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.
This weekend marked the ninth anniversary of the third and final Scarwars event. I was going to wait for the tenth before putting a post up, but sentimentality got the best of me and I grabbed a backup drive and pulled over a few of the thousands of photos taken that weekend to share with you folks here on SD.
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.
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.
Ok… tell me this… why were you dressed up like the easter bunny, driving me and a few other people around in a boat in one of my dreams last night?? You took us to a little island where you had hidden a bunch of rather large easter eggs for us to find… you didnt slow the boat down as it was coming into the beach.. just went full throttle and tipped the boat, flinging everyone aboard it out onto the sand. ~Wayde Dunn
I have stacks (ok. digital files that take up no physical space) of photos of cuttings and tattoos made by Australia’s Wayde Dunn; each one better than the next. I have some great procedural photos of him working at the second Scarwars event 1 that are probably much more in line with what people want out of a body modification blog. I even had a big piece written about the parallels I see between Wayde and Keith Alexander- both being people who never accepted being the best at something- when they’d achieved the goal of working towards perfection both gladly move on to something new and start back at the bottom; the thrill of knowing something new being much, much more important than the accolades for having done it.
But a photo of him looking cheeky and him telling me about a dream he had where I was the Easter Bunny is a much truer snapshot of our friendship, so I went with that.
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.
Thanks to body modification, I’ve met a fair number of extraordinary folks over the last few decades; people who’s friendship means much, much more to me than their modifications do. When I think about my friend Pineapple- who just recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of his Shaman Modifications studio- I think of sitting at a super crowded San Diego ice cream parlor during the yearly chaos that is San Diego Comic Con, talking to he and his Mom and sharing stories over frozen treats. I think about kicking back in recliners at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, eating chocolate chip cookies and watching Halloween V… I’m not sure that we’ve talked about modification for longer than five or ten minutes in the decade or so we’ve known each other.
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: If your modifications are the most interesting thing about you- you’re doing it wrong. If you ever find yourself lucky enough to run into Pineapple- the tattoos, scars and piercings may be the first thing you notice, but if you take the time to really chat with him, you’ll find an absolute gem of a man who is much more than his mods.
This photograph was taken at the 2009 Association of Professional Piercers annual conference and exposition.
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.
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.
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.