Closing t o m o r r o w!
Skopia Art contemporain
Involving 18+, Adrian Wilson, Aimée Mullins, Alix Lambert, Aza Shade, Char Alfonzo, Cottweiler, Darri Lorenzen, Dan Hoy, Daniel Feinberg, Dominic Johnson, Douglas Gordon, Duane Pitre, Florence Tétier, France Fiction, François Bouret, Harry Griffin, Henda Giarratano, Ilja Karilampi, Jason Farrer, Julia Kasprzak, Lukas Goretta, Marylin V.B., Marti Domination, Mike Fleisch, Odile Bernard Schroder, Peggy Nelson, Ron Athey, Rodrigo Morales-Pomarat, Ryan Whittier Hale, Stefan Ruitenbeek, Telfar Clemens, Tyson Parks & Zana Bayne.
Pleading in the Blood: Life and Art of Ron Athey, WILL COME OUT IN JANUARY 2013. It is edited by Dominic Johnson, through Live Art Development Agency and MIT Press. We very much look forwards.
Ron photographed by Regis Hertrich
Architectural Theories of the environment: Posthuman Territory is the brand new book edited by Sang Bleu friend and future collaborator Ariane Louise Harrison. Through a collection of essays about architects, theorists, and sustainable designers the book provides a framework for a posthuman understanding of the design environment. Harrison explains and shows examples of how as designers and architects, we struggle to reconcile our ever increasing environmental, humanitarian, and technological demands placed on our projects.
Nine fully illustrated case studies of buildings from around the globe demonstrate how issues raised in posthuman theory provide rich terrain for contemporary architecture, making theory concrete. By assembling a range of voices across different fields, from urban geography to critical theory to design practitioners, this anthology offers a resource for design professionals, educators, and students seeking to grapple the ecological mandate of our current period.
Case studies include work by Arakawa and Gins, Arons en Gelauff, Casagrande, The Living, Minifie van Schaik, R & Sie (n), SCAPE, Studio Gang, and xDesign.
Essayists include Gilles Clément, Matthew Gandy, Francesco Gonzáles de Canales, Elizabeth Grosz, Simon Guy, Seth Harrison, N. Katherine Hayles, Ursula Heise, Catherine Ingraham, Bruno Latour, William J. Mitchell, Matteo Pasquinelli, Erik Swyngedouw, Sarah Whatmore, Jennifer Wolch, Cary Wolfe, and Albena Yaneva
Read this interview from noisey.vice.com with Todd Pendu here!
Interview by Vincent Brunetto, Photos by Fianny Martinez
In late October, the tattooist Alex Binnie will create the second of two tattoos upon the skin of my hands, in a live performance called Departure (An Experiment in Human Salvage). We’ll be accompanied by three guest artists, whose performances will complement – and perhaps complicate – the attempt to shed new light on the status of tattooing as a practice on the contested border between fine art, folk art, or craft.
How can the procedures of tattooing – the painful depositing of layers of inks below the surface of the skin – be reframed as performance? How can a tattoo be seen as a work of art? The use of tattooing in performance relates to a broader use of body modification techniques in visual art – usually painful acts such as piercing and scarification – most notably in the work of London-based artists Ron Athey, Franko B, or Kira O’Reilly.
While such work is sometimes misread as a symptom of the artist’s masochism, the pain involved is somewhat incidental to the production of a lasting image: as a spectacle that has a lasting effect on its audiences, but also in the sense of a permanent trace on the skin of the artist. Tattooing takes its place alongside other similar techniques for puncturing, cutting, or otherwise marking the skin towards the production of strong imagery in art and performance.
Commercial tattooing has undergone a boom in popularity over recent years, with the number of tattoo studios in Great Britain reportedly doubling in the last three years. This may suggest an increase in the acceptability and visibility of tattooing, partly due to the distancing of custom tattooing from their somewhat archaic association with sailors, soldiers, criminals, hookers, and other supposed ne’er-do-wells, and also partly thanks to the growing prevalence of tattoos on the bodies of celebrities.
