Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Performance @ the Butcher Shop “Spring Break” Opening

I took a trip down to the Butcher Shop, which is used as artist studio space but also hosts the odd art event, for the “Spring Break” show. The work was a wildly uneven collection of mostly visual work by the studio dwellers, ex-SAIC folks and friends. With Pabst Blue Ribbon as a sponsor and the bikini-drinking-druggin-sun-shinin iconography on the walls the scene was set for spring break craziness.

I missed the violent end but was there for the anxious build-up and the party starting to swell. I missed the fashion show, the art getting trashed, the room getting tagged and so on but really I went in all honesty, on an unfortunately cold Chicago spring day, because they advertised a performance.

It ended up being a woman getting a tattoo of a “Reggae Butterfly” on her ankle.

Pedestaled on a crowded stage of tattoo gear, two chairs, tattoo artist and girl we gathered to witness a woman in a short skirt and “Hawaii” t-shirt mildly grimacing in pain as she got her first tattoo. She wasn’t drunk or anything, neither of them really engaged the audience that gathered then dispersed, mostly it seems staged for several photographers. I asked her some questions about her motivations and she wanted to “mark the occasion” and made a vague comment on her interest in how people find identity through what they war and buy which the tattoo is both. She was getting it for free (but giving a tip) and no one else was offered the chance to get a tat.

It was a rather closed action that carried little meaning or impact for me…and I looked and asked questions and hoped it would become something. It seemed rather lame in the end, kind of a small step for her and a giant leap in place for the rest of us.

Why a reggae colored butterfly someone asked me? I hadn’t even thought to ask, it seemed like the kind of dumb spring break tattoo you convince yourself to get while in Florida or somewhere. My friend wasn’t so sure. I suppose this was an ambiguity I didn’t want squelched with a mediocre reply. I suppose if there was any risk involved here it was the commitment to live with a silly tattoo.

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