Things Get Better
937 N. La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90069
May 23 – June 22 2013
“The openness of everything can be paralyzing, and it is human nature to look for walls and barriers to push against. Walls help us to know where we are, and what we have; once recognized, we can then begin our work of flourishing and creating within them.” - Campbell
Scott Campbell’s latest exhibition opens today in LA where he has explored the novel objects that are created together to make tattoo machines in Mexican prisons. Illustrating this idea through painting these machines with ink on paper, the famed tattooer and owner of Saved humorous title ‘Things get Better’ alludes to the unexpected nature of collaborating inanimaite objects into another more optimistic focus.
See more of Campbell’s work here
Really. no need for an introduction.
The photographic work of a dermatologist in Lyons in the Thirties presented by Gerard Levy and Serge Bramly. Published by Kehayoff in 1999.
Well worth a look at.
(re-blogging this three years later from its original post because it is just so beautiful!)
Gemma Angel is a PHD Student at UCL and the Science museum where she is exploring the skin archives of the Wellcome museum. This interview is about a year old and taken from the Huffington Post but it is well worth a read if you have not seen it yet.
What are people’s reactions when you tell them what you do?
Most of the time people think it’s really interesting, they don’t expect this kind of thing to even be out there. There was one occasion when I was talking to a barman in Manchester about what I did, and he just said, “no, that doesn’t exist”, he refused to believe it. Some people think it’s quite creepy, or strange, but I’ve got so used to handling these things and working with them now that it doesn’t seem that strange to me any more. But I am aware that human remains in museums are a contentious issue. It’s something that really splits opinion.
What was it like the first time you encountered the skins?
They fascinated me from the word go, but the smell of them took some getting used to! Because I trained as a tattooist, I was immediately drawn to the tattoos and I had a specific tattooist’s eye for looking at them. The longer you look at them, the more you get drawn in. It has a strange effect on you – you start to think more about what they really are. You turn them over in your hands and you realise that they’re pieces of somebody else’s skin. Then you start to really look closely at the skin and think about all the associations you have with tactility and touch, and whether you can categorise them as objects at all. Because they have this power of subjectivity, still. A tattoo is a mark of somebody else’s will inscribed on their body, which in this case has outlived the individual, and it’s very, very strange to look at them and think about that.
Do you have a favourite?
The chest piece. It’s more or less the entire torso, from just beneath the collar bones to just above the pubis, and he was clearly a very tall guy, easily six foot. The preservation itself is very well done, the design hasn’t been salvaged in it entirety, but the major parts of it are intact, it’s been preserved with care. The tattoo itself is very skilled, you still have all of this black and grey shading visible around the female figure on the right side, you can still see bits of the red pigment in the dagger and the roses. It’s just a really nice detailed work – it looks like it was done with hand needles, not a machine. It was definitely done by a professional. Of all the Wellcome Collection tattoos I could have come across in a photograph, this would be the easiest to recognise, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better result in that respect.
Because you’ve found a photograph of the tattooed man, haven’t you?
When I turned the page over in the book and I first saw this image I was so overwhelmed, I almost dropped the book. I came across this photograph after I’d been working with the skins for two years. So I had known this tattoo really well, I had handled the skin, they feel as familiar to me as the back of my own hand. So to then see the tattoo, in its entirety, alive, it was almost like seeing the face of a friend who you hadn’t seen for years in a crowd. I just wish his face was visible, I’d like to know who he was. The most frustrating thing about the photograph is that he’s headless.
Do you know why the specimens were collected?
This is the core mystery really. I think certainly there was a lot of interest in the tattoo in medico-legal circles during the late 19th century. There was a lot of debate about what tattoos meant, why people would get them. Amongst European populations, it was considered deviant by many scholars. Criminologists sought to connect it to criminality. But it’s not criminologists’ names that I’m coming up with, it’s anatomists and pathologists. It’s strange – these people had the opportunities to collect them, but their motivations are more obscure. There are probably a lot of different motivations, but it was part of a wider interest in the surface of the body, and what you could read from the surface about the person within. Trying to get to grips with the soul, the psychological workings of the other.
Do you think that attributes to the mystery the collection?
Absolutely. I think these collectors knew they were doing something that was a bit dodgy. I’ve come across references to one or two scandals which came about as a result of particular doctors harvesting and preserving tattoos – you might keep a pathological specimen from a human body for a teaching aid for medical students, but can you really justify keeping a tattoo? It seems there’s some aspect fetishisation involved, of the tattooed image, and the skin itself. It’s complicated, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the bottom of it, but I’ve got some time yet.
