A few weeks ago I started an Instagram account for my Occult Vibrations blog; taking some of my favorite images off of the blog and sending them out into the void that is click-to-like instantblogging. I’ve started to run out of pre-scanned images, so I’m actually going to have to start working at it soon. Should be fun. If you feel like following you can do that here: Occult Vibrations on Instagram.
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: https://sacreddebris.com/scarwarsten (as well as an ‘evolution of a subculture’ piece that can be found https://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.
- Scarification by Brian Decker, NYC ↩
I really meant to write a long, wordy treatise on the legacy of the SPC website during what would have been it’s 20th anniversary; but as always I’m getting to it a little late. Time has erased when our original launch date was but if my admittedly flawed memory is correct I think it was somewhere in September of 1995 that I first started sharing my archives via the members.aol.com space that came free with my AOL account. The original photos that went online were aggregates from several sources; photos I had taken, photos I had inherited from my mentor Jack Yount and images I had traded with other members of the offline body modification community who didn’t have access to a scanner or outlet to post them so I put them under a blanket name to simplify things- from Shawn Porter’s Collection. It seemed the best way to tie everything up in the days before promotion and branding were necessary- in 1995 there was BME and tattoos.com so if you were looking for body modification content it was easy enough to find. Worried that it would seem too much like a monument to ego, I shortened it to SPC Online (which went through different iterations; spc, spcOnline, spcO) and kept the name until we finally went offline in 2005.
Despite the boundary pushing nature of our content, AOL never had a problem with what I published and I kept things on their server until a photo adult performer Nina Hartley and I on my person blog (we didn’t call them blogs then) got me shut down. 20 years later I still appreciate the irony that America Online had no problem with voluntary amputation but female toplessness was a no-go. When we went dark due to the terms of service violation BME’s Shannon Larratt offered unlimited storage space and bandwidth with no content restrictions; the spcO remained on BME’s servers for the next ten years. Like Sacred Debris, our primary focus was history but we also branched out into more recent modification culture with convention coverage, chat rooms and personals and profiles of contemporary piercers and tattooists. Never the biggest (the BME juggernaut was impossible to compete with) we managed to stay true to the mission of documenting body modification culture from ritual, sexual, aesthetic and extreme with content that often wasn’t available elsewhere. Our archives were responsible for seeding the original incarnation of BME/Extreme, which opened the floodgates of what was then a very closed community of surgical body modification devotees. encouraging them to send in photos of their own modifications and ultimately influencing Shannon and I to create the ModCon events.
I am reminded of how very, very, VERY different my life (and by extension, BME, and by extension of that, a lot of other people’s lives as well) would be if I hadn’t met Shawn at exactly the right moment … If I’d met him earlier or later it wouldn’t have been even remotely the same — it had to be that moment for all the pieces to fit. I am proud to have been a catalyst for change and growth in a lot of people’s lives, but in this case, it was Shawn that was the catalyst in my life. On one hand it’s amazing how life-changing sequences birth from chance and coincidence, and on the other hand, duh, what else would genesis be? ~ Shannon Larratt September 1st 2012
In 2005, a decade after the initial launch of the site, BME’s server suffered a major crash and the majority of the spcO directory was lost; my backups were sloppy and incomplete and, partially motivated by the work I was putting into the SCARWARS events/blog I decided to not recover the site, ending it’s run with gratitude for everyone who had viewed the site and participated in it’s ten year tenure.
In late 2013 I discovered a cd-rom of old spcO images and began posting them on my personal facebook page. The flood of nostalgia encouraged me to reconnect with some old friends, rescan old images (spcO’s average image size was 640×40 at a 72dpi resolution) and start talking to trusted confidants about maybe resurrecting SPC as a blog. Ultimately I decided to go further back than spc, back to my old print/glue/staple body modification zine Sacred Debris, but without spc and it’s legacy I doubt any of this would have happened.
So happy 20th anniversary to the Shawn Porter Collection (online). It was a lot of fun and certainly helped shaped my 20s.
Event: Scarwars 2.
Location: Los Angeles.
Year: February 2006.
Photographer: Rachel Larratt.
Subject: Dave Gillstrap.
