Fingerprint Tells

Since the age of 13, facing peer pressure at school, I developed the self-soothing (yet physically painful) habit of compulsive peeling off the skin around the fingers without realizing it. Different from a baby who sucks his fingers for comfort, I was obsessed with the pain and bleeding along with the pleasures of decompression brought by this behavior. Medically defined as Dermatophagia, the self-abusive compulsion is mostly caused by heavy mental pressure and severe anxieties. Until today, I still have difficulties quitting this awkward compulsion under various pressurized occasions such as writing a deadline or before giving a public speech. 

Last spring, I came across a book called Douleur Exquise by Sophie Calle by chance when I was visiting a friend. This literary diary presented with photographs embodied a self-healing quality and equipped me with the courage to cope with my anxiety. Since then, I have been documenting every bit of change of my emotion in a fairly ritualized manner by fingerprinting, just like what forensic doctors do in their procedures. 

There is no doubt that 2020 was a year marked by the explosion of mass anxiety. The peaceful lives of many were interrupted and private life was brought into discussions in the public sphere. Truths were dismantled by the mass media. Anxiety spreads like a “poor image”. The anxieties of the public were synchronized with the anxieties of individuals. In this context, the fingerprint diary of mine that had always served as my coping mechanism for the shame brought by my dermatophagia has also become proof of the shared anxieties that existed in society at the moment.


Latent Fingerprint Lifting Pads | Mixed media

5×6 cm

Using Format