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01 2007
Skin Branding
Documentary + Web-Demo

The project Skin Branding was conceived and produced in Fall 2006 by an collective of four multimedia artists/producers: Peter Norrman, Todd Weinstein, Steve Zehentner and Claudine Boeglin under the name, Remastered Dreams.

Skin Branding was conceived to become a participatory media around youth and subcultures. The project initiates with a recorded and separated conversation with eight people talking about their tattoos. The interviews assembled in a short documentary channels the voices of the youth to investigate social expression, cultural phenomena and urban trends in real time.

Are tattoos countercultural symbols, milestone markers, an addiction to pain, a rite of passage, art collecting or simply a trend? Skin Branding offers a street perspective on the culture of tattoos. The presentation is immediate but filtered. The viewer experiences a diverse range of voices in an intimate way. Meet Rob, Byron, Eric, Ashley, Leo, Leina, Amber and Stephanie (artist at acclaimed East Village tattoo parlor, Adorned), eight New Yorkers who share with us their motivations to get tattoos. From the momentum of getting a tattoo to the question of its legacy, their words allow us to get closer to a phenomena that continues to evolve both creatively and technically with deep contemporary resonance.

The project is designed for the online audience to contribute with their own video tags. Designed to be viewed on a variety of platforms, the documentary is meant to be presented as a mosaic of talking heads filmed on a neutral background. Backed up with a series of still photographs and complete transcripts for each of the 40-minute interviews, the project was designed for print and digital media, aiming for a dialogue to take place and a community to gather around a common practice.

In the 1970s, we freed our body.
In the 1980s, we shaped.
In the 1990s, we starved it.
In the 2000s, we’re branding it.

Our body gives us a sense of ownership. Like a home, it gives us the sense of private property. We print it permanently. We are our own publisher. We are mobile, complex and creative - and so are our dreams. We are flexible, polymorphic, and 3Dimensional. So is our body and soon our tattoos. We ink our body with art pieces and personal divinities. Like a physical diary, our bodies bear witness to our pain and belief.

We live in anonymous cities, often in exile, far from homeland. We are nomads. Our music and friends fit in our pockets. We are compact, coded, identifiable. Cities are overloaded with images. They make us compete with giant visuals. Feel transparent in crowds - sometimes. Fear being too "normal" - sometimes. We need to stand out.

We are the guardian of our own temple. Could we become its jailer? Like a state in the state, we create our memorials, our statements and divinities; we curate our museum. We are the master of the ceremonies. We plays with our self-esteem, our self-defense, and with physical sensations. But when a state gains total authority, the ruler might become the oppressor. The best friend to become a foe. Aren't our limits where we choose to place the cursor? And that ultimately is left to us as well.

You are the media: How is it for you? Your contribution and content will become a source of inspiration. Share your experience by submitting your own video-tags (2-3 minute podcast, format 320 x 240) and interact with the skin-branding community. Feel free to post your views or choose a topic of your own creation and start your own thread. Music should be credited and rights cleared. Content will be selected and may be edited before posting.

Tell us about your first tattoo. From initial inspiration to the choice of subject matter to the decisive moment to your motives to what it means to you now: what’s your story?

Rob calls it a rush and Leo an itch, while Leina refuses to use the word addiction (too negative), but wants more tattoos to attain her ideal of beauty. What are your feelings about ideas of tattoo addiction? How would you describe the experience to someone who’s never been tattooed?

How are you influenced by trends in tattooing? Do they have an impact, create a reaction, wether positive or negative, for you?

Are your tattoos for you or for other people?

What are your tattoo limits? What are the limits of the body as a canvas? Which places are off limits in different contexts, countries and cultures?

What will be your tattoo legacy? Imagine yourself 20 years from now: what will your tattoos say about you, your generation, the society you lived in and your era? What will be your advice to your children, nephews, and nieces? What about children getting tattoos?

Photo: Todd Weinstein

... the assumption that our bodies are an extention of the ‘American Dream’ - blank canvases of a meritocracy where we can paint our own dreams and achieve our goals if we devote enough hard work, money and time to get the job done - the puritain ethic interpreted within the culture of narcissism.

Lauren Greenfield, Photographer. Extract from her book, Thin.