The Sleeve of Follies

“Trust me, I’ve been asked by many men if they’re prison tattoos. I’ll be the first to admit they’re egregiously bad, but it’s a longstanding comedy and they were all done by different artists, most of them NOwhere near professional.” Carte blanche to the needle, devil may care attitude, Sarah has a sleeve at this point, done up in black and white. At first glance they appear a secret language of glyphs, strange Miro-like geometricities until you realize they’re numbers. Just crossed out with ‘X’s.

It began in 2012.

Having grown up in a Church that would later be reclassified as a cult, Sarah possesses a particular eschatological bent. This, despite an early-onset godlessness and a Bacchanalian edge that would later get her kicked out of a Christian college in her sophomore year of University. 2012, Sarah was in an industrial noise band called Sixteen Bitch Pile-up. When not menacing her bass else deep-throating a microphone a la Luxe Interior, she was amusing herself with apocalyptic prophesy, giving partial credence to Lawrence E. Joseph and the like. There was the idea that the world would end in a sun-spray of magnetic energy—solar flares were constant in 2012–or fuck if the Holy Wars would beat Nature to the punch. India and Pakistan had missiles pointed at each other, which is akin to passing a hand grenade to your next-plate-over dinner companion, and the Atomic Clock was measuring things by the nanosecond. Even idyllic Yosemite was threatening to explode in Plinian fashion. A meteor would have been trite.

So Sarah got ‘2012’ tattooed on her forearm, just above the basilica vein, as a sort of memento mori. By December 31st, it would be just another Cracker Jack novelty, right? How could a ‘2012’ tattoo pretend permanent if the world itself was a tenuous Impermanence, and if we were slated to soon greet the dinosaurs in forever rot? Well, January 2013 rolled around and damn if Sarah was still here, the rest of the world too for that matter. The dinosaurs would have to wait. But what of the tattoo? 2012 was only significant in that it was supposed to be the End. Sure 16 Bitch Pile-Up disintegrated into its atonal resting place and Sarah was later to sell off her instruments in one of three ego deaths, but ‘2012’ remained steadfastly above the ropy phlebotomist’s vein advertising nothing. Enter a friend who suggested just crossing the damn thing out, like a stroke on the Advent calendar. And so Sarah did: a simple ‘X’ through the tattoo making for a clever palimpsest.     

She then tattooed ‘2013’above it. Because there must have been a grave mistake–someone forgot to carry the zero—the world was gonna end, goddammit. Someone misspoke and 2012 was just the aperitif: extinction would be served in 2013. That didn’t happen obviously, and so it went. The numbers crawled up Sarah’s arm, each crossed off in annual succession. Each tattoo was inked by a fellow artist, then crossed out by another, making for a collaborative project, which at current count, spans one decade, a collective of artists, and 2 ½ feet of frustrated numerical flesh. ‘2022’ arcs over the ball of her shoulder and parallel to the Angle of Luis and it will be a shame, Sarah reports, to ‘X’ it out as it’s actually a nice design this year, larger than the other ones, and following the nice round of her upper arm.

“I don’t think they’re egregiously bad at all; I like them. Kinduv has you wondering, though.”

“What’s that?”

“Where exactly is the art located?”

Sarah and I have talked about this before. 16 Bitch Pile-up was purely performative: skronking feedback, hyaena vocals, the sound of a freeway turned inside-out and recorded through a vacuum cleaner hose. To have an lp would be to have evidence that “music” happened, but it wouldn’t be the visceral nihilistic event itself. You wouldn’t have Sarah on stage deciding whether or not to rape her bass with an electric sander or the other Sarah play inconsequential keyboards as counterpoint or hear the tintinnation of ambient cocktail glasses. Everything would be lost in translation. (Com)Pressed to vinyl would be literal.

So are the tattoos art in and of themselves: ten individual art pieces? Or is art in the act of canceling them, else the years they signify? One of these days, one of Sarah’s tattoos will come true, the tongue-in-cheek folly will become suddenly dead serious—prophetic even—and Sarah’s arm will be as important as the Venus DeMilo’s are not. The Abacus of the Apocalypse. Whatever: it’s a project and it is delightfully witty. I tell Sarah so.

‘2022’: is it a harbinger perched atop her deltoid like a haunted owl? Will a solar storm destroy the power grid and cease life as we know it? Could this actually be the year? In which case, I just say, “O Angel. Angel, we go down together.”

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