In the simplest terms, body modification means the deliberate alteration of one’s physical appearance for aesthetic reasons, to denote affiliations, as rites of passage, shock value or self-expression. Surprising as it may seem, body modification has been practiced for as long as 30,000 years ago by our earliest ancestors. The Nubian civilization practiced skull elongation. In ancient China, the 4 inch foot in females was considered as a sign of beauty. Women used to practice ‘foot binding’ which involved breaking the bones of the forefoot leading to severe pain, imbalance and fall. Ancient Roman, Egyptian and Persians used heavy metal Antimony to make their eyes sparkle. The Eskimo society used lip rings to denote their social rank.
In recent times, piercing and tattooing are the most common forms of body modification. Without going into the discussion of whether these forms of body modifications are works of art or profound insanity, let us look at the most bizarre ones:
1. Eyeball Tattoo
The latest and creepiest form of body modification is probably to get a tattoo done on the eyes! Eyeball tattooing is basically changing the color of the human eyeball by injecting ink. With the help of a syringe, the pigment, which is the same as used in a regular tattoo, is injected under the top layer of the eye. Eyeball tattooing actually dates back to the nineteenth century when it was done as corrective surgery on people with poor eyesight. In medical terms, it is called ‘Corneal tattooing’, done to correct defects such as scarring of the cornea or leucoma.
Scarification is a permanent body modification which basically involves scratching, cutting, burning or etching designs, pictures or words into the skin. In doing so, scars are formed which make for darker tattoos than the ones done with ink. Since scars spread as they heal, scarification is not suited to designs with a lot of detailing. To the the scar more pronounced, the scar is irritated by natural or chemical irritants, which can use an infection to develop around the wound. The scarification artist needs to have in-depth knowledge of the anatomy of human skin to avoid too deep cuts, too hot or too long burns.
3. 3D-Art Implant
A 3D-Art implant or a sub-dermal implant refers to the insertion of art implants in various shapes under the skin to create a raised design. 3D art implants were invented and popularized by body modification artist Steve Haworth in the early 90’s. Most people use these art implants in conjunction with other form of body modifications to create a dramatic effect. Implants can be stretched like piercings. An example of 3D art implants are horn implants. Initially smaller sized horns are inserted which when healed are taken out and replaced by larger sized ones. This process continues till the desired size is reached. There are some risks of irritation to the skin if the process is done too fast, without letting the skin heal first.
4. Corset piercings
This unusual form of piercing has caught the latest fantasy of body modification enthusiasts. Corset piercings are a series of piercings which look like the application of lacing at the back of a corset. The piercings are done in two bilaterally symmetrical rows. There can be as few as four piercings or as many as the space in the back would allow for. Although corsetry has a long history, corset piercings are a new thing. Paralleling corsets, these piercings are mostly done by women. Also called ‘Ladder piercings’, corset piercings are mostly done on a temporary basis because of the risk associated with healing of the surface openings. The piercings are often styled with ribbons, laces and chains to make them appealing. Temporary corset piercings are mainly done for a photo-shoot, a fetish session, promotion of a business or advertising and are soon removed after the event is over.
Human branding is a process in which a symbol or a pattern is burned into the skin of a person by using a hot or cold iron. This process uses extreme heat so that the scar is more pronounced and permanent. Human body branding has a dark history to it. It was used to mark ownership over slaves. There are risks involved in branding and should not be attempted by amateurs. Using materials which contain plated metals for branding is extremely dangerous as the metal can chip-off and get imbedded in the skin causing metal poisoning.
6. Body Suspension
In body suspension, the human body is suspended from hooks put through body piercings. The piercings are temporary ones made just before the suspension. The hooks used are specially modified fishing hooks. The process is a delicate one and can prove fatal if attempted by an amateur. Body suspension should be done under expert supervision preferably in a small group of people. Before the actual suspension is performed, the suspendee’s body is studied in detail to decide the number, size and proper placement of the hooks. The weight of the body should be equally distributed among the hooks for proper balance. The act of body suspension employs a machine for suspension and a strong rope to attach to the hooks. The body is then lifted up very slowly and carefully. Body suspension is mainly done for meditation purposes, to entertain or as a performance act.
7. Tongue Bifurcation
Tongue bifurcation, also known as splitting or forking is a process of body modification in which the tongue is cut centrally from the tip to the underside base, forking or splitting the end. Tongue bifurcation is done by cutting with a scalpel, cauterizing or tying off. This is performed by oral and plastic surgeons, body modification practitioners or done oneself. After the bifurcation, one can control the individual sides of the tongue with practice. The two halves can be raised up and down simultaneously, spread apart from one another or used to hold a small object. Some people have reported having problems with speaking after tongue bifurcation.
8. Pointy Ears
This is a surgical process to make human ears look like those of elves. According to Dr. Lajos Nagy, the inventor of the procedure, apart from increasing attractiveness, pointed ears also improve the experience of listening to music. A report by ABC terms this surgery painful and irreversible. Some doctors warn that sculpting the cartilage is dangerous and can lead to infection which can destroy the ear within days.