My wife and I took a much needed week long roadtrip for Thanksgiving; Philadelphia to Asheville North Carolina, Asheville to Atlanta Georgia and back to Philly, checking out the sights, seeing family and just unwinding from all of our responsibilities. I had packed my laptop and had a few blog entries ready to go out, but you know how it goes with vacations…
I’ve been focusing a lot on the 1970s lately, so I figured a 2000s post may be a welcome change. This 2006 photo, by BME’s Rachel Larratt, features scarification artist Dave Gillstrap at the second Scarwars event in Los Angeles. For the event portraits I asked our photographers to go very simple, white backgrounds and neutral lighting to let the personality of the subject stand out.
In 1995, my spcOnline was a fledgling body modification site hosted on America Online. AOL. As an ISP, they seemingly had no problem with the body modification content I was posting but I was TOS’d and my site removed over a topless photo of adult film star Nina Hartley that was part of an article I had written on my personal diary page.
Shannon Larratt graciously offered unlimited server space on the BME servers, with no prohibition on content, where my site remained for a decade before I finally retired it in 2005. My time with BME, Shannon and his wife Rachel helped spawn BME/Extreme, ModCon, and Scarwars and directly influenced Occult Vibrations and Sacred Debris.
Fifteen years after first meeting her, I still rely on Rachel for an ear to bend when I’ve got a new idea for a project or just a funny, snarky story to tell at three in the morning. She’s been through a lot over the last few years and she still does her best to keep things going. Recently her home and the majority of her belongings were damaged in a natural disaster in South Carolina.
The fine folks @ Metadope have put out two rad BME patches with funds going to help Rachel and Ari.
Grab some patches, support 20 years of Body Modification documentation and have a happy Halloween!
In March of 2001 I visited erotic artist Bud Larsen in Phoenix Arizona to talk about his work with PFIQ and Drummer magazine; his art helped define the early aesthetic of both periodicals- crisp black lines like a pornographic Al Hirschfeld featuring ultra masculine pinups, dangerous femme fatals and mindbending scifi and fantasy creatures with exaggeratedly large genitals which were more often than not pierced or otherwise decorated.
The entire affair was a disaster of exposed film, lost video/audio tapes and only memories and a few signed PFIQs as a souvenir of the trip. For fourteen years I’ve thought the tapes lost. SD recently received funding to restore 8mm video cassettes and during the sorting/cataloguing I discovered that a video backup of the interview wasn’t lost, just misfiled. This backup was intended to be a safety-net in case something happened to the mini-cassette recorder that we used for the interview was lost, which prophetically did happen, and was never intended to be a “on camera” interview. The handycam was set up to catch the audio and is just haphazardly pointed at Bud and I, and without a lapel mic the audio at times is difficult to hear, but given how woefully under-documented Bud’s career is, it was an amazing find.
This short clip features Bud and I discussing his process for creating a drawing. The audio is muddy, and I still need to scan the PFIQ issue the images we’re discussing come from- there’s a lot more work to do on this tape (hopefully a transcript and better audio) but for now- enjoy a chat with Bud (and my epic bad haircut) and make sure to say thanks to the patrons who sponsored the import/archival of the 8mm collection of the SPC.
(Val Martin wearing Drummer Shirt via The Leather Archives and Museum. Video title art c. Bud Larsen from PFIQ #13)
[KGVID width=”640″ height=”480″]https://sacreddebris.com/wp-content/uploads/VIDEO/uvatiarru-jc.flv[/KGVID]
Most of us perceive time as something linear that we move or progress through from start to finish. The Inuit believe that time moves through us in a repeating and cyclical fashion; from this they have the word Uvatiarru, meaning both “in the past” and “in the future” at the same time. There are truths that are revealed in the passage of time, and when they are forgotten, the are discovered again on the next cycle. – Shannon Larratt
I just finished doing a data-dump to my backup drive of September’s raw video files; in total I managed to import and archive about 60gb of unedited video content last month with subjects ranging from oral histories to surgical procedural footage. The majority of the import was for archival only, with no immediate plans for the video to appear here on the SD blog.
It’s an often intimidating amount of data, with each imported analog media cassette’s video being split into multiple segments. As the files moved from laptop(s) to the backup drive I started thinking about BMEZINE founder Shannon Larratt’s ultimately unrealized Uvatiarru film project. DV cameras were sent to BME fans all over the world, their content returned to Shannon for inclusion into the finished film.
