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The Dermal Abyss

Live Tattoo artist demonstration on 'ex vivo' pig skin:
THU Sept. 7/FRI Sept. 8/SUN Sept. 10/MON Sept. 11, 2017, 1:00 PM-2:00 PM
SAT Sept. 9, 2017, 1:00 PM-1:30 PM
POSTCITY, Welcome Area

Credit: Xin Liu

Katia Vega (PE), Xin Liu (CN)

The Dermal Abyss creates a direct access to the compartments in the body and reflects inner metabolic processes in the shape of a tattoo. Traditional tattoo inks are replaced with biosensors whose color changes in response to variations of glucose, pH and sodium in the interstitial fluid. It blends advances in biotechnology with traditional methods in tattoo artistry.

Instead of using digital self-measurement devices that distance us from the visceral processes, we imagine a future where the fusion of body and bio-technologies is indistinguishable.

The installation presents itself as a biotech lab as well as a tattoo studio. Pipettes and test tubes together with a tattoo gun and needles constitute The Dermal Abyss’s production. A tattooist will perform the implementation of The Dermal Abyss during the exhibition. At the same time, biosensing tattoos in ex vivo pig skin will be displayed to showcase the color changes.


MIT Media Lab: Katia Vega, Xin Liu, Viirj Kan, Nick Barry
Harvard Medical School: Ali Yetisen, Nan Jiang

Support from Pattie Maes and Joe Paradiso (MIT Media Lab) and Seok-Hyun Yun and Ali Khademhosseini (Harvard Medical School)

Special thanks to Nan Zhao (video lighting support), Maribel Tafur (video music), Joshua Scherner (research assistant)