In late August, 2018, I presented a multimedia discussion for the members of Death Party Philadelphia with the catchy title of “Where do we go when we die?” The group, some three years old now, hosts monthly events relating to death positivity 1 and death adjacent subject matter so I worked my particular niche (the presentation may have alluded to me being a one trick pony) into it by discussing human taxidermy of tattooed skin and the fluid concept of “forever” when it comes to the human body. The central focus of the discussion were photographs and video from museums and institutions that house and exhibit preserved, tattooed, human skin- the Wellcome Collection, the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN), Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum and Japan’s famous Medical Pathology Museum at Tokyo University were represented alongside pop culture ephemera and some deep dives into the semiotics of tattoo culture. Continue reading →
Happy May the 4th (be with you) everyone!
Georgia based artist Jason Craig was our go-to artist for event branding throughout the 2000s; in 2005 he designed this Star Wars/Liberty Bell Mashup t-shirt for the inaugural ScarWars event in Philadelphia. It was printed in two styles; on a black t-shirt and on a grey raglan t-shirt.
The shirts were available for pre-order and at the event, and never reprinted.
Scarwars event fixer Brian Sowden and host Shawn Porter, 2005
It’s been thirteen years since we held the first Scarwars event in Philadelphia. Over the years, both on the (now defunct) Scarwars blog and here on Sacred we’ve posted tons of pics from the event(s) and there are still hundreds that have never gone online. Like this photo by SW1 photographer Allen Falkner of Dave Gillstrap working on a cutting with removal.
The design is a mashup of an anatomical heart and a set of brass knuckles; Dave contributed t-shirt designs for the first two events- one featuring an anatomical heart, the other brass knuckles.
The night before the third and final Scarwars event- October of 2007- we booked a local South Philly restaurant to host a pre-party for the attending artists and special guest. The venue told me we’d be responsible for having a doorman, so I put the word out that we needed someone who would have no problem telling folks who weren’t on the guest list that they need to hit the road.
Victor was kind enough to take the assignment, gleefully telling an increasingly agitated stream of locals that they weren’t allowed in until after 10pm.
On the second day of the event he had Australia’s Wayde Dunn and Canada’s Jesse Villemaire collaborate on a flesh removal project on the backs of his legs.
Vic passed away in 2014 at far too young an age. Today when I was out running errands I saw a young man who’s resemblance to him was so strong that it took my breath away; I headed home, plugged in the SCARWARS hard drive and dug out some photos to share. Rest easy, Vic Vile.
A few weeks ago, some twelve years after it’s launch, I nuked the Scarwars.net blog. It was a long time coming but pulling the plug was strangely anti-climactic. Still, in the decade it was online the site hosted some damn fine content, so from time to time we’ll be featuring highlights here on Sacred Debris.
These photos (by Allen Falkner) date back to May of 2005 and feature Tom’s jaw-dropping full torso scarification by Dave Gillstrap. It remains one of my favorite large-scale cuttings.
While mostly known for his contributions to the world of photography, the late Charles Gatewood produced a series of films documenting the various subcultures he had become renowned for photographing. Under the FLASH VIDEO banner he released a library of incredibly rare films on VHS tape that included the Erotic Tattooing & Body Piercing series, the Painless Steel Series, the “Weird” series that included visits to San Francisco, New York and Thailand (his best seller) and an impressive assortment of fetish one-offs. Continue reading →
Collaboration was the heart of the Scarwars events; different artists working on the same client, sometimes in tandem, sometimes employing different techniques of disciplines of scarring- with each artist taking the role of student and teacher oftentimes during the same procedure. It was immensely satisfying watching different personalities working together to make their client happy.
According to my external hard drive “Wintermute” there are somewhere around 1,500 official photos from the ScarWars2 event that took place in February of 2006. That’s not counting the photos from artists/clients/attendees that I’ve never seen.
These images- #974 and #972 from event photographer Atom Moore- features Ron Garza working on a client’s back with the assistance of Thorsten Sekira.
Sent to me sometime in the late 1990s for safe keeping, these photos feature scarification (cutting and possibly branding) from Keith Alexander. Keith was the only artist officially invited to the first ScarWars event in 2005 (the rest filled out a registration form that was open to all) to which he politely declined. I think that made me respect him even more.
Over the course of the three Scarwars events- two in Philadelphia and our Los Angeles outing in 2006- thousands of photographs were taken by our incredible staff of photographers that captured every aspect of the shows; procedurals, portraits, candids and even after hours hotel chicanery and there are probably still dozens if not hundreds of photographs from attendees that even I haven’t seen. It’s almost impossible to pick a single favorite but I always said that if/when we ever do a Scarwars book this 2006 photo by Rachel Larratt of Richmond, Virginia’s Josh Burgh 1 would end up on the cover.
I’m not sure if that makes it my favorite, but if not it’s damn close.
I went to ScarWars for a lot of reasons. I went because friends I don’t get to see all that often would be there. I went because I’d never been to a modded convention and I was curious to learn what they were about. One reason I chose to go to ScarWars specifically had a lot to do with the fact that scarification has meant a lot to me individually, and I wanted to see scarification as a basis of a community. Beyond the intense amounts of fun to be had with the artists, organizers, participants and spectators, I think the thing I really loved about ScarWars was the sense of acceptance that took me in from the minute I arrived. I’ve always believed that preps, punks and hipsters are much more discriminatory toward the non-conforming than certain subcultures are to the mainstream. This was undoubtedly true of the people I met at ScarWars. The simple fact that I showed up and was interested in the work was all that was necessary for me to feel like I had every right and everything to gain from being there. My own experience with scarification gave me something to love about my body. Beyond that, it gave me a focus for graduate work. And at ScarWars, it gave me a community.- J.L.
We always did our best to make the events about more than just modification; the sense of community was equally important and letting everyone know that they were on equal standing- from artists to clients to the volunteers who made sure that the event went smoothly- was always our top priority and is why when I go back through the stacks of photographs (digital, which is never quite as satisfying as analog) my eye is most frequently drawn to the candid moments of the Scarwars guests and artists casually chatting, sharing a story and a laugh before blood was drawn. A decade later and that’s what I remember most; the Storm Trooper (in full Imperial White with a blaster ready for action) guarding the door, “Coop fishing” using our friend Walnut as bait, sitting around the complex bar after the event ended of the night and raising hell… all of that stands out more than a cutting or two.
Thanks to the staff, artists and clients who made the event what it was- I truly couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without them.