Published: October 2014
Body art, practised across all world cultures and throughout history, is the most intimate art form, linking the self, the senses, and the social and political. In recent years, it has proliferated in an unprecedented way, borrowing motifs and practices from many different traditions. What is it that these new and borrowed body arts do, and what do they tell us about the global culture that we now inhabit? Nicholas Thomas explores these questions and many more in this wide- ranging survey of body arts from prehistoric origins to the present. He illuminates their role in expressing cultural identity; their associations with ritual, theatricality, criminality and beauty; and their recent resurgence via the Modern Primitive movement and in the work of contemporary artists. More than 180 illustrations chronicle the diversity of body arts, from painting and scarification to footbinding, Russian prison tattoos, Harlem drag balls and the inked designs worn by celebrities such as Tupac Shakur and David Beckham. For everyone with any interest in the subject, Body Art offers an intelligent celebration of this quintessentially human art form.