Thoughts on Victorian Restriction

This post began with some initial thoughts about the Panopticon; I was curious about prison architecture, but also of the architecture of 19th century insane asylums, the ways in which these commanding structures revealed the philosophies of use and treatment that dictated their form. After looking at images of straitjackets and leather laced “mitts,” my thoughts quickly turned questions of restrictive apparel, both within the Victorian asylum and outside of it. We often associate the Victorian period with repression: sexual repression, physical restriction, and a severe code of conduct. Of course, the Victorian period was also a heyday of psychological research, when lunatic women first began emerging in pop culture (like the crazy attic-bound wife in Jane Eyre).

So, this post began with a dual-question: what role did physical restraints play in “normalizing” women, and what kinds of invisible systems of control did tangible restrictive garments enact. One interesting (and somewhat obvious) example of bodily control was the Victorian corset, which, in favor of an “attractive” silhouette, warped the body’s structure and severely limited the types of movements its wearer could make.  After a brief period in the late 1700s when freer empire waists were in fashion, the Victorian era saw a return to the tightly-laced corset, stiffened with boning and extending down to a woman’s hips. Of course, corsets did not originate in the Victorian period, but due to new technologies and styles – like steel frames, the emphasis on the “hourglass” shape, tightlacing – Victorian corsets were especially restrictive. Although I cannot articulate a direct connection, I found this intersection of norms, “style,” femininity, and physical constraint especially pertinent when  viewed in light of the rise of insane asylums in Europe and America and especially in the rise in “moral healthcare.”

Both the [...]

Ten Questions: Tamara Santibañez of Saved Tattoo

Tamara Santibañez is a young, Brooklyn-based tattooer currently working at the infamous Saved Tattoo in New York. With a background in printmaking, Santibañez’s work seamlessly straddles a number of tattoo styles and often integrates imagery and objects from fringe subcultures. We caught up with Santibañez recently to discuss, among other things, her recent move to Saved,  her interest in BDSM, and her relationship to the Chicano subculture.

For those who are unfamiliar with your work, please introduce yourself, where you work, and how you began tattooing.

I was always fascinated by tattooing, though most of the tattoos I was seeing were of the very homemade/DIY variety. I began getting tattooed when I moved to New York, sometimes in bedrooms and kitchens, sometimes in shops, and after doing stick-and-pokes on friends I got some encouragement to pick up a machine and start trying to tattoo more. It started as fucking around on my punk friends, but as some tattooer friends were supportive of me along the way, I started painting flash and looking at traditional designs and trying to figure out how to replicate them. I had done some screen printing for Three Kings Tattoo in trade for getting tattooed by Alex McWatt. They happened to see a tattoo I did on a friend of mine and called me and asked if I wanted to come do some tattoos at the shop by appointment, see where things went from there. As you can imagine I practically puked from excitement and nervousness, said yes of course, and did that a couple of days a week till I finished school, when I started there full time.

As of January 2014, you’ve started working at Saved alongside an already all star cast of tattooers. Can you talk [...]

A Brief History of Artists’ Scrapbooks

In a time where  inspiration can be splashed all over the Internet before any kind of end product is produced, it’s easy to forget the meticulous hoarding of imagery and information that often precedes great works of art, these personal visual catalogues of influence often overlooked. With a barrage of great exhibitions this year from beat generation pioneer William Burroughs’ exhibition at the Photographer’s Gallery to photographic provocateur Robert Mapplethorpe’s upcoming exhibition at OHWOW Los Angeles, these journals offer a window into not only what influenced the work of some of this century’s greatest artists, work that has often endured past their own lifespans, but a wider picture of their influences; Burroughs pasting of the infamous 1966 Is God Dead? TIME magazine or the significance appropriating artist Richard Prince places on a Christian Dior advertorial. Artifacts such as these are increasingly important  to consider in the preservation and provenance of great artwork, but also opens up the question of the nature of documentation moving forward in an increasingly digital and almost disposable culture of media consumption: will documentation like this become homogenized, removing that personal hand, or will we simply exchange flipping for scrolling and look forward to exhibitions of great Tumblr blogs?

For now, bemoan the death of the handwritten thing with a selection from Andrew Roth and Alex Kitnick’s Paperwork: A Brief History of Artists’ Scrapbooks. A 300 run edition by Andrew Roth & Alex Kitnick is available on PPP Editions and the original works will be on show at the Institute of Contemporary Art London’s from April 1st.


The most exciting women in music support freedom of choice



“The most exciting women in music rely on their freedom of expression. Together the support freedom of choice. Motherhood is our birth right and the freedom to choice it must be our legal right. Don’t wait, find out now what you can do to protect your freedom of choice.”

