1986: "It's Not A Matter of Life & Death": DNA
When People think of immortality they typically think of one body lasting 'forever'. How often do people think of DNA? Our DNA is far more long-lasting than the form it's currently manifesting in, it may not be 'immortal' but it's closer to it than 'I' am. Even if I never have children, the DNA that went into making 'me' is still out there in some form.
How often do people think of mutating material? When 'I die', the material will disunite, I'll rot or be burned, transformed into something significantly different from the form 'I' am now. Still, something will exist - why not conceive of immortality as that continuity?
How often do they/we think of mutating ideas? I've dedicated a huge portion of my life to generating culture, to creating images, texts, sounds, philosophies, speculations, to contributing to posterity, etc.. These contributions are received by others who experience them, consider them, play with them, repurpose them, etc.. They will outlive 'me' &, like DNA, continue to recombine in new products - why not conceive of immortality as that process?
I had the DNA double helix placed between my penis & my navel for reasons that I assume are obvious but I'll explain them in case they're not: the navel is what's left of the physical connection of the fetus to the mother, it represents the past & a step along the originary path; the generative organ represents future possibilities of this generative path - the DNA links them.
This is the drawing that the tattoo was based on. I remember it as traced from a computer-generated representation of DNA that I saw in a Scientific American. At the time, it may've been the most sophisticated representation available. I don't know if it's been superceded since then.
Hectograph paper was used to transfer a template for the tattooist to work from. This is a paper towel that was used to absorb the excess hectograph ink - &, yes, I still have this 30 years later! I think that attention to detail can be important. One man's trash is another man's Shroud of Glen Burnie.
Here's what the freshly finished tattoo looked like. Note that the area tattooed has been shaved.
Incredibly enough, even to myself, I even still have the bandage that I wore over the tattoo for the 1st day or so. The tattooed area probably had petroleum jelly on it to soothe it.
Might as well give credit where credit's due even though Juli Moon has long since moved on. It's HISTORY!
This was all new to me then so I saved the care instructions too.
I had multiple prints of the photo of the tattoo made & made this sticker to glue to their backs to explain things for when I gave away the picures in person & mailed them. Tattoos were so new to me then that I didn't even know how to spell the word correctly!
I suggest reading the Philip K. Dick text above carefully. It may be more important than you realize. Also, Crick & Watson are mentioned but let's not forget the neglected Rosalind Franklin whose research was crucial to the discovery of DNA.
(Semi-)finally, a picture of the tattooist who did this 1st work on me taken 3 years later for a newspaper article about her & her tattoo shop.
My house is a large archive/workshop filled with information & tools. One aspect of this is that I have 30 file cabinet drawers filled with folders containing odds & ends about my various interests. Once I put something in a folder I rarely look at it again. I pulled out the "Tattoos" folder while looking for material to post on this website. This article about tattooist Richard O. Tyler conducted by Vale, of Re/Search, caught my interest because of the mention of Tyler's "Uranian Phalanstery" on the Lower East Side of New York City. The interview was conducted in the early 1980s shortly before Tyler died in 1983. That was an era when I spent a fair amount of time on the Lower East Side & I don't recall knowing anything about this guy which is surprising because he would've definitely interested me. I didn't remember this interview at all so I glimpsed through it & found the above-scanned mention of DNA as a 'coincidental' piece of relevant info to include here.
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