To see more of the photos from the original post look here.
Tragic Tattoo Tales: A Valentine’s Day Lecture and Reading with Tattoo Scholars Anna Felicity Friedman and Matt Lodder
Exciting talk this Thursday in Brooklyn!
Love, loss… and disfigurement, murder, and flayed skin (with a bit of cannibalism and sadism thrown in for good measure). What better way to spend your Valentine’s Day evening than to join us for a glass of red wine, a bite of delicious chocolate, and a lecture on the history of tattooing combined with a reading of a series of historical tattoo-centered short stories by authors such as Roald Dahl (1958), Saki (1911), Junichiro Tanazaki (1910) and John Rickman (1781)?
On Thursday please join us for an evening with tattoo scholars Anna Felicity Friedman and Matt Lodder (both heavily tattooed themselves) who will lecture about and read tales that interweave tattoo history with romance and the macabre. Through illustrated slide lectures, Drs. Friedman and Lodder will present comparative historical material to provide context and deeper understanding and to separate fact from fiction. Learn about wide ranging tattoo topics in both Western and non-Western cultures and have questions answered that the stories raise. Did people really preserve tattooed skin? What were people reading about tattoos in the early twentieth century? Were Maori really tattooed head to foot? What were the connections between Ukiyo-e and Japanese tattooing in the Edo period?
And the stories… Come hear the account of a young Maori woman and an English sailor who had himself completely tattooed to gain her favor, only to be forcibly returned to his ship (in John Rickman’s 1781 travel narrative from Captain James Cook’s third voyage). Cringe at the tale of a businessman tattooed in Italy with an elaborate scene, but who was prohibited from ever showing it to anyone, swimming, or leaving the country (in Saki’s 1911 “The Background”). Shudder at the story of a Japanese woman lured into a tattooer’s studio, drugged, and forcibly tattooed (in Junichiro Tanazaki’s 1910 “Shisei (The Tattooer)”). Enjoy the fantasy of a young and not-yet famous Chaim Soutine who, during a bacchanalian evening, rendered a dorsal portrait of a tattoo artist’s wife that later mysteriously turns up as a “canvas” in an art gallery (in Roald Dahl’s 1952 “Skin”). Additional images related to the stories will be screened during the readings.
Chocolate and red wine will make things festive.
Anna Felicity Friedman has been researching the history of tattooing for over 20 years. Her recently completed PhD, from the University of Chicago, focuses on tattooed transculturites—Europeans and Americans who acquired non-Western tattoos as part of a process of cultural identity transformation. Her photoblog, Tattoo History Daily, offers glimpses into myriad aspects of tattoo history. An interdisciplinary scholar, she has taught, written, and lectured about body art, maps, rare books, and other sundry topics, works as a freelance curator, and currently teaches hybrid literature/film/art courses at the University of Chicago.
Matt Lodder is a London-based art historian. His work is primarily concerned with the history of Western tattooing and the artistic status of body art and body modification practices including tattooing, body piercing and cosmetic surgery. He writes regularly for Total Tattoo magazine, gives public lectures on tattoo history and related topics, works as a freelance writer and broadcaster for both radio and television, and teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in contemporary art and theory at the University of Reading and the University of Birmingham. He is currently writing a book called ‘Tattoo: An Art History’ for IB Tauris, due for publication in 2014.
Thursday, February 14
Presented by Morbid Anatomy
543 Union Street #1E
Brooklyn, New York 11215
Leicester Square, May 1982
Tuinol Barry, Chelsea 1982
Skinhead, Leicester Square 1980
To see more of the exceptional photographs of Derek Ridger’s documentation of British youth culture have a look here.
The Zebra Man is a short film made by Channel Four in 1992 depicting the life of Horace Ridler transforming himself in to The Great Omi. George Burchett the iconic tattooer is portrayed and ‘asks for written permission from his solicitor’ before he begins to tattoo Ridler. A young Minnie Driver plays his prospective lover who as much as she tries she can never get too intimate with him in case she reveals his secretive growing body suit underneath his clothes. The acting verges on the hilarious but considering how the film could have been made far more scandalously there are a lot of historic accuracies down to the details of the tattoo machines and Burchett’s studio. The strangeness of Ridler’s decision to cover his entire body in stripes considering his aristocratic and military background at the time was something that could have been investigated in much more detail. However the accuracy of his own life has been debated to the point of becoming one large, fascinating ostentatious myth.
And thanks to Caleb for finding this!