Even as American soldiers mount a new offensive in Afghanistan, Wafaa Bilal is planning an offensive against his own body meant to commemorate and call attention to all those who have died since the beginning of the war in Iraq. In a 24-hour live performance titled “…and Counting” at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York next month, the 43-year-old Iraqi-born artist and NYU professor will receive a massive tattoo on his back containing one dot for every fallen soldier and civilian.
The video below (not for the squeamish) of Bilal getting city names etched in his flesh communicates the painful tedium of the project, offering a secondary message about the painful tedium of war itself. The project also serves as a reminder of the rich and complicated history of the tattoo as a communication tool, used to send messages by everyone from Maori chieftains to Russian prisoners. Indeed, tattoos are one of the oldest forms of infographics we have.