Yann Brenyak is a body modification artist, he pierces peoples skin, brands it, removes skin for the sake of scarification, splits peoples tongues and inlays implants and micro dermal piercings under the surface of the skin. Recently he has been perfecting the craft of graphic skin removal, which involves carving off thin slices of skin over the top of flesh blacked out by tattooing to create the effect of an image of a silhouetted face. Originating from Lausanne in Switzerland he has lived in London for the last two years but trained at Tribehole in Geneva originally working as a body piercer but gradually he has learnt more ways to manipulate the skin. Meeting Yann in a cafe in Hackney Wick last week where he lives and works with his girlfriend the tattooer Delphine Noiztoy we spoke about his identity, training and love for body modification.
Yann’s appearance is certainly unforgettable, his devotion to altering his body has spread all over the surface of his body. The angles of his face have been highlighted by tattooing and scarification layering on top of one another, his eyebrows have been exaggerated and geometrically aligned spaces on his face have been inlayed with piercings. What Yann does for a living is as brutal as his appearance, however for someone whose identity has had so much painstaking dedication played into it there is nothing fashionable about him. There is an air of absolute dedication to his whole life, in how he looks and his craft.
Our conversation starts by asking Yann why he never learnt to tattoo and prefers to modify the body, ‘I’m not the most sociable person, I sometimes felt that the tattooers job is similar to that of a hairdresser. You have to know all about the customer and build this relationship. But with body modification you’re usually using something like a scalpel; that intensity means that the customer doesn’t feel like talking too much, I also was never that interested in learning how to tattoo because I never drew when I was young but I liked the immediacy of piercing and the impact that it could make so quickly.’
Yann went on to explain the various types of modification that he performs; he does perform branding on the skin and that it looks very beautiful but prefers not to because the smell of burning flesh is so overwhelming. His favourite modification to create is tongue splitting which he likes because it can be hidden and its results are so satisfying; ‘My own mother doesn’t even know that I have my tongue split!’ However he did elaborate on the similarities that exist between the two practices ‘you have to have an understanding of the skin, especially with skin removal between understanding the difference between the epidermal and dermal layers’.
Besides from an understanding of the fragility and strengths of different parts of the skin what really stands out is the fact that unlike a tattooer Yann is directly working with the upheaval of flesh, cutting, slicing and splitting living skin to reveal the under layer of bloodied matter in the aim to create something visually incomparable. A tattooer of course deals with blood but in a far less excessive way. Looking at Yann’s work its difficult to detach a reaction from thinking about anything other than the process of pain in most of these procedures rather than the skill and healed outcome because so much blood is involved in his exercise. On top of that the healing process is far more prolonged than that of tattooing ‘it can take weeks or even months until the final result can be clearly seem with scarification.’
We talk about the popularity of body modification, we can all see how tattooing has escalated so dramatically over the last few years, but has the modification scene changed at all? ‘No, there always seems to be the same steady amount of people who aren’t effected by this fashion part of it. No one kind of modification is that much more popular than the next. I’m usually mostly in demand for stitching peoples lobes up. Ear stretching was really popular a few years ago but people don’t really want them anymore, a lot of people go to the doctors to have their ears sewn up but they don’t always do such a good job. That’s why they come to me’.
The practice of sewing up ear lobes certainly seems like a removal of a fashion which was once so prominent, a body modification which is permanent being reversed for the sake of fashions going out of date seems so utterly futile. There’s something strangely outdated about seeing men is their late twenties wearing suits or Americana inspired vintage with shrivelled earlobes that look so out of place and uncomfortable in the new context of many peoples lives. This comes down to the evolution of how sub-culturally inspired fashions gravitate, there’s a desire to look dedicated to your fashion, but body modifications are harder to justify as fashionable and this kind of notion of removing modifications couldn’t seem further away when speaking to the ultra committed Yann. Like how the Modern Primitive movement in the 1990s started there is something about the body modification scene which appears almost timeless since its inception, from the way in which people interested in the BM scene dress to the imagery that they inlay on their bodies feels likes this tight knit group of people all read from the same rigorous rule book. It’s a lifestyle that hasn’t changed for anyone, it feels no need to impress anything or develop for anyone else.
