Killing ants

This is part of a series on my Santa Perpetua tattoos. You can read the rest in the tattoo category on this blog.

Now that Santa Perpetua and I had started our collaboration and set up for future work, it was time to dig in and really explore some existential angst. The next one was about my political ideology, the tension I feel behind nearly every act I take, and was one of the originating conversations behind Jigsaw Renaissance1. And that is – what is the responsibility of the individual, and what is the responsibility of society? When one is out of alignment with the other, which course corrects, how, and how much? If they’re both doing ok, should more attention and intent be paid to further progressing the individual or society? I tend to lean towards societal progress, but I also deeply respect and acknowledge individual autonomy and inclusion in that as necessary but insufficient.

Tilde and Willow's right thighs are nestled together, with Tilde's tattoo of purples and greens with a mirrored person as posable figure on one side and a more realistic human on the other. Behind the realistic person, water color and shapes. Beyond the model, simpler shapes and more contained colors.

On Willow's thigh, a circle surrounds two children poking at an ant hill. Outside the circle, a child's sillouette looks at plants in orbit. Another small circle holds an ant. There is blue and black water color around it all.

This might be best described with an example of how we design for disability. At one end of that spectrum is a cochlear implant – using medical and computer technology to give a deaf person the rough ability to hear and thereby get by in mainstream culture. But it’s never quite good enough, it’s unwieldy, and it removes the identity of that person as a member of the Deaf Community. They are unlikely to thrive, but they are also included in the large whole. The other end of that spectrum are Deaf schools designed for being Deaf, with things like open floor plans so you can sign to someone across the space. The space is not for “mainstream” society, because it optimizes for those who are Deaf, who are then more likely to thrive, perhaps then to be able to make more meaningful contributions to society as a whole2. That said, those who attend these Deaf schools are less likely to integrate with mainstream culture (why would you), and someone who is not Deaf would certainly be out of place in such a school. An orthogonal specific example is Wanda Diaz, an astrophysicist who went blind but still wanted to study stars. So instead of looking at images of stars, she transferred the data into soundscapes, and is making novel discoveries that way.

I also pointed to my own thinking on the topic, namely Pixels and Paintbrushes and Becoming Structured entries from 2013. The quotes I requested be in this one are

  • “Today you, tomorrow me” – Not in the “I’m stiffing you today as I’m likely to get stiffed tomorrow” as the quote is sometimes used, but in the “I have enough today and will share it, in hopes you will have and do the same tomorrow.”
  • “A World In Which Many Worlds are Possible.” – Another Zapatista quote, this one enmeshed in my brain based on a lovely conversation with Margaret.

Now in her own studio3, this is what SP came up with. She described it as “to escape our innocence and ignorance, we must empathize.” I love the themes of space in this one, echoing The Maze of Existence. I sat for two days back to back for this tattoo, and let me tell you, having already tender flesh tattoo’d over again while also dealing with jet lag is An Experience.TM

The artist's original concept, as already detailed.

This was also a hilarious trip because Tilde joined me for their own ink work, also on their right thigh. As we were hobbling around wearing the “FROM THE FUTURE” garb Tilde had found for us in London, Laurie told us we looked like we had just returned from the Time Wars. After cavorting up to Scotland as well, and sleeping in the same bed for the entire trip, we finally realized weeks later that Tilde and I had crushes on each other and finally started dating. The relationship didn’t last forever, but it did end of good terms and they’re still dear to me. The Queer Experience.


  1. Now there’s a call-back. Shout out if you’ve been around for that long. If you haven’t, Jigsaw was the maker space I cofounded in Seattle back in 2009. It long ago met its demise as most spaces created in that era have.
  2. Or their smaller community, rather than all of society.
  3. A gorgeous, calm space where she could have more control and more privacy. It seems wonderful for her, but is also a gift to her clients.

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