By DAVID COLLARD
“The Skin Project”, launched in 2003 by the American artist Shelley Jackson, is a 2,095-word short story “published exclusively in tattoo form, one word at a time, on the skin of volunteers”. The first word – which is “skin” – adorns Jackson’s wrist in Baskerville font, and she stipulates that each volunteer, once issued with their word, should likewise employ a “classic book font such as Caslon, Garamond, Bodoni, and Times Roman”, adding that the tattoo “should look like something intended to be read, not admired for its decorative qualities”.
Prompted by my belated discovery of this I’ve been looking (and often flinching) at online images of other “literary” tattoos, of which there are thousands. The same “decorative qualities” proscribed by Jackson are very much on display as, wrenched from their printed context, lines of prose and poetry are elaborated with baroque fonts, fancy scrolls and curlicues and much use of faux-Gothic script, more Motörhead than Montherlant.