Expanding on the status of change in the Body Modification scene we speak more about who Yann’s customers are, ‘I’ve started to travel more because working on guest spots works better as a body modifier, having scarification is the kind of thing that you really need to organise, its not like tattooing where you can get lots of little ones and just walk into a shop. A lot of planning needs to go into it, that’s why if a modifier does a guest spot, someone knows that you’re coming and has time to plan what they want. It’s a huge commitment. I’m going to San Francisco next week and often go to France and back to Switzerland. It’s also not like tattooing in the sense that there are thousands of tattooer’s catering for every different need, there are so few modifiers in comparison to tattooers. So the client is so much more specialised’
How has the Internet affected the body modification scene? Are there any similarities between how people perceive modification like they are tattooing? ‘I use all the different social media outlets because it really is the best way to spread your work around, it also helps you find out all the people in the Modification scene who can be harder to find. It’s definitely a way to bring together like minded people but I don’t think that modification is becoming more popular, it always seems to go at a steady pace however there are people interested and practicing modi faction all over the world.’
There is such a direct strength to tattooing which varies from what Yann does, the tattoo has endless ways of being translated on to the body. Modification can’t always be as direct or intricate as tattooing in its message, but Yann has created something of his own with Delphine which almost meets in the middle of the two crafts. The graphic portraits created through skin removal on blacked out tattooed skin some how harmonize the space of fully covered skin with an intricacy of thin slices of skin removed to give the effect of a silhouetted face.
‘It started to be an obsession as everybody said it was impossible to do and as Ilive with my girlfriend who got told dot work portraits where impossible to do – she proved it was do-able, I learned from her that nothing is impossible. And so followed my obsession to prove that thing in my head could be achieved. Thus the obsession of overcoming difficulties and crossing the boundaries, showing that there are no limits.’
‘I initially started it on myself on some tattoos that I’d covered on my thigh and I’ve also tried the same technique on non tattooed skin but it just didn’t work in the same way. Its becoming more popular but its about finding people who have areas of skin covered up in the first place to be able to create this technique.’ It seems like this particular method only involves the heavily indebted individual, it’s a procedure that can only be developed onto someone with years if not decades worth of modification on the body.
While speaking to Yann this notion of dedication and un-fashionabilty was so prominent. His perseverance to his art and own identity is completely incomparable to many people who are dedicated to their careers, it seems to seep from his every pore and imagining him existing in another world seems impossible. Where notions of ear stretching or parts of tattooing may exist as an adolescent stage to many peoples lives Yann exists as one of those rare people who honestly doesn’t care about what others perceive of him. Whether that is people in the industry or the society that he lives in, there are few people who now live so far away from others expectations like in the way in which Yann does. It’s almost like Yann’s identity and his work could never live separately, they complete one other.’
Yann will start working at the Sang Bleu London shop in the coming months where you can book an appointment with him here.
All photographs were taken by Jean-Francois Le Minh, Interview by Reba Maybury
Many are familiar with Hans Bellmer‘s haunting and iconic photographs of his dolls, especially the dramatic (and arguably misogynistic) stagings of the doll’s ball-jointed second iteration. Less familiar are Bellmer’s collaborations with his partner Unica Zürn, a German artist and writer who became involved with the Surrealist milieu in the 1950s. Bellmer had already been contemplating the contorted female figure by the time he met Zürn in 1953, but after the two became partners, Zürn became his model, allowing him to photograph the “mutilation” of her body through bondage into “altered landscapes of flesh,” or perhaps l’informe. I can’t find words to describe it, but there is something so compelling and creepy about the way his photographs of Zürn completely de-humanize her form while those of the dismembered doll’s corpus elicit almost an emotional reading, whether through empathy or fear.
