As children navigating the banal social milieu of suburbia, The Huxleys saw two options: conform, or be fabulous. They chose the latter.
“One of our heroes is filmmaker John Waters, and he always said find what others hate about you or teased you about and amplify it. Make it your style. We always thought if you aren’t going to fit in you may as well make that spectacular.”
Respectively raised in the suburbs of Gold Coast and Perth, the couple longed for something with more danger and glamour, so, naturally, after meeting one another they combined their hearts and skills to saturate the world with their idiosyncratic aesthetic of ‘demented sparkling’ performance art.
“We never actually set out to be performance artists, we just started to put the things we loved together from our imagery and videos and brought them to life on stage and at parties. We never anticipated that the ridiculous, awful things we would do in the privacy of our studio would be shared regularly with the public. We’re both visual artists but it's probably only been in the last four years that we have been producing performance art together. We share a similar sense of humour and a desire to shock and push images and ideas to the extremes–being perverse and over the top is essential in what we do.”
By combining costumes, photography, video and performance, they aim to throw their audiences into a phantasmagorical assault laced with humour, emotion and somatic escapes from everyday life. Working recently at Dark Mofo, the pair created a full scale Glam Rock spectacle. There was the fictitious band called S.O.S (Style Over Substance), music videos, backing singers and dancers, pyrotechnics, glitter cannons, and even humans dressed as dogs. The hitch–no music. It was an art project that ‘confused’ spectators, but The Huxleys jumped at the opportunity to experiment and challenge the weird and wonderful elements of art.
“Art doesn’t have to be so serious and cerebral. I think sometimes people forget that it needs to be an experience that makes you feel something, and for us a big part of that is humour and visual stimulation. We often will think of the stupidest most ridiculous concept and work from there.”
Inspired by the glam of Bowie, T Rex, Roxy Music, Prince, and Boy George, “all those things had a marvellous influence on making us totally bent,” the pair aim to imbue their art with gender bending concepts and equally amorphous, ethereal costumes.
“We love playing with gender and confusing fuck wits who come up to us when we are in costumes and ask if you are a chick or a dude. Who cares. We like the freedom of playing with gender and not having to fit in any particular mould. It does seem to be an exciting time when young people are having a sense of choice and freedom to not have to conform to such strict ideas of male and female and we love that. It was definitely not the case when we were growing up. If you even wore the colour pink you were beaten up or called a fag. We work with a lot of inspiring performers who play with gender and drag and they are like a family.”
It’s an ethos that isn’t confined to the stage–it seeps into their daily existence, suffusing every nook, cranny, and orifice.
“For us our art makes us laugh and makes us happy. Being able to make things that we love is a luxury. We will often be talking about giant inflatable vagina’s and gold sequined encrusted dildos. We can’t imagine a life where that isn’t part of your everyday dialogue.”
“We are surrounded by costumes, art works and imagery, our studio and our home is a mass of colour and kitsch. We take inspiration from things all the time. And we like to make your daywear a bit more glamourous too. There is a lot of gold in our wardrobes. We think it's generous to dress up for life, whenever we see someone out of the ordinary or who stands out it really makes your day.”
Starting with a concept, they look at fabrics, objects and shapes to conjure something onto paper that visually excites them. When acquiring fabric, glitter, and sequins, no expense is spared, and this comes through in the visual masterpieces they masterfully manufacture.
“We both have individual skills that we call upon to make our art. Garrett is a great sewer and Will does a lot of the photography and video work. But we help each other with every element. A lot of time is spent in the studio making and trialling things. We have a tiny green screen area and pretty much exist in costume chaos. We fund our art ourselves and it helps when people want to buy prints of our work or book us for gigs or arts events that helps supplement the sequin fund.”
The pair hope to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale, and, in direct contrast, represent Australia at Eurovision.
“Imagine a full-scale camp spectacular: costumes, pyrotechnics, backup dancers. That’s a dream.”