This 1991 pro-choice public service announcement features Corina, Juliet Cuming, Kim Gordon, Lady Miss Kier, MC Lyte, Kate Pierson, Crystal Waters, and Tina Weymouth expressing their shared pro-choice position, in a PSA that was made (but never aired) in 1991.

Watch the commercial here

Sang Bleu’s Valentines day special

 To celebrate Valentines day Sang Bleu contributors have shared their favourite pieces of art about love or sex.

Jamie Jelinski: 

Dan Colen and Nate Lowman, Untitled (Xaviera Hollander), 2008

Named after infamous call girl Xaviera Hollander, author of “The Happy Hooker: My Own Story,” this collaborative work by New York-based artists Dan Colen and Nate Lowman maintains the sexual undertones that has come to characterize much of the two artists’ output. Reflecting Colen’s lipstick painting series, this work is overtly sexual, with a phallic-shaped lipstick being applied to a pair of faceless red lips. Of the text surrounding the image, one notes a fraction of a larger sentence – “…I hurriedly stripped and met him at the door.” What appears to be a reproduction of a newspaper or book – albeit on a larger scale – this work draws attention to the relationship between the sexes, how sex is produced, perceived and received in popular culture, and who can speak on behalf of women and women’s issues.

Julia Silverman:

Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus 1981.

This is a page from the Italian artist Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus, which is basically an encyclopedia of sorts, written in an indecipherable language, about a bizarre alien world and its inhabitants. This is a bit of a strange pick for Valentine’s Day… the image is completely devoid of love or eroticism, instead depicting an alien sexual procedure in which two bodies begin in a rigid sexual stance and fuse into one alligator. I suppose the image plays off the trope that sex fuses two bodies into one, and perhaps transforms them, together, into something new, but this image pushes the boundaries of love and sex’s representation far past the romantic and straight into weird.

Joseph Delaney:

The Dream of the Fisherman’s [...]

Religious sects in Imperial Russia: Khlysts and Skoptsy

 Khlysts’ religious ritual

After the Christianization of Kievan Rus’ in early 867, echoes of paganism still remained in areas of the country. It was most common in rural areas and these rituals were relatively harmless – people were carolling before Christmas and performing circle dances in spring. But some ancient practices still survived, it was occasionally manifested in a variety of “spiritual Christianity” and sects appeared.


Khlysts (Хлысты in Russian) can be considered not so much as a secret society but as a sect that arose in Russia at the turn of 17-18 centuries among obrok peasants. Mystical ideas about the possibility of the “holy spirit” to take control and elect people (who were revered as “Khristy”) was the sect’s core doctrine. Proceeding from this, the representatives of the cult were also called “Khristovovery” (Христововеры in Russian that means “Christ-believers”). And the name “Khlysts” in one of the versions came from the religious ceremony, during which the sectarians were beating themselves, whipping their bodies with harnesses, sticks, and other similar items.


In the ideology of Khlysts there was a hypothesis that the body is the beginning of evil, but the soul is inherently good. So the idea of the flesh mortification, i.e. mortification of evil thoughts and desires, was treated literally.


All the stories about Khlystyism begin with legends about runaway soldier Danil Filippovich. Any details of his life still remain unknown. It is believed that he was a peasant of Yuriev Uyezd, fled from military service and settled in the district of Murom Uyezd of Vladimir Gubernya. According to the legend, on the Mount Gorodin, the Lord of Hosts himself descended from heaven and took his body. After that he settled in Kostroma, and began to preach the new doctrine. Danil Filippovich denied the necessity [...]

An interview with the iconic ex pro-skateboarder and writer Scott Hobbs Bourne

Scott Hobbs Bourne is the ex-pro skateboarder who after leaving his native San Francisco has moved to the eternally romantic Paris to pursue a new career as a writer.   Bourne was one of the most celebrated personalities in the hard-edged San Francisco skate scene of the 90s and has now lived in Paris for almost a decade. Sang Bleu have interviewed Scott to find out more about his life since he became a writer and what drew him to this new lifestyle. His first publication  A Room With No Windows played the part of a semi autobiographical account of his life as a skateboarder in San Francisco and the romantic endeavours that became intertwined with life.

Portraits of Scott have been specially created by CG Watkins for Sang Bleu .

Sang Bleu: The period in which you wrote about your life in A Room With No Windows was during a time when you were also an iconic pro-skateboarder, however there is nothing about this part of your life the novel. Why did you decide to neglect describing this considering that skating was such an significant part of your life? 

Scott Hobbs Bourne: Skateboarding is a language entirely of its own. You either speak it or you don’t and only those on the inside know it. So I did not want to limit my readers by speaking it, but the point is that if you are a skateboarder I think that part of me is fairly recognizable in the writing. Not to mention the cover art is done by one of the most recognizable and influential designers/artists to ever come out of skateboarding. So there are obvious connections. On top of all this, my life in skateboarding at the time was pretty public. I mean you could see [...]