Demon Marks

There is a passage from 2 Corinthians that reads, “Being manifested, that you are the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, and written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in the fleshly tables of the heart.” Given that I’m an enthusiast of all things medieval AND of tattoo history, the parallels between the two, especially in this passage, hold obvious importance for me.

For medieval Catholics, the passage was roughly interpreted as meaning that God been incarnated in the flesh through Christ (as opposed to the tablets of Judaism), and this realization almost made possible a goal of internalizing the tenets of Christianity so fully as to inscribe them on one’s heart, thereby conforming oneself to Christ. But the passage’s many interpretations through the texts, images, and objects of the Middle Ages make the seemingly tenuous tattooing reference a bit more interesting.

From the stigmata–which a professor once kindly pointed out to me, served as a plausible derivation from the Latin word for “tattoo”– to the tale of Henry Suso (1295-1365 AD), a Dominican friar who literally inscribed the name of Christ into his skin with a grifel, a writing implement, tattoo references abound.

Anyway, the point of this is to introduce this article from Bowdoin, called “Demon Marks Lay Bare the Twisted History of Tattooing.” It concerns the 17th century, not the Middle Ages, but I still found it particularly interesting given the context above, although the article’s scope goes far beyond what I’ve written. ALSO, I can’t take any credit for finding this–it came to my attention thanks to Marisa Kakoulas of Needles and Sins.

“In the seventeenth century you see women tattooing themselves with holy names and the sign of the cross,” says [Katherine Dauge-Roth, [...]

Peter Hujar: Love and Lust

This weekend sees the work of photographer Peter Hujar on show at London’s Maureen Paley gallery. To celebrate Sang Bleu have selected a series of emotive portraits by the documentarian, from images of a young John Waters and larger than life drag queen Divine to delicate snapshots of Hujar’s  late lover David Wojnarowicz, alongside a series of erotic male nudes captured by the artist in the late 70s.

“His pictures are exotic but not in a shallow, sensational way,” says contemporary Nan Goldin who, like Hujar, was known for a tender documentation of the intimate moments of those around her. “Looking at his photographs of nude men, even of a naked baby boy, is the closest I ever came to experience what it is to inhabit male flesh.” The selection includes nude self portraits and intimate and rousing shots of dancer Bruce de Saint Croix masturbating, brought together earlier this year in Artbook’s release Peter Hujar: Love & Lust by New York Times art critic Vince Aletti, a close companion of the artist before his death who  opened the exhibition yesterday with a talk on his mark. “He was a wonderful and difficult friend,” he says. “Generous and demanding; charming and terribly insecure; the life of the party and the first person to leave it.”



Peter Hujar is on show at Maureen Paley gallery through August 24.

Remembering Nico

Twenty six years ago today Nico sadly passed away in Ibiza while on holiday with her son. To remember and celebrate this iconic woman I’ve chosen my favourite videos of her on YouTube. We all immediately associate Nico with her days with the Velvet Underground and Warhol’s factory but her career spanned an impressive amount of different pockets of subculture after the 1960s.



Nico – The End (Peel Session 1974)

Nico’s version of the epic song The End, is a million times more haunting and atmospheric than the psychedelia drug anxiety of the Door’s version and 100% typical of Nico’s ability to add a sinister shadow to anything she touches.


Nico sings Chelsea Girls, BBC4

Nico sings Chelsea Girls in a room of the Chelsea Hotel accompanied by an electric guitar rather than the acoustic version we’re all so used too, which exaggerated the power of her famously deadpan voice.


Heroes, Live at the Warehouse, Preston UK 1982

This is a very hard Bowie song to cover but I don’t think anyone could have done it as well as Nico, this particular video shows her off her face but still totally stoic looking singing in The Warehouse in the rather unglamorous Preston in 1982 with a full band.



Janitor of Lunacy , Manchester 1983

Nico plays the organ and delivers one of the best songs ever created about insanity. It was actually written about her ex boyfriend Brian Jones and produced by John Cale for the brilliant album Desertshore but this live version is particularly haunting.

My only child & All That Is My Own in “La cicatrice intérieure” by Philippe Garrel.

Nico and French avant-garde film director Philippe Garrel had a ten-year romantic relationship between 1969 and 1979 and this scene was the product of one of his films. I always [...]

Genesis P–Orrdge & Hazel Hill McCarthy III: Bight of the Twin

Twins are a reminder and an incarnation of the mythical ideal. It is as though they are representatives of the ontological perfection; the state [that] non-twins have completely lost…But the birth of twins is a reminder of that Happy condition and that is why it is celebrated everywhere with joy – French anthropologist Michel Cartry, 1973

Tonight sees MOCA Los Angeles premiere a clip from upcoming documentary Bight of the Twin, captured by artist Hazel Hill McCarthy and pioneer of modification  Genesis Breyer P-Orridge while an expedition earlier this year during the their search for the origin of Voodoo (otherwise known as the West African religion of Vodun from which derivative practices came to litter the African diaspora) on an expedition to Ouidah, Benin.