London based tattooist Eli and Polish-born tattooist Adam Curly share their respective heavy blackwork journeys: “I’ll never be same again after this—tattooing solid black is a very spiritual thing, for me anyway. It rips apart from emotions. The pain in some parts is unbelievable and leaves you speechless for days sometimes. You can feel sick, faint, or you can feel happy and blissful. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
(abridged version published in VICE, 19/03/18) JILF, a self-described nihilist and practicing dominatrix, orchestrates painful and subversive acts with her partners with the aim of eliciting trauma and embracing disgust; her partners regularly refrain, “today, I will suffer for your art.”
“One of the things I love the most is I’ll play with my partner and do things to her that evoke disgust. She’ll be covered in filth, her mouth full of tampons and blood, she’s covered in shit and her heads all wrapped up; she’s crying, and she’s distraught, and everything’s so disgusting—everything’s just out. That blows my brain.”
(Published in DAZED & CONFUSED, 13/12/17) MoMA's recent exhibition, Items: Is Fashion Modern? declared tattoo an influential item among 111 garments and accessories shaping culture and society. I speak to the L.A artist chosen to illustrate tattoo, Roxx, on the paradoxical and multifaceted nature of contemporary tattoo.
Although tattoos in the West are becoming increasingly mainstream, the pain accompanying a session usually remains something to be tolerated at best, or completely mollified through the consumption of analgesics at worst. So when people began actively seeking out the painful ritual of a Brutal Black tattoo session, I contacted them to find out more about why they chose to engage with amplified tattoo pain.
"Modern-day passion, tangible tradition, and striking creativity: trace how tattooing continues to evolve in the follow up to Forever." Read extracts from my articles featured in FOREVER MORE: The New Tattoo, including interviews with Kelly Violet, Miriam Frank, Indomito, the Brutal Black Project and Expanded Eye. Purchase discounted copies of Forever More here.
(First published in VICE 06/07/17) Respectively raised in the suburbs of the Gold Coast and Perth, the couple longed for something with more danger and glamour, so, naturally, after meeting one another they combined their hearts and skills to saturate the world with their idiosyncratic aesthetic of "demented sparkling" performance art.
(First published in INKED, issue 45) When forensic inquiry is applied to tattoos, it can assist in the identification or capture of criminals or missing persons. The Forensic Analysis of Tattoos and Ink is a pioneering work detailing the methodology of this process. This is an interview with the book's author, Dr Michelle Miranda.
Love Shakthi Om, to be launched in the first week of May, will produce limited works of art to be sold with profits donated to charity. "We strongly believe this life is about karma, sharing love, traditions, and cultures. For us, this is largely based in art."
(VICE online 25/04/17) This is one of the most brutal experiences one can imagine in the field of tattooing, where wills are either broken or solidified. This is the Brutal Black Project, and they’ll “ruin your life”.
In this second installment of the 'Interview with the Editor' series, where editors of some of the most influential tattoo publications share their two-cents, Alice Snape, editor of Things&Ink, talks about her journey as an independent publisher of a female friendly tattoo culture publication.
"I bought a load of tattoo magazines for inspiration. Needless to say none of them appealed to me, they were very much aimed at men and none of them featured tattoos that I like or would suit me and my tastes. They were also all very much geared towards men, with half naked women legs apart with barely any tattoos on the cover."
(Abridged version first published in DAZED & CONFUSED magazine, 03/03/17) Touka Voodoo has actively used body art and modification to transcend the notion of binaries.
In this first installment of the Interview with an Editor series, head honcho of Skin Deep, Sion Smith, offers advice for writers, photographers, and tattooists looking get published, while discussing life at the helm of the UK's best selling tattoo magazine.
"For writers, be original, spell things correctly (I have better things to do than watch your back), be on time, be nice to work with and don’t be a dick."
Milo's comments embracing the positives of a legal, consenting relationship between a teenage boy and older man were labelled pedophilia. So I ask three male friends to share their teenage sexual encounters with older men.
(First published in Skin Deep, issue 275. Republished in INKED, issue 45) Ahead of VICELAND’s 2017 series, Needles and Pins, Grace talks about her experiences in front of the lens, riding around LA on quad bikes with Venice Bad Boys, and what it’s like to be an ambassador for contemporary tattoo culture.