Unica Zürn too produced an incredible body of work over the course of her life. After a stint with psychedelics, Zürn’s mental health began declining in the 1960s, and she began a long period of intermittent visits to clinical facilities, ultimately jumping to her death in 1970. She had experimented with the Surrealist practice of automatic drawing up to that point, creating figures with undulating, layered lines and crisp, flat patterning, but there seems, to me, to be a palpable change in her forms following the commencement of her breakdown. Some of her lines seem to thicken, while others trail into white space. Smooth curves become jagged; the marks on the page become reminiscent of nightmares and compulsions. The proliferation of bizarre, intricate, and hypnotizing drawings she produced during her years of mental instability seem to offer a glimpse into her psyche, serving as an ironic reminder of the ways her emotional collapse paralleled her success in unconscious expression.
[I only came across Zürn's life and work recently, and I don't think this post even begins to scratch the surface of the complexity of her work or her relationship with Hans Bellmer, whose work I am very fond of as well. For more information, definitely check out Ubu Gallery's 2012 show "Bound," from which I used images, as well as The Brooklyn Rail's review of the show. Both are absolutely fascinating.]
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Cory Arcangel’s recent solo show at Montreal’s DHC/ART Foundation presents a wide array of the computer-based work that has come to characterize Arcangel’s artistic output. With an underlying humor, Aracangel’s exhibition “embraces the Internet’s anarchic potential and its Utopian open source culture” while simultaneously “question[ing] authorship, the status, and value of the art object” (quotation via DHC/ART).
Instead of offering a traditional exhibition review (as has already been done quite poignantly by Sophie Lynch at Canadian Art), we have chosen our favorite works from the exhibition and posted them below. Alongside the works you will find, taken from his website, what Arcangel calls a “Post Script.” These “Post Script[s]” offer contextual and anecdotal information from the artist himself, and in doing so, simultaneously allows viewers to become aware of both Arcangel’s physical and ideological processes.
“This was a video I made where, as the elevator pitch suggests, I played the movie Colors one horizontal line of colors at a time. A few years later, I released a personal edition of the software I used, called Colors Personal Edition. So, get ripping!”
I Shot Andy Warhol, 2002
“This is a Hogan’s Alley mod, where the gangsters have been replaced by Warhol, and the “innocents” have been replaced by the Pope, Flavor Flav (pre MTV show!!!!), and Col Sanders (note: Col Sanders was actually real person). So enjoy!, and please check below for the ROM which you can download, and in order 2 play this at home. pps – there is no source code to this project, because it is a “rom hack” aka all the modifications r done directly in the binary of the compiled ROM. Both the graphics and the program are modified for this project. The graphics are changed to add the new characters (duh!), and the program is changed to switch the mirroring of the sprites which compose the characters faces. For example Flavor Flav’s face is not symmetrical where as Col sanders’ face is.”
Super Mario Clouds, 2002
“Super Mario Clouds is an old Mario Brothers cartridge which I modified to erase everything but the clouds. Check below for the ROM, a link to the source code, a gif, and instructions on how 2 make it yourself. So, first the gif,……when I originally posted this on the Internet in 02, the web wasn’t actually able to contain video (it sounds funny now, but remember youtube didn’t start making waves till like 05ish??), therefore I made a gif of the video. Of the gazillion bootlegs of this project, most are from this gif. Enjoy!…”
Drei Klavierstücke op. 11 (part 1), 2011
“Drei Klavierstuke is a recreation of Arnold Schoenberg’s 1909 op. 11 Drei Klavierstücke (aka Three Piano Pieces) made by editing together videos of cats playing pianos downloaded from Youtube. Schoenberg’s Op11 is often considered the first piece of “atonal” music, or music to completely break from traditional western harmony which means it’s not written in a “key”. Below you will find the three videos (one for each piano piece), a technical description & the score.
This project fuses a few different things I have been interested in lately, mainly “cats”, copy & paste net junk, and youtube’s tendency in the past few years to host videos that are as good and many times similar to my favorite video artworks. I think all this is somehow related…”
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Sunday the 27th of October would have been the 73rd birthday of Julius Eastman the ‘forgotten’ minimalist composer. In the midst of Lou Reed’s passing its occurred to me that I often find it just as sad (if not sadder) when artists die before receiving the appraisal that they deserve and Eastman to me certainly fits into that category.
