Depending on how one looks at it, “play-piercing” is either a very old, or very new, form of piercing. Ancient tribes and cultures engaged in temporary piercing during rituals and celebrations, but play piercing as an artform seems a more recent trend. For those that haven’t heard the term before, play piercing is the act of giving or receiving temporary piercings for special occasions, spiritual experiences, or simply to enjoy the sensation itself. These piercings generally stay in anywhere from a few hours to a few days, and often create stunning visual effects – it is, in short, art for the sake of art.
It’s also one of the more misunderstood body mods. While people in general are now much more accepting of tattoos and piercings as a form of expression, many still struggle with the idea of sticking needles through your skin just for the hell of it. There’s an assumption of masochism or, as one of my more conservative friends put it, being “not quite right in the head”. And, I suppose I can see their point – the act of inserting a bunch of sharp objects into your body to create an intricate design, only to take them all back out again, may seem a touch odd to those that would never engage in such a thing. However, I think we take for granted that similar acts have become so mainstream, we don’t even associate them anymore: dying your hair, wearing make-up, plucking your eyebrows, and all sorts of other cosmetics, sound pretty strange themselves when you break down the details. The obvious difference is that many consider getting pierced a painful experience, and so find it odd that anyone would get a bunch of consecutive piercings, just for a temporary piece. What needs to be kept in mind, though, is that not everyone finds piercing painful – for many, it is a highly pleasant experience, a spiritual and joyful release of endorphins. And, for many others, the pain is worth it. The result – a truly unique artistic display, and a brand new experience – ends up being far more memorable than the few minutes of pain involved.
Aside from the physical experience, however, there are many reasons for play-piercing. Photographers, models, and performance artists have all utilized play-piercing to create a visual effect that cannot be matched. From putting wings on a model to creating a skin-deep corset, people in the arts have embraced these mods as a new and exciting medium. From a spiritual perspective, the artform has offered a way for ancient rituals and modern beliefs to meet happily in the middle – it has long been believed that temporary pain can foster permanent enlightenment, and play-piercing, with its combination of flesh, steel, pain, and pleasure seems almost self-evident as a means to that end. And, within the body-mod industry itself, it has opened doors to new techniques, ideas, and innovations. For the considerably small amount of attention it receives, play-piercing has made a major contribution to body-modification, spiritual practices, and art itself. Perhaps it’s time we all gave it the respect it is worthy of.