(First published in INKED, issue 45) Currently in her third permutation of a body suit, New Zealand based artist Jak Nola talks about her psychedelic erotic art, tattoos, and what an orgasm can do for the mind.
(Abridged version first Published in The Guardian, 23/11/16) Lying in a satin-lined coffin or wearing a bondage hood may help you face up to your inevitable demise. I attend the inaugural Sydney Death and Dying Festival to get a taste of what's to come.
(Published in INKED issue 42) “That was Ricky’s right above Pinky’s. That’s because Pinky’s had a hepatitis scare and the American navy had banned them from going there, so he just opened upstairs and called it Ricky’s. It was two shops but it was the same. They just liked names that had that “icky” sound and I just happened to be there at the right time.”
(VICE online, 27/09/16) "Isaac Comer was heavily tattooed including on his cock. Henry Findlay was tattooed on his chest, arms, hands, fingers, calves and from his knees to his groin 'after the Burmese manner’. Henry was a soldier, court-martialled in Burma, so presumably he got some pretty wild tatts during service." Discover a rich history of colonial stick & poke tattoos and wild convict stories with Simon Barnard, author of the new book Convict Tattoos: Marked Men and Women of Australia.
(INKED magazine, issue 39) On February 26th, I presented an exhibition of tattooed silicone hands and sheets at Melbourne's Neon Parlour. All profits from the sale of these works went to SafeSteps and WIRE, two Melbourne based organisations dedicated to providing support to women and children experiencing domestic violence.
(INKED magazine, issue 35) 'Tattooing in the Islamic Republic (dictatorship) of Iran' is the culmination of furtive correspondence with four brave Iranian tattooists who risk imprisonment and torture on a daily basis all for the sake of their art.
(Things & Ink, issue 10) "Tattooing is conducted during the vigil. Beside the body the near family sing the deceased's history in a rhythm made of tears. While clusters of cousins drink and gamble in little pockets of light about the village, as the ancestors one by one arrive from their graves to receive the spirit of the newly dead, as the animals set aside to die in the morning shuffle blandly, a select few receive tattoos."
(Things & Ink, issue 12, abridged on VICE online) What began as an intellectual interest in body modification within the context of BDSM ended with 250mls of saline infused into my scrotum and 500mls infused into my girlfriend's breasts.
(Things & Ink, issue 11) "I think it’s a real big kick and liberation once you’ve put on a face and the costume and you go out in public. You become a character, a different person, and so people respond to you differently, and so I can take it on and enjoy whatever it is that could potentially serve me, which is completely different every time."
My scrotum is a thin sack of skin that contains part of my reproductive system. Insert a needle, add a litre of saline, and it is apparently transformed into a serious fun bag.
(Things & Ink, issue 10, republished in INKED magazine, issue 31) "Most people understand that taxidermy is done with the leftover skins, and so it is separate from the live-animal debate, and the leather/fur debate, which uses farming. Animals are not objects, but taxidermy pieces are objects. If taxidermy is made into art for art’s sake, there is still the beauty and appreciation of the animal and the art, so it really isn’t for nothing."
(Things & Ink, issue 9. Republished in Melbourne Permanent, issue 1) ‘Since putting the photo on Instagram, I was like, “Wow; I didn’t realise it would become such a thing”. Someone put it on Facebook, and it turned into this big thing with over 200 comments, and everyone was thinking I was a total freak. I guess I took it a bit lightly and didn’t explain myself, it was just like “RAAAAAHHH; I’m eating my own head!”
(Things & Ink blog, 23/12/14. Republished in INKED magazine, issue 30) I talk with the Bangkok based Knowing Buddha Organisation about it's objection to Buddha tattoos, and discover that it may pay to think twice before tattooing a deity on your body.
(Things & Ink blog, 14/12/14. Republished in INKED issue 32) ‘Yeah man, vultures on the streets shaking down people for payouts. I was headed back from a ju-jitsu session and I was told I’m a Russian selling coke around the red-light areas, [the officer] greedily stuck his hands into my gym bag to find a sweaty ju-jitsu gi! These guys’ other rackets are being squeezed by the military so they need to find other ways to buy Christmas goodies this time of year.’