Living and working in New York Eastman is thought of as one of the first composers to attach notions of popular music with classical composition. Presenting his music at the likes of Arthur Russell’s iconic performance space The Kitchen in the 70s he titled his extensive pieces names such as ‘Gay Guerrilla‘ and ‘Evil Nigger‘ sprouting political agenda into the conservatism of the classical world. Known on the circuit in New York he often played with the likes of John Cage and Meredith Monk but never did his own individual work escalate to a higher level. Much like how Arthur Russell’s music has been ‘rediscovered’ over the last decade so has Eastman’s but his decision to never venture too far into the diversity of disco seven inches and acoustic love songs like how Russell did has made it harder to trace his music.
Existing in the classical structure meant that having your compositions performed was a strenuously long process therefore its quite incredible that Eastman’s work still exists today. Even more so in context to the end of his life; contemporaries of Eastman have confirmed that circumstances largely out of his control contributed to his obscurity especially the tragedy of his own unexplained death. The last ten years of his own life spiralled out of control and ended with him living in Thompson Park Square losing most of his possessions (and his music) and finally dying alone at the age of 49 in 1990 in Millard Fillmore Hospital in Buffalo of cardiac arrest. What does exist of his music is completely sublime, however the question over why his work is not as well known rises over his own identity as a homosexual African American, a tough place for any young man to be at the time but especially so in the stifling world of classical music. It is so sad that there was no one to nurture Eastman in the way that he deserved; no one to archive his talent so it could be more in the open now and that he has remained so anonymous and unappreciated for so long.
Last nights saw the latest in the V&A’s Fashion in Motion series, presenting a combination of new and archive pieces from groundbreaking Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto in the context of the museum space. The show saw unmatched levels of theatrics, set in the Victoria & Albert museum’s Raphael Cartoons hall where guests were welcomed by kimono clad attendants and al black troop, skulking beneath eye level to puppeteer the theatrical elements of the show – acting kuroko, the kabuki theatre’s traditional stagehands.
Yamamoto, known for bringing Japanese design to London fashion for the first time in 1971, fuses traditional culture with contemporary design across every conceivable level of his work – garments brazenly emblazoned with work by 19th century artists Utamaro and Hokusai, whose iconic image The Great Wave off Kanagawa features across numerous pieces, to presenting a collection of children’s clothes on child sized mannequins carried on sticks by dancing, black-clad troops; each of these elements, though progressive and modern, screams of the drama of kabuki theatre quoted an inspiration to his work.
Opening the show with a single outfit, a cape modelled by Caroline Coon in 1971, and using kabuki theatre quick-change technique ofhikinuki - ripping off the outermost costume to reveal another below – revealed the iconic striped jumpsuit worn by David Bowie during his Aladdin Sane tour in 1973. A level of showmanship overshadowing any of the stiff bodied catwalks of late, and an admirable relationship with his audience; the designer present throughout the entire show and personally shaking the hands of nearly each and every member of the audience’s front row.
The core belief behind Yamamoto’s work lies in the spirit of BASARA, ‘to have a carefree manner, to disport oneself with beauty and splendor, to be stylish to the point of flamboyance’, a sentiment that could easily be used to describe the theatrics of both his designs and shows, ‘the spirit of BASARA is an enduring legacy’.
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A MESSAGE FROM FUZI:
In the last two months, FUZI has traveled to New York, Los Angeles, Taiwan and Paris,
where he has tattooed Diplo, Kavinsky and Os Gemeos, among others.
On Saturday, November 9th, FUZI UVTPK will be tattooing in Bern.
You can choose from one of FUZI’s flash tattoos at the appointment, which are now
conveniently scanned and available to view on an iPad.
Or you can request a custom design in advance. FUZI’s flash tattoos and his custom designs
are both unique pieces of art, and FUZI will only tattoo each design one time.
we require a 50% deposit to be paid up front via Paypal.
Appointment times will be confirmed as soon as the deposit is paid.
Appointments will go fast, so we suggest booking ASAP.
No walk ins!
For appointment please write to email@example.com
First come, first served!
Feel free to share this message with your friends!
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