"Whole Glory London" by Scott Campbell

"Certain rewards of anonymous intimacy, and the annihilation of hesitation’s hold." Scott Campbell

I've done my share of lining up for things, though it's been some time and admittedly I had thought those day were behind me. That was until I received a newsletter from Lazarides about an off site exhibition and performance by renowned artist and tattoo artist Scott Campbell. The exhibition would feature a new series of nine works; tattooed pig skin encased in stainless steel frames in liquid preservative. The performance, well read below -

At the centre of the installation is a hole. On the other side of that hole is Scott Campbell. He will tattoo (for free) any arm that comes through. There is no communication. Scott will tattoo whatever he feels inspired to do and recipient does not get to see until it is finished. A limited number of people will be selected each day via an in person lottery.

The whole idea (pun not intended) seemed fascinating and a little outrageous (even by 2016 standards) but I realised that it offered so much more than just getting a free tattoo. I soon discovered that not everyone was there for the same reason I was. I'm certainly into getting tattoos, but first and formost I wanted to be a part of this as I'm a fan of Lazarides. Secondly the chance to be an integral part of the performance (which coincides with Frieze) as a participant even if I wasn't chosen for the tattoo was a big draw for me. Sure, if I'd been able to sit in the chair it would have been the icing on the cake, but it was still cake regardless. 

I wouldn't get tattooed by someone who's work I hadn't seen before, the words 'free' and 'cheap' are equally disturbing to me with regards to tattooists. So this gave me the opportunity to find out a bit about Scott Campbell the tattoo artist. I'd seen various pieces of his work and particularly liked 'If You Don’t Belong, Don’t Be Long' featuring skulls laser cut into dollar bills before but hadn't realised he also worked on skin.

I repeatedly heard the same thing being said with regards to people being there due to his having tattooed celebrities above all else, which isn't suprising seeing as all the press of the event ran with the same tag line "The project gives the bravest and luckiest candidates the chance to be inked by the same hand that tattooed Heath Ledger, Marc Jacobs, Orlando Bloom and Courtney Love." I will concede that him having tattooed Iron Man is pretty fucking cool, but would rather appraise him on the quality of his work not who he's worked on. 

I stood in line among freaks, arty types, hipsters, weirdos, and even a few curious suits. I spoke to people with several tattoos, no tattoos, some just happened by the event whilst some others were planning on coming to all three days. Security regularly patrolled whilst tourists and locals asked what all the fuss was about. There was also plenty of media and press in attendance, that took some of the magic away from the event for me but added further excitement to others. I guess that's a necessary aspect to putting something like this on. There was certainly a buzz about this as the constant couple-a-hundred people in line can attest. When all said and done I wonder how London will have compared to the Moscow and LA events.

With regards to the ink on pigskin, it certainly was something to behold though not something I'd readily hang on the walls of my home. It did remind me of giant pork scratchings, then that could've be due to my lack of eating anything for lunch. Admittedly, I was somewhat disillusioned by the sixth hour having expected more freedom to roam between raffle draws as I reluctantly found myself caught between actually wanting to win the tattoo and just seeing out the experience for what it was, but ultimately consider the day a success.

I was able meet and to talk to people I otherwise wouldn't have encountered. I snuck a visit to The Real McCoys and Nigel Cabourn to touch things I can only dream of affording and enjoyed taking a break from line to watch the spectacle from the pub across the street with a Guinness.

Anyone not familiar with this type of thing could say I spent six hours lining up outside (and at times cold and wet) and don't have anything to show for it, but I hope this gives a different perspective on the day. Congrats to those that were winners of the tattoos, and good luck to those spending today and tomorrow taking part in Whole Glory London. I hope you all get as much out of it as I did. 

Thank you to Lazarides and Scott Campbell for the experience.