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“With tattoos I was building security,” Amber. “Tattoos are the best artwork someone can own,” Ashley. “Tattoos are like wearing your heart on your sleeve,” Leo. “Getting more tattoos is about attaining my ideal of beauty,” Leina. “Tatoo is a commitment,” Byron. “My body is my present home,” Eric. “You should be at least 18 years of age when you pick a tattoo,” Rob.

“... 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 puritan ethic interpreted within the culture of narcissism.”

Lauren Greenfield, photographer/filmmaker [extract from book Thin]
Skin Branding: Eight New Yorkers Open Up On Their Experience Being Tattooed [2006]

Concept and text by Claudine Boeglin

1960+ bodies set free.
1970+ bodies enter in trance.
1980+ bodies work out.
1990+ bodies starve.
2000+ bodies skin brand.
2010+ bodies replicate in selfies.
2020+ bodies dissolve in…

Amber, Ashley, Byron, Eric, Leo, Leina, and Rob were all New Yorkers and under 29 at the time of filming [2006]. They opened up with great honesty on their individual experiences in wearing tattoos. Stephanie Tamez – then tattoo artist at Adorned, East Village, shares on this life lasting experience. She has since opened her own parlour in Brooklyn.

Produced in 2006, SKIN BRANDING was conceived as an interactive platform to investigate youth cultures, self-expression, urban and digital trends by the very actors of these trends. The platform project might have come too early or on the wrong side of the American coasts, what remains is this eight-minute documentary produced in collaboration with visual artists Peter Norrman, Todd Weinstein and Steve Zehentner.
Our body gives us a sense of ownership. It belongs to us. It’s private property. When printing the body permanently, one self-publishes. Inked with memorials, celebrations, art pieces and uplifting quotes, bodies become diary and storytelling bearing witness to life changing experiences, milestones, pleasures and pain, and aesthetic considerations. Elaborated carefully, built on a whim while coming of age, removed or covered up, tattoos epitomize what the creative process consists in: vision, sketching, trials and errors and in the thrill of final printing with an authored contribution to history.

Shifting from subcultures to pop culture, with ‘nearly half (47%) of millennials [generation born between 1982 and 2004] wearing a tattoo’, the pop movement prefigured the theatrical self of years 2010. And when living in crowded cities, in exile from homeland, or when joining art schools along competitive creative minds, wearing your stories on your sleeves, alike carrying your friends and music in your pocket, or a tree on your shoulder, are ways to belong while being transient, compact, coded, liquid and traceable. The complex self: tethered / untethered might also felt to fight back the overload of corporations grabbing urban space to occupy our brains with their imposed narratives. When the self’ designs its own brand with tattoos and murals, it announces the visual timelines of social media walls where each is offered an expandable space to roll out stories.

None of them knew but all were ready.
All already stood out.
© Dandy Vagabonds 2019