Category Archives: Scarification

Victor 2007

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.

Studio photo by Atom Moore for Scarwars.

The Braille Encyclopedia

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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.

Erotic Tattooing and Body Piercing IV: Cutting by Esther

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.
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Stop, Collaborate and Listen.

Wayde and Ryan

Sparrow Cutting

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.

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ScarWars Two: Lotus

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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.

http://www.rongarza.com

The Middle School Era: Scarification by Keith Alexander

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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.

 

Scarwars 2006: 10th Anniversary

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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 wrote a long winded and absurdly sentimental piece on the impact the first Scarwars event had on my life that can be found here: http://sacreddebris.com/scarwarsten (as well as an ‘evolution of a subculture’ piece that can be found http://sacreddebris.com/evolution-of-a-subculture-scarwars1-2005) and had considered doing the same for SWII for it’s tenth anniversary; instead, I’ll share what my friend JL had to say about it:

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.

Notes:

  1. Scarification by Brian Decker, NYC

The Middle School Era: The Art of Cutting and Scarification with Keith Alexander

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If you enjoyed May’s branding performance, you won’t want to miss this one! In an encore presentation, Keith Alexander, on of NY’s premier piercing, cutting and branding enthusiasts returns to the Learning X-Change to present a lecture and live demonstration on one of today’s most popular forms of body art… Cutting/Scarification. In a riveting presentation, Keith discusses the art’s origins, rapid rise in popularity, social ramifications and present day applications, and demonstrates proper preparation and sterilization, tools of the trade, creating an applying the design, cutting techniques, aftercare, how to achieve optimum scarring special effects, etc.

If you’re a reader of Occult Vibrations you may have seen a recent update with a few early 1990s tattoo shop fliers with art by bio-mech legend Guy Aitchison; discovering them happy accidents since I was looking for a piece of correspondence for a future SD update and found a stack of unsorted mail that hasn’t been out of storage in at least a decade. I still haven’t found the piece of mail (a letter from Bud Viking Navaro to Jack Yount) that I was looking for, but this stack yielded the Aitchison fliers, a letter from “J” (from J: Story of a subincision) and a few from Keith Alexander.

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I had forgotten about his Learning X-Change Scarification class; the flier included didn’t include full information (day and month, no year given) and the envelope’s postmark is unreadable so I can’t say for sure when this class- $10 per person to learn the basics of scarification- was offered. It was likely 1996 (judging from the MAPS Corporate Seal on the enclosed letterhead) or shortly after when scarification was just beginning to receive any outside of the community media attention.

It might shock modern audiences to see technique classes offered to the general public, especially at so low a price, but the crossover with cutting in a S/M context “democratized” the modification, with a large segment of the clients looking for scars and brands in the 1970s-1990s a part of the fetish lifestyle and the amount of professional scarification artists worldwide offering safe, sterile cutting a small minority.

 

Recalibrating the System: Steve Haworth and the evolution of aesthetic body modification

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In 1995 I received an email from BME’s Shannon Larratt asking if I had heard about the controversial body piercer who performed a modification at the Houston Tattoo Convention; he had use a technique similar to pearling 1 to implant teflon “horns” into the forehead of Jim Rose Circus Sideshow personality The Enigma. It caused quite a stir; both the public nature of the modification (facial modification always inspires a certain level of concern) and the openness with which he did it- modification which had existed on the fringes of the piercing scene was now being brought out into the open.

Shannon and I were fascinated; while the aesthetics of a split penis or smooth crotch could certainly be appealing to the niche members of our subculture, these modifications were generally done for functionary purposes like sexual gratification and fetishistic value. Moving implants from the penis to the forehead (or wrist, the site of Steve’s earliest implants) was making a statement that the times were about to change.

The same can be said for Steve’s contributions to the scarification world; feature articles in Tattoo Savage, 2 In the Flesh 3 and Body Art 4 would introduce his branding technique with an electro-surgical unit (or ESU) which allowed for a more detail oriented healed scar. The abstract design choices that were popular at the time- chevrons, geometric shapes, modern interpretations of tribal symbols and sigils- were replaced with more representational choices; and with each healed scar Steve was able to refine his process to allow for more detail and longevity. Were it not for his ESU brandings (and the tattoo oriented aesthetic of scarification artist Ron Garza) it’s unlikely that scarification would be as popular (among a certain subset) as it is today.

Over the last two decades Steve’s name has become synonymous with 3D body modification; he’s continued to innovate and his work has had a lasting impact on the generation of artists who’ve come after him.

Photo: Steve Haworth, ESU branding 1997 Philadelphia. Scanned from ink-jet printed 4×6 print, collection of Shannon Larratt.

Notes:

  1. Inserting pearls or steel balls into the skin of the penis to add aesthetic and sexually functional texture. Pearling was reportedly a tradition among the Japanese mafia- the Yakuza- with one pearl implanted for every year spent in prison. Legendary tattoo culture personality Tatu Scotty had been interviewed about having pearling done in Japan, and Southern California’s Cliff Cadaver detailed the procedure in magazines as varied as PFIQ, Hustler and Body Art. Piercer Sean Philips did a fantastic series of articles on Cliff for BME News that’s worth checking out: http://news.bme.com/2011/02/25/cadaver-chronicles-episode-3/
  2. Issue Number Needed
  3. Issue Number Needed.
  4. Body Art #23, 1996, article by Jan Seeger.

In deference to Slack

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Dealing with technology that’s older than some of the readers of this blog comes with a certain level of frustration. Courting donations, finding the tech we need and buying it, waiting for it to arrive to find that it’s defective or doesn’t suit the needs of the project, starting the returns/refund process and then sitting in a holding pattern before you start the whole thing over again has burned me out a little on regular updates.

I have a replacement 8mm VCR en route to Philly and am scouting some digital8/DVC platforms as well, but in the meantime…. I’m enjoying the slack. I should be scanning photos, there are VHS tapes I could be importing… but eh. I think I’m going to let Slack win until the 8mm project gets underway.

I hadn’t planned to update until I had some good news, but once I started thinking about Slack… Flashback to 2006, Los Angeles for Scarwars2- Dave Gillstrap did this fitting tribute to the prophet of Slack himself, J.R. “Bob” Dobbs.

“Moses parted the Red Sea, Oppenheimer split the atom, but “Bob” cut the crap.” – Steve Antczak