Body Modification As Art

Rachel Mooney
Through the right lens, simply anything can be argued as art. These differences in perception are what make art criticism engaging, and one contention in this arena has always been body modification. From the days of old, extreme body modification has been seemingly considered an art form geared only toward the freak show. Despite this, with body modification slowly gaining acceptance, the local subjects in Columbus sporting body mods are now vast. Despite its growth in tolerance, from tattooing to facial implants to stretching, all body modification seemingly still carries two very staunch perspectives in terms of art: It either is, or it isn’t.

Perhaps these conflicting interpretations of body modification as art, and those who endorse it, begin here. Although our masses circumcise the young and glorify plastic surgery for the old, for those who are squeamish or uninformed, the concept of extreme body modification as art may seem occult and even disturbing. Conversely, given the right artist and canvas, art is possible in unexpected contexts.

Although those who decide to modify their body are known for their unorthodox lifestyle, they’re lesser known for body modifications that double as performance art or spiritualistic rituals. This is perhaps the missing link to be examined in order to negate any stereotype remaining of people exercising their right to modify their canvas. Many transform their bodies not for shock, but for expression. The most intriguing and seemingly unknown modifications that portray performance or ritualistic art are suspension and pulling.

Known certainly as an art form by those who perform it, suspension entails the piercing of various body parts for the purpose of being suspended in air: live art. It’s engaging; a fusion of movement and beauty if done right. Suspension is performance art with a twist of something slightly off-kilter: needles. I watch as local Suicide girl Tara Schaefer is pierced for suspension. Her nose crinkles in a most feminine way and before I have a moment to pause, she is up. Suspending from a vaulted ceiling, Tara smiles with the whimsy of a child as she swings back and forth gracefully. She is undeniably striking and everyone in the room is transfixed.

While Tara embodies aesthetic beauty, what most people see most simply as art, local Evolved owner Nicholas Wolak pierces for a different reason: to enhance his spirituality. Nick has traveled across the world piercing, suspending and pulling for spiritual enlightenment and returns to Columbus to share his experiences in some of the most beautifully written spiritual recants I’ve heard to date. He writes, ‘My own body modification is an expression of my life experience. My experience has led me to where I am and faith ensures my goodness in the future. Piercing led me to my spirituality.’ Describing an energy pull Nick participated in southern Utah, he states, ‘The (flesh) hooks in each of our backs were connected by one nine foot length of nylon rope. When we were ready to pull, we linked the middle of each of our ropes to a metal ring between the two of us. We then slowly walked in opposite directions and gently began leaning our bodies away from each other until we were balancing the weight of our bodies with little effort. I soon realized why these are called energy pulls. Not only could I feel Evan’s energy, but I could also feel my own and that of all of our surroundings. The holes in our backs were not only serving as release valves, but also as channels through which all the elements and emotions around us could pass.”

If you’re interested in exploring the art of suspension or pulling live, now is the time. With Columbus’ annual fetish ball Trauma right around the corner, there is plenty of time to experience, understand and admire body modification as art, all without traveling outside of the 614.