Like the hundreds of clips transferring to my digital archive, Shannon’s video contributions kept coming in; the Cured (which was the original name of the documentary) US tour, the British Virgin Islands tapes, piercer Jon Cobb’s trip to Myanmar, Vietnam, and Cambodia… all of those segments just waiting to be stitched together and reformed into something greater than the sum of it’s parts…
A website popped up, as with most of Shannon’s projects, with a mission statement and a few stills and trailers. Ultimately the film was never to be completed.
At least three trailers were cut for the film, including this ‘behind the scenes’ trailer featuring Jon Cobb.
Most of us perceive time as something linear that we move or progress through from start to finish. The Inuit believe that time moves through us in a repeating and cyclical fashion; from this they have the word Uvatiarru, meaning both “in the past” and “in the future” at the same time. There are truths that are revealed in the passage of time, and when they are forgotten, the are discovered again on the next cycle.
Rites of the body are humanity’s earliest known form of communication with each other and with the spirit world — as far back as 30,000 years we see everything from simple tattooing to rituals involving amputation of digits by shaman. Over the past 500 years we humans have done our best to mask and even expunge these carnal voices, but they can not be silenced because they are who we are. Our bodies are vessels for these acts; we are designed, by hand of god or by hand of fate, to use our bodies to be the voice of the universe.
All over this world people are responding to a growing feeling inside them, each in their own way and with their own dance, but driven by the same underlying unifying heartbeat. Some dance with a heritage and guidance, but most don’t know the names for the passions that drive them. A wind gathers in them and around them and we’re watching it sweep through the world as we finally realize that the ultimate purpose of billions of unique puzzle pieces in different shapes and colors is to, through the strength of their differences, complete the puzzle that tells us who we are and what we are here to do.
The movie Uvatiarru attempts to take a picture of this storm.
Shot on location in over a dozen countries with hundreds performance artists, social deviants, and modern shaman, Uvatiarru is the result of nearly ten years of preparation and filming by Shannon Larratt and BMEzine.com. The film features amazing performances including all manner of body modification, suspension, piercings, body part removals and reshapings, fireplay, astral travel, and adventure.
Uvatiarru is currently scheduled for theatrical release in July 2004 with a double-DVD edition being released later with hours of bonus footage and several behind the scenes features. Bookmark this website to stay up to date on all the details.
Source: www.zentastic.com, Uvatiarru content ©2004-2015 bmezine.com
I first met Hiro in September of 1998 at the Crowe & Dwyer Tattoo Tour in South Beach Miami. Even surrounded by heavily tattooed people, Hiro stood out; his large forehead implants and stretched nostrils were pretty far out for a tattoo convention in 1998 and every time I tried to introduce myself I’d find him surrounded by photographers.
Steve Haworth finally got us together in his hotel room, and with the help of his interpreter we were able to get to know each other as I documented his modifications. He was in the States collecting work; tattooing from Grime and Guy Aitchison as well as implant and modification work from Steve.
When I ran into him several years later he had added beautiful facial scarifications to his already impressive body of work.
Modification: Ear lobe stretching/cartilage piercing.
Client: Shannon Larratt
Location: Toronto, Ontario.
Year: 1992-1994 (date unknown)
Original Source: spcOnline
When I first started the spcOnline site in October of 1995 it mostly consisted of photos from my own collection; pictures I’d taken or inherited made up the majority of the content for the first few months but occasionally we’d get reader submissions. This one was one of the earliest, submitted by and featuring BME founder Shannon Larratt’s early progress with ear lobe stretching.
This photo previously appeared on spcOnline as well as the Sacred Debris tumblr feed.
Original Source: 8mm Video Tape.
Conversion Source: 8mm Video Tape.
Location: Detroit, Michigan.
Subject: Shannon Larratt (bme)
Interviewer: Shawn Porter (spcOnline, Sacred Debris).
I’m not sure if I can give a good reason as to the real reasons behind why I wanted it done. The general concept had already been interesting to me, but whether it was something that I needed on some level is highly debatable… Back then I did a lot of experimenting with my body, so maybe it was as simple as curiosity..- Shannon Larratt 1
This video was shot in a Detroit, Michigan hotel room in 1998 and features BME founder Shannon Larratt and I discussing the process of having his tongue surgically split by Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon Dr. Lawrence Busino as well as a brief history of it’s contemporary origins. 2
This was the first time Shannon and I had met in person after years of online communication and comes from a larger conversation most of which isn’t body modification related.