Known for her dedication to the Pandrogyne project, s/he and late wife Lady Jaye Breyer adopted one another’s characteristic appearances through a series of surgical procedures and use of gender-neutral pronouns and endeavour to become a single entity with every aspect of their shared life. This boundary-pushing and immersive undertaking defined an entirely new concept of identity, one far beyond any struggle to make sense of the self. Instead they modified it as if it were malleable, shaping a new combined gender embodied by the pandrogyne, one that lives on intact through P-Orridge even following the [physical] death of Lady Jaye Breyer in 2007.

Travelling to Benin’s seven year festival, the cultural mechanic found something wholly unexpected and more tied to the concepts and mission of their life’s work than s/he or anyone could have imagined. In the furthest isolation from the western world, what unravelled was an unexpected introduction to an ancient celebration acknowledging connections like their own; a belief system aligned so closely with her own experiences s/he was identified  and initiated into the sacred Twin [...]

Harnessing the abject – An interview with Millie Brown

Collect the spit in your mouth, push it to the front.Take your time.
Let your mouth warm; it will begin to feel dense.
Suck it back and forth through your teeth.
Now it is cooling down, swallow it.

Why does this substance so natural feel so foreign once you become aware of it? Sweat, spit, urine, mucus, all of these things that are products of bodily existence have come to be held as abject. There is a cultural shame regarding that which the body produces, remedied by a ubiquitous selection of pharmaceuticals to disguise or prevent such occurrences.

Theorists on the body have contemplated the reasons behind such bodily shame, understanding the distaste as an unconscious aversion to the signifiers of the human condition. Ultimately that which the body produces may be seen as foreclosing the disintegration of the body, representing the timely guarantee of death.

Abjection is about boundaries. So not only are the boundaries of inside/outside in terms of organic production, but also bodies that do not comply with socialised understandings of normality may be seen as abject. That which is not the idealised ‘body beautiful’, the groomed, trained body that conforms to gendered typologies has throughout history been subject to degradation, if not alienation.

But it has also been revered, subcultures and communities claim the abject as a point of rebellion against mainstream culture, in fashion, in art and with and on the body.   Millie Brown’s conceptual performance art is an example of contemporary artists harnessing the abject as an expressive tool. We exchanged questions on her works…

How did the idea of vomit paintings come to you? Were you looking for a new medium to express yourself?

I came up with the concept of vomiting rainbows when I was 17, [...]


An anarchist may be asked, “How will your free society begin, how will you end the government?” The anarchist may have no answer, no way of initiating a self-ruling society without fearing brutal retaliation from the rulers in power. But in a war, when violence damages the buildings, streets and cities, it also destroys the established authoritative order—so who’s left to enforce the rules?

The destruction of Sarajevo in the ’90’s inspired architect Lebbeus Woods to speculate on how to divest from authority and initiate individual empowerment by repairing the city. He saw an opportunity to reinvent the society in Sarajevo, a chance to end the authority-sponsored war cycle and replace it with peaceful individual authority. The anarchy would emerge through the desire to build a city for oneself, by oneself, from the discarded fragments of the established, violent government.

Lebbeus saw the potential for healing the trauma through architecturally mending the city. This would create personal space in the depths of ruin. He knew it was necessary to holistically process the urban detritus, to think about both destruction and construction as a cycle to rebirth.


“The new spaces of habitation accept with a certain pride what has been suffered and lost, but also what has been gained. They build upon the shattered form of the old order a new category of order, within which existence feels it’s strengths, acknowledges it’s vulnerabilities and failures, and faces up to the need to invent itself as though for the first time. There is an ethical and moral commitment in such an existence, and therefore a basis for community.”

No higher authority is needed when the virtue of each individual is true and accepting of the good and the bad. [...]

Sun Ra: When Sun Comes Out: Ephemera 1956-1975 at the David Nolan Gallery, New York


Some people make such an impact on the world that their influence becomes almost impossible to trace, diluting in to areas inconceivable from their origins. Not often, but increasingly so some of these individuals don’t receive the gratification that they deserve by fading into obscurity. Sun Ra is well known to many as the pinnacle of avant-garde and a jazz genius so it is great news that the David Nolan Gallery have curated an exhibition about his work in the context of fine art. His work most obviously existed in the realm of jazz but he also created accomplished films, philosophical ideas and incredible album art.

To understand the great jazz musicians work and ideas you often have to think quite literally out of this world, “We have the human race and the alien race,” he said in a 1981 interview with Detroit Black Journal. “I’m not human, because to err is human… I didn’t get my status making errors.”

This stubbornly brilliant man wanted to progress the world into a more beautiful and spiritual place. Many of these ideas were catalogued into his impressive 1974 film Space is the Place, in which he attempts to transport Earth’s black population to a new planet for a fresh start. “He was very specific with what he was trying to achieve,” explains John Corbett. “He thought it was his job [to change the world]. I think his job was a messianic one. He saw himself in an enlightening role.” Sun Ra is now viewed as an early afro-futurist, an academic term connoting futuristic fantasy trends in black culture as a means of critique and exploration of African diaspora; though the term didn’t exist until 1993, the year [...]