Calling Duncan X iconic within the tattoo world could seem like an understatement to some, as an integral part of Alex Binnie’s Into You shop in Clerkenwell Mr X has been turning out some of the most abrasive black work tattoos since before the shops inception.His severe appearance is completely authentic to his own art work and lifestyle. The completely original trademark style of tattooing that Duncan has so perfectly translated is solidly black and overwhelmingly brutal in its imagery. Reading almost like a cliche, stories of his progressive and intense life have quite literally been imbedded into his skin.To explore more about this fascinating man director Alex Nicholson has created an absorbing short film with Duncan revealing accounts of his life. The sophisticated nature of the film has meant that through special effects the director has let Duncan’s tattoos slowly appear and crawl over his skin as the film progresses.The film was revealed on Tuesday so to celebrate this we’ve created a short interview with the director to find out more..How did you come about making this film?Well I just wanted to make a beautiful looking short for my reel initially. Shooting an interesting a subject as possible.
Who has this film been made for? Who do you want to be watching it?It wasn’t made for anyone really. Me I’d say at a push. I want everyone to watch it. I didn’t want it to be just for people who like/have/want tattoos or people who know Duncan, I wanted it to be as accessible as possible for all viewers..How involved are you as an individual in tattooing?Not at all really. I do have quite a few and will continue to get more, as long as Duncan promises to be gentler next time.
What is it about Mr X that you find so fascinating?Everything! Ha! – Its more to do with the fact that as you get to know him over time, these stories leak out. The fascinating tales of a thousand lives lived within one mans life. Its the fact that he’s highly intelligent, very eloquent, a delightful personality and looks like a Barber-surgeon from the 1900′sA great mix.Was there a particular stance that you wanted to take with the film?If I was pushed, I’d say that you should never judge a book by its cover.
How did the decision to have all of Mr X’s tattoo re-appear through editing occur?I wanted his tattoos to slowly emerge during the film. For him to start naked of tattoos and end as he is, covered. When we got into edit, myself and my editor (David Stevens @ the Assembly rooms) simply pieced together the best story that we saw in there. The animations and tattoos suddenly became secondary to the fascinating Duncan X.
A discussion chaired by Daniel Neofetou with Dan Barrow, Rebecca Bligh, Adam Christensen, Karolina Szpyrko, Jonathon Vaughan, and John Walter at SPACE Gallery in East London taking place this Sunday. This event is also free.
“I know how just a thing like the ugly design of kitchen sinks destroyed my childhood… ’cause I had to fight with my sister all the time over who had to do the dishes. It was the ugliness, the ugliness of capitalism, making it impossible for anybody to live a life that isn’t made ugly.”
- Jack Smith
If Jack Smith is discussed today, it is almost invariably in reference to his 1963 film Flaming Creatures, a queer masterpiece which some would argue still retains its power to rupture the petrified facade of bourgeois complacency. However, towards the end of his life, Smith became ambivalent towards the film. While Flaming Creatures is often championed for its ambiguity, Smith himself came to bemoan this, posing that an artwork’s meaning is constituted by its concrete effects, and that the concrete effects of Flaming Creatures had been the economic gain of others. In the face of this he turned later in his life towards didactically political performance, in an attempt to attack capitalism and espouse anarchist-socialist notions in a manner which could not be misconstrued or misappropriated.
One such performance took place at Cologne Zoo in 1974, and documentation of it is currently being exhibited at SPACE. In this roundtable, the panelists will discuss what is lost and what is gained in the shift from a non-rhetorical political art to a more discursive mode of expression and more specifically the relevance today of the ideas which Smith sought to express: Ideas denouncing a pervasive capitalism, but also towards a society without governance or landlordism, wherein things would not be designed as according to pre-given rules ascribed by authority and manufacturers, and people would freely exchange their unwanted things with others’.
This talk accompanies the exhibition at SPACE Jack Smith: Cologne, 1974 which brings together photographs by Gwenn Thomas and a film by Birgit Hein, both documenting a performance by Jack Smith.
Find out more about this exhibition and talk here which runs until the 15th of December
Walking Mural, 1972
Currently being exhibited at Nottingham Contemporary is the exciting new exhibition about Asco, a group of performance artists based in Los Angeles in the early 1970s.
Asco (1972–1987) began as a tight-knit core group of artists from East Los Angeles composed of Harry Gamboa Jr., Gronk, Willie Herrón, and Patssi Valdez. Taking their name from the forceful Spanish word for disgust and nausea, Asco used performance, public art, and multimedia to respond to social and political turbulence in Los Angeles and beyond.
They emerged from the Chicano civil rights movement of the late 60s and early 70s, which fought labour exploitation, the Vietnam draft, police brutality, and other forms of discrimination and deprivation.
