Digital Tattoos: The Future of Art Exhibit Curation?

Published on August 29, 2013 by Leo Gomon
Anthony Antonelli

Watch Anthony Antonellis have a “digital tattoo” implanted in his hand, courtesy of animalnewyork (not for the faint of heart):



Straight out of an episode of FOX’s “24”, when Jack Bauer pulled a microchip with top secret information out of a dead body, artist Anthony Antonelli had the world’s first net art RFID chip implant sewn into his skin. The result was a colorful gradient .gif video,viewable through an Android smartphone, or in layman's terms, the world’s first “digital tattoo”.


Usually encrypted, RFID (radio frequency identification) chips are about the size of a grain of rice and store private information, but in this case, Antonelli made the data (.gif) publicly accessible and editable (by him only, of course) should he want to change or add any art in almost any format (JPGs, MIDI files, or otherwise). It may seem silly or disingenuous on the surface, but Antonelli sees it as pushing the boundaries of conventional artististic exhibition space. His plan for the future is to rotate the artwork ingrained in his hand, referring to it as a form of “micro curation”.



RFID’s are commonly used for security purposes, such as entrance to government facilities; Antonelli is doing quite the opposite. “Digital tattoos” aren’t a completely new idea though. Back in May, Motorola had its eyes on an alternative way to ensure password security on mobile phones. The concept was a rubber stamp, containing flexible electronic circuits attached to the skin; the stamp would be scanned, confirming the user’s identity and logging them into the password protected application or website.


As technology continues to progress and artists keep pushing the method of delivery or curation of their respective fields, we will likely see more advancements in the fusion of the digital and the epidermal. With blacklight (UV) tattoos and scarification on the rise, there is clearly a demand for unique body modification procedures.


On the other hand (no pun intended), this could possibly set a precedent for an invasion of privacy, should any undesirable information be loaded on these chips. With the latest rules and regulations presented by the NSA regarding monitoring web usage, it’s easy to imagine a paranoid, science-fiction future that utilizes RFID chips for tracking or some other purpose, but perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. The gradient gif might not seem like anything more than an animated rainbow, but it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the future of “digital tattooing”.


Read the full article here.



qsmith's picture

First thing I thought of was 24 as well!

kagnar's picture

I like this concept but this guy's use case is pretty useless.

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