However, the use of tattooing in or as performance is less familiar, but draws on an older, rich tradition of exhibition and display of tattooed persons in European culture. These include: the little-known figure of Jean Baptiste Cabris, a French sailor who exhibited his heavily tattooed body around Europe at the turn of the eighteenth century, after being tattooed in the Marquesas. Or ‘the Great White Chief’ John Rutherford, an Englishman who was exhibited as a ‘living specimen’ in aristocratic circles in the 1820s and 1830s, after supposedly being captured and forcibly tattooed in New Zealand. These histories of exhibition and display inspired me to develop a performance that put the experience of tattooing centre-stage, as it were, by privileging the live action of permanent mark-making, and the piece was first shown at Fierce Festival in Birmingham in March 2011.
The framing of tattooing as the defining technique of an art practice has more immediate precedents, and constitutes a small subcultural history of visual culture. Indeed, the art historian Matt Lodder recently discussed some art works involving tattooing, reading them in terms of the ways they articulate the theme of affiliation and social bonds in interesting ways. He mentions an infamous performance by Santiago Sierra – 160cm Line Tattooed on Four People (2000) – in which the artist commissioned a tattooist to draw a permanent line across the backs of four participants. Sierra’s piece provokes serious and unresolvable ethical questions, and indeed this may be the key achievement of his practice (Claire Bishop argues as much in her recent book on participatory art, Artificial Hells). Other artists have appropriated tattooing in performance towards more ethically agreeable ends, in powerful and visually striking works.
Over a series of performance-installations, Sandra Ann Vita Minchin has commissioned a tattooist to recreate a painting by the seventeenth-century Dutch artist Jan Van Davidz de Heem. The resulting image – which took 120 hours to create – is a massive permanent image of the painting across her back. The theme of permanence is key to the work. The work’s title, Ars Longa, Vita Brevis (‘Art is Long, Life is Short’), reminds us of the odd status of the tattoo as a living artwork, whose permanence conflicts with the ephemerality of performance.
The images created in tattooing may well seem disconcertingly permanent – which provokes anxiety and hand-wringing among commentators – although its volatile permanence is generally limited to the life of the wearer, which is often shorter than that of conventional drawings and paintings (a problem Minchin has overcome by arranging for her skin to be preserved after her death). If the prospect of archiving skin seems macabre, it’s worth acknowledging that similar preserved tattooed canvases are available for viewing at medical museums, such as St Bartholomews Pathology Museum at Queen Mary, University of London, and the Wellcome Collection.
In another striking series of performances, Mary Coble has had her whole body tattooed –without ink – using tattooing as the basis for a provocative feat of physical endurance. In Note to Self (2005), Coble collected information about homophobic attacks, and had the name of the victim and the location of her or his assault tattooed in a monstrous list across the back of her body, from her neck down to her legs. Coble intimates the physical hardship of a minority under continual attack, and she uses the controlled violence of tattooing to memorialise the suffering of others.
In the second performance, Blood Script (2008), tattooing acts a metaphor for psychic endurance. She amassed an archive of words used in verbal assaults, and had them tattooed, verbatim, on the front of her body, in a large and bold gothic script. Tattooing without ink produces a crisp bloody line, and the marks fade with time to leave subtle scarring. However, as with all scars, Coble’s flare up in coming months and years, reddening under heat or cold (she tells me that the word ‘Bitch’ often emerges in a hot shower). I see this as a perfect metaphor for the experience of verbal assault, where the insult might leave a meagre (metaphorical) wound, but its aftereffects return to haunt the victim when one might least expect it to.
In these and other examples, tattooing suggests a novel means of expanding the repertoire of artistic tools of the trade. These developments will make some audiences feel squeamish. Such discomfort should not suggest that artists are out to shock, or out to impress. Rather, the concomitant emotional or physiological reflexes – the flinch, the shiver, the grimace – are some of the potential feelings that might usefully take their place among an expanded range of sympathetic responses to the use of new techniques in art and performance.