Their work had a low budget look reflecting their circumstances – Gronk called it aesthetics of poverty. In the 70s, a Chicano artist was expected to paint murals – the Chicano Movement borrowed from the Mexican political mural tradition of the early 20th century. While sharing the Movement’s opposition to racial discrimination, Asco were also determined to free themselves from the straightjacket of muralism. They sometimes did this by parodying it. Examples of this include the pieces Walking Mural and Instant Mural which were outrageous street performances rather than paintings on walls.
Asco’s performances in and around East LA resembled scenes from movies that were never made – or fashion shoots, or promotional images of rock bands. They called some of these No Movies. Made in the shadow of Hollywood, yet in a community ghettoised from the wider metropolis, Harry Gamboa Jr’s photographs of Asco’s performances anticipate the staged photography of Cindy Sherman, Jeff Walls and other major figures in postmodern art working with photography. The imagery they used was linked to fantasy and fiction, Asco retained a dangerous political edge. Their actions were made without notice or permission in a public sphere fraught with political tension and police curfews. Some were made at sites where a violent incident had taken place the previous day – the site of a gang conflict or the fatal shooting of demonstrators by the Los Angeles Police Department.
This exhibition builds on Asco’s acclaimed retrospective, Elite of the Obscure, at Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Williams College Museum of Art in 2011-12, curated by Rita Gonzalez and Ondine Chavoya. It will later travel to de Appel in Amsterdam and CAPC in Bordeaux.
The exhibition will run until the 5th of January. Find out more here
Regeneración 2, no. 4, 1974 – 75, p.31, drawing by Patssi Valdez. Courtesy of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Library
A fascinating two day symposium to accompany the exhibition discussing the meaning of disgust across a range of practices, including art, literature, film and popular culture, activism, spatial practice and performance, from the twentieth century to the present day took place in November which can be watched on Youtube below. Taking part in the exhibition included Sang Bleu 6 contributor Dominic Johnson, Elizabeth Boa; Wayne Burrows; C. Ondine Chavoya; Harriet Curtis; Kirsten Forkert; Craig Fisher; Andrés David Montenegro Rosero; Marie Thompson and Myfanwyn Ryan.
A new trend is emerging within eye surgery. For $3,000 you can now have a small platinum shape measuring around 3.5mm immersed in your optic membrane permanently by an eye surgeon. The surgery only takes fifteen minutes and a choice of moons, stars or hearts can be imbedded into the eye.
A badly made film on the Fox News website has been made documenting the first procedure taking place in New York where you can watch it here. The un-modified woman interviewed described her decsion as ‘It’s going to be a conversation maker. I will be able to tell people. It will be unique. It will be sort of my unique factor.’
“It’s a very thin piece of platinum that’s designed for insertion on the top of the eye, it’s not in the eye so there’s no risk of blindness or anything at all,” the surgeon tells My Fox NY. “She could have a little bit of local bleeding. That could go away in a couple days or couple weeks. She could have an infection but we’ll prevent that with antibiotics.”
But the jewellery has not been FDA approved and the American Academy of Ophthalmology is warning consumers about the dangers.
This extreme modification seems bizarre in its final outcome as it doesn’t really resemble anything visually that strong. It’s placement almost looks awkward and its incision seems futile as there is something so aesthetically subtle but simultaneously uncomfortable about it.
Considering the modifications size and placement there is something so utterly intrusive about it, slicing open a layer of the eye is enough to make anyone queasy but especially when the outcome will look like having a vague sparkle in your eye and a shape which can only be deciphered when very close to the face. It will be interesting to see if this surgery will become more popular, the woman in the film seems to only have her ears pierced prior to the surgery so understanding her motives behind the surgery makes it seem even more strange. Apparently the surgery is becoming more popular throughout various areas of Europe and America however dedicating yourself to a surgery that does nothing to improve eyesight seems ineffective. Let’s see how this trend emerges.
It is known that Oleg Mitasov was born in 1953, lived in the city centre of Kharkov, and died in late 1999 from tuberculosis in one of the psychiatric hospitals in the same city.
According to the legend, he got cranky when he left his thesis on the tram on the way to the Higher Attestation Commission and this was the reason why he didn’t get his PhD. The numerous references to the word VAK (Cyrillic based acronym for Higher Attestation Commission) in his inscriptions prove this fact.
He became famous in the mid-80s when he covered numerous fences, buildings, porches and even his own apartment with these weird inscriptions:
DO.NOT.LOSE.FAITH.IN.PEOPLE.TO EVERYONE.TO EVERYTHING.ALIVE.AND.LIFELESS
LENIN.GAVE.AN INJECTION.IN THE HEAD.WHERE.ON THE EARTH
Some of this phrases can still be seen on some buildings in Kharkov. All pieces from his flat have now been destroyed. Now there’s just an office in the way.His work started appear on the streets and then someone saw him doing it. He was drawing everywhere, even now we can find some pieces on Kharkov’s walls. He was studying economics whole his life and was a director of a store before illness and never represented himself as an artist.He’s started obsessively drawing in the mid 80s after he’s got cranky and was doing it till the end of his life.