Michele Servadio on Art, Tattooing and GESTURES01

Throughout our lives, our interactions with different people, environments and experiences are what makes us who we are. Now, imagine if these inputs left a mark on the surface of the skin. That’s what tattoos are: reminders of what made you who you are. With the Body of Reverbs (B.O.R), I’m emphasising those moments.

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These are the words of Michele Servadio, a multi-disciplinary artist based in London and the creator of the Body of Reverbs (B.O.R), a contemporary ritual that uses the tattoo machine as a musical instrument, translating the vibrations of the needle on skin into a sound. Performed in front of a crowd, the tattoo itself is abstract and spontaneous. This is because it is the experience, the connection between body, sound and space that is central, not the result.

B.O.R was born out of the necessity to bring tattooing back to its archaic identity, at a time when it has become a mass consumed product. “The aim was to create a total art practice with tattooing at its centre”, explains Servadio.

Since its birth in 2014, B.O.R has launched New Rituals for Contemporary Bodies LP+ Book, featuring recordings of two performances from 2016 with Years of Denial and Hexn. The record will be launched on 7 September during GESTURES01, an evening of alternative performance art in The Old BathsHackney Wick and featuring guests such as Dahc Dermur VIII (Chadd Curry), Nick Tee, Matteo Vallicelli and Olivier de Sagazan. In anticipation of the launch, Mele Couvreur, a social development practitioner based in London, with a passion for art and ink, spoke briefly with Michele about the event, his views on art and tattooing and his desire to merge them both.

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The line-up of GESTURES01 is pretty impressive and includes a diverse mix of artists. Yet, all of them have something in common: the body and its transformation. Can you tell us a bit more about what’s behind that?

There isn’t really a specific message, it’s more about raising questions about the body, about identity, about personality, and who you can be. The event is intended as a celebration of the body, personality and subjectivity in a time of constant mutation.

That’s why we have this sort of line-up: from Olivier de Sagazan and his performance on stage, B.O.R. and body modification, to Chad who is a living product of this constant mutation. I see a strong connection between Olivier and Chad: We will start with Sagazan, who mutates his appearance with paint and clay, in the context of a stage, and in the span of a performance. Then we end up with Chad, who changes his appearance daily, but in the span of a life time.

I would say GESTURES01 is a celebration of changes.

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GESTURES01 puts tattooing next to other art forms such as painting, sculpture etc. Do you think this will happen more in the future and that tattooing in art will become more prominent? Yes, for sure. Tattoo is developing in unexpected ways. More and more people are coming into the culture from very different backgrounds. You can have a conceptual artist who starts tattooing just because he/she has a certain idea he wants to express. Or a graphic designer, a painter, a sculptor, a chef…

What is coming out of the tattoo world right now is coming from different realities. To me this is extremely interesting. It shows that there are different ways to deal with the body, many different ways to mark your body, and many reasons why you would do it. It’s bringing tattooing out from shops and into the galleries, venues, private spaces, and rural areas.

This is, to an extent, how we knew tattooing before, before the commercialisation. It brings tattooing back to what it once was. So I guess, putting tattooing next to painting and sculpture, is sort of making a little statement.

4What are the main differences for you between art and tattooing Tattooing is dealing with the most beautiful thing there is: the human body. You are creating something on a human body that will live only a little, considering the lifetime of an art work.

When you create a work of art, you probably also do it for different reasons. Art has always been a way to talk about the problem of our existence. Art is very religious in that way. It talks about our existence, our society and our subjectivity, and what is tattooing, if not that? It is a direct act from our subjectivity through our body. Tattoos are feedback directly on our society. I think in the end we are talking about the same things. That’s why I want to unify those things.

What I like about art is that it is very transversal. I like printmaking, photography. I like experimenting in a dark room with chemicals. I like painting and life drawing. Life drawing is one of my favourite things.

That’s academic in a way. It’s extremely classic. It is a drawing on paper and it is one of the most beautiful things. It is so simple and such a powerful tool of research. When you draw something on a piece paper, you are drawing something that you copy, but the way in which you copy that thing, is according to the way you perceive the world. So you are showing the world your perspective. As simple as that you can say plenty of things. When you apply this on a body, you sort of closing that circle I like to think.

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Why do you want to bring them together? I think it is a duty of an artist, of a young artist, to fill the gap when there is a lack of something in the culture that we live in. I perceived, and felt, a lack of spirituality in tattooing for example. I felt this gap between art and tattooing. Or the struggle of trying to understand tattoo, not just as a product, but as something deeper than that, as something non- professional.  Art is not professional. That doesn’t exist, a professional artist. Nor does a professional tattooer, but I don’t want to go too far…

Sticking to art, if you see what is lacking, then I believe it is your duty to fill that gap. To me, there is a big gap between art and tattooing, and I want to fill that gap and bring the two together. That is why I love tattooing the same subject on someone, and then doing a painting or a print of the same subject. They are all part of the same universe. But one is made to live on someone’s body, and one is made to live on paper and live forever.

B.O.R is that total art concept where you bring everything together. In a way, I’m trying to fill that gap by bringing tattooing back to its own spirituality. That is why we are connecting it with the power of sound, trance and pain.

Will there be a GESTURES02? I’d love to do that, at least once a year. I’m not an organizer, but I’d love to do it. I love the struggle. If I have the chance, yes, I’d totally do it.

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