held some similar views. In fact, this was as close to some of my own ideas and inspirations for my transformation project as I had ever seen expressed by another. I only first saw the interview in 1995 and through my own carelessness for not taking advantage of opportunities I missed my chances to meet Mike in person before his untimely death. I have since come to know some of his friends and colleagues from Coney Island and the title of this column is in part an homage as well as an expression of that shared notion. I like to think too, that Mike as a performer realized one of my own personal joys of the stage and being a tattooed man – taking others through the glass for awhile just by being part of their day.
That is the story, for what it’s worth, of the title. But what do I actually intend do to do with this pulpit? Well, as evidenced by the first installment, The [Modified] Body Politic, some subjects will choose me and simply demand to be addressed. In the absence of such ready made topics in the future I hope to address and give an accounting of the land I find through this modified looking glass and that others may report discovering through their experiences with me. I will also attempt to put some use to the formal training I have had as a philosopher by examining concepts and terms like ‘body modification’. I would also suggest to anyone who has a topic they would like to see here that they contact me via my IAM page or email. And of course, feedback is always welcome.
Now then, you may be asking ‘So, who the hell are you anyway?’ Well, my given name is Erik Michael Sprague but I am far better known these days as The Lizardman. I was born on Fort Campbell, KY in 1972. My mother is an elementary school teacher and my father works both as a high school teacher and a mountain warfare instructor for the military. Growing up, they always encouraged me and told me I could do whatever I wanted — I took them seriously. And so, using the tools they provided me with in my upbringing and thanks to the support of them, my younger sister, and many dear friends I did what I wanted: I became a performance artist. A professional freak. Along the way I have worked a myriad of jobs (lifeguard, farmhand, karate instructor, warehouse crew, bartender, college instructor, and many more) and picked up a degree in philosophy (I abandoned my doctoral thesis to devote my time fully to myself as an artist). Currently, I live with my girlfriend, Meghan, in Austin, TX with one snake and three ferrets when I am not traveling the world speaking and performing. My modifications, rituals, and experiments are documented here on BME as well as on my own pages. Ultimately, I hope that through this column I will find another way to express and develop ideas and to make a contribution that others will find in some way worthwhile.
because the world NEEDS freaks…
Former doctoral candidate and philosophy degree holder Erik Sprague, the Lizardman (iam), is known around the world for his amazing transformation from man to lizard as well as his modern sideshow performance art. Need I say more?
Copyright © 2003 BMEzine.com LLC. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published May 24th, 2003 by BMEzine.com LLC in Tweed, Ontario, Canada.