Don’t forget!‘SACRED‘ at Chelsea Theatre starts on 19 October 2012, Dominic Johnson’s ‘Departure (An Experiment In Human Salvage)’ is on Thursday 25 October 2012. For more information visit www.chelseatheatre.org.uk
According to an article in the Guardian this weekend there is currently a mini-phenomenon happening within the demand for female tattooers. This apparently can be seen within the popularity of Saira Hunjan’s poetic and intricate tattoos, Angelique Houtkamp’s desirability, the want for Sarah Schor’s characterful faces and how Valerie Vargas and her prospective clients are not able to book appointments anywhere in the near future as she is so booked up.
The Guardian have described this success as being down to some kind of female equality within the tattoo business. Maybe this is true although this can imply that that equality didn’t exist in the first place. It is important to point out that tattooing is clearly living in a time of mass popularity and commercialization like has never been seen before. Is it obvious that female tattooers would see this rise in demand at a time like this? Or is it not relevant at all? There are more male tattooers than female but the gap isn’t shocking. Stating that women prefer to be tattooed by women seems like an apparent expression, but there is no doubt that these women tattooers customer bases are just as much split between male and female clientele. Unfortunately the article names Kat Von D as a reason behind this possible surge in demand, which not only seems like a lazy comparison but not a very apt one either.
The article tries to explore why these women are so popular, which in its own right seems contradictory. Maybe these female tattooers are doing as well as they are because they really are very good, which has nothing to do with the fact that they are women. Just as many male tattooers have endless waiting lists and collaborations expanding outside the tattoo world as do the artists named in the article. Does this piece of writing pander to the boring stereotypes of tattoos being un-womanly? Would the readers of the Guardian be shocked in reading that women tattoo? As tattooing for most of its time in the Western world has occurred outside of the mainstream, do the same gender values exist? Now that tattooing has arrived on the peripheries of the norm are these questions that now need to be answered? Maybe there is an argument that some these tattooers work is more feminine, but there are many male artists out there whose work is inextricably masculine.
Pop star Rihanna and actress Angelina Jolie have been used as examples of famous women with tattoos. These women have set fashions within tattooing. Young women in small towns and cities alike appear to be getting small script imbedded along their collar bones, stars behind their ears and badly designed pieces of tribal in between their thumbs and forefingers. Why these examples of these vaguely tattooed women have been used in this piece of writing seems utterly irrelevant to the main focus, this is supposed to be about the craftsmanship and talent of these female tattooers. Talking about famous women with tattoos achieves nothing, maybe it makes the reader think about how gorgeous these women are and how their trivial tattoos don’t interfere with this beauty. Which is ultimately downgrading in itself to these female tattooers talents, having to refer to something like that seems to defeat any point which was originally supposed to have been made.
The aim of this article may have not been to expose these ideas but it certainly brings them up. The Second Women’s Tattoo Convention happened yesterday in Leamington Spa which showcased 50 different artists work. The article ends by saying that if these artists are so good they don’t need any special treatment, which is true. This brings out the idea that it could actually be some of the female clientele who exploit these feminine qualities of the artist and their work. But is that the women getting tattooed by another woman’s fault or society’s recognition of it? Is a women having a tattoo still a painfully uncomfortable concept in our society, or is it that a woman can be successful in what seems to the outsider not only a mans game but one of no artistic merit. These women are not only transforming their own bodies but those of other women too, which is somehow still clearly considered shocking.
The aim of this article was clearly to talk about how many wonderfully talented female tattooers are about, but sadly it only points out stereotypes about peoples perceptions of beauty and tattooing.
If you really want to have good time, please have a look at the comments underneath the feature.
You can read it here
Image: woodcut by Alex Binnie of tattooer Saira Hunjan