(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.”
Why do the media insist on repeatedly asking if tattoos have become uncool or too mainstream? I take a look at two moments in tattoo history that help to shed light on this question: the artification and commodification of tattoo.
(First published in Forever More: The New Tattoo) Whether you are a traditionalist or progressivist, Miriam represents the quintessential nature of tattooing today, where a growing number of artists from a huge variety of disciplines are learning the trade to augment their personal oeuvre, while contributing to the field of tattooing in any which way they desire.
(First published in Forever More: The New Tattoo) Upon starting, they work independently, a technique reminiscent of surrealist André Breton’s ‘exquisite corpse’, where artists collaborate while completely in the dark of their partner’s progress. They then come together, consult over the fragmented parts, and proceed to evolve the concept and aesthetic of the final fluid mosaic.
(First published in Forever More: The New Tattoo) Preceding the Tattoo Renaissance of the 70s and 80s, the political and social climate of activism throughout the 60s in the west facilitated the birth of a new, unabashed client base for tattoos. The skins of counter-culture groups like the black resistance, gay liberationists, and women’s rights advocates were adorned with tattoos embodying their identities of dissent. It is this steadfast spirit of rebelliousness—a vocal discontent with the status quo—that courses through the veins, and ink, of Indomito.
(First published in Forever More: The New Tattoo) 'Tattooing is my best friend and my worst enemy. I used to pride myself on my short and long term memory but now I literally can't remember anything about the film I avidly watched last night, but, I can tell you James' appointment in January 2019 needs extending because he wants to add a tiny dismembered leprechaun to his right arm, just below the elbow… That's fucked up.' Although, she’s quick to add, an incredibly evolutionary state of being when it comes to her tattooing.
(Published in VICE 14/11/2018) With a history purportedly stretching back into the late 1800s, The Number is one of the world's oldest gangs, maintained with an intricately complex hierarchy that spans across three factions—the 26s, 27s, and 28s. Photojournalist Luke Daniels used his friendship with one high-ranking insider to photograph members and their tattoos.
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."
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.
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 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.’
(Things & Ink, issue 8. Republished in INKED, issue 27) ‘The first hit, your mind is full of so many thoughts; mostly you’re thinking, “Shit, what have I done; what am I doing; I can’t do this”. After a few days, I couldn’t feel my body: the pain had reached a different level. I was in another world; I was literally looking over my own body. I was simply not there.’
(Things & Ink, issue 7. Republished in INKED, issue 28) In April of 1990, an Australian toddler had just finished unwrapping his birthday gift. Ecstatically, he began shouting ‘Lollilog! Lollilog!’ Clutched between his two white hands was his first Golliwogg doll. Twenty-four years later, that same little boy sits before me in a cluster of Golliwoggs, discussing the red lipped, bow-tied, black-skinned doll tattoo on his leg.
(Things & Ink, issue 7. Republished in INKED, issue 28) ‘It’s another world in prison, there’s dos and don’ts out here, and then there’s dos and don’ts in there. The prison officers have control, but the prisoners are trying to have control, so there’s constant friction. You could fight it or just go with the flow. I used to just go with the flow, and do tattoos.’
(Things & Ink, issue 6. Republished in Melbourne Permanent, issue 1) "When you’re getting them pierced, it feels pretty brutal. So you can understand the heightened response your body and mind are having to the pain. This automatically triggers a reaction within your brain, and it compensates by flooding your body with adrenaline and all kinds of delicious endorphins. At this point I’m very happy, welcoming the old feeling of this incredible buzz within my system..."
(Modern Farmer, 01/05/2014. Republished in Melbourne Permanent, issue 1) "Suffering through a tattooing is humiliating enough, but having the operation photographed and videotaped is outright overkill. The slippery plastic flooring compounded Little Minnesota’s embarrassment as he tried in vain to maintain his footing at Saturday night’s debut…Maybe it was Little Minnesota, the Texas Tattooed Pig, who finally made the most sincere statement of the night when he urinated in his plastic pigsty."
(Things & Ink, issue 6) "I wanted a truer representation of the broadness and diversity of female bodies, such as older women or tattooed women being visible as ‘girl next door’ and not stereotyped as painted harlots or bad girls. Tattoos have become a niche in porn. Porn tends to do that to humans. Well, humans generally do that to themselves."
(The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, 09/09/14) I became synesthetic—inhaling my visions, exhaling what was heard, psychoacoustics gone awry. It was as though I had inhaled the canvas, yet the painting still stood before me—inside my body lay the very foundation of existence, a manifestation of the whole rather than an isolated organism. The shaman’s throat singing tasted like centuries of atavistic dance, movement, and gyration.
(Things & Ink, issue 3) "The motor wasn’t fast enough so I really had to stab it into the skin hard, I didn’t even have proper ink, I think I was using Balinese stamp pad ink. Anyway, we were all getting pissed and I said to them all, ‘look, this isn’t the right ink, I don’t want you all getting infected from it,’ but they were all like UGHRAAAAA, TATTOO US TATTOO US WE DON’T CARE. I had like seven people lined up."