I’ve always considered tattoos to be art, just never multimedia art, until now. Russian artist Dmitry Morozov, also known as ::vtol:: has created a tattoo art project he called “Reading My Body,” a combination of electronic music and robotics, his two favorite things. I like this guy already. He developed a tattoo that, when scanned by a bizarre-looking machine he created, produces music. Don’t expect Tchaikovsky to come from this device—the music it makes is, broadly, electronic. Sometimes it sounds like a theramin, sometimes like an old-school dial-up modem connecting, and often like a mixture of both. Or at least, that’s what Morozov’s own musical barcode tattoo sounds like.
The scanning instrument he slides over the tattoo to produce the sound has two black-line sensors that “read” the image, a motor that keeps the sensor moving across a metal railing, and a Nintendo Wii controller. As the scanner moves across the ink, the length of each bar of the code, which Morozov designed in Photoshop, dictates the duration of each sound. Better yet, if he uses a Wii controller with Open Sound Control, he can distort the sound by moving his arm, which triggers the sound change via the controller’s accelerometer.
Part of the reason Morokov was inspired to develop this project is because he already had tattoos; another reason is that, in Russia, many people think of tattoos as a symbol of organized crime. Morokov’s art aims to shift some of the already existing paradigms.
I’ve seen enough barcode tattoos that I consider them fairly common nowadays, but what Morokov does with barcode art isn’t like anything you’ve ever seen before. Before he started this project, he converted manufacturing barcodes into abstract art by creating a machine that essentially translates them into abstract “glitch” art. Along with the visual representation, his device also converted them into sound, and serves as a precursor to his current endeavor.
From what I’ve seen, conventional barcode tattoos have become the bailiwick of hipsters who think they’re anti-establishment, but I’m happy to say that Morokov has taken them back, transforming the gestalt of consumerism into more than just ink, but into a new, true art form. Sometimes, inspiration come from the unlikeliest of places.