-Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started with body modification ?
my name is Lukas Zpira wich is an anagram of my birth name. Before i got involved with body modification i was a member of an art collective based in the south of France called Adada where I was doing mostly paintings, sculputure and installations. I became Lukas Zpira when i began to work on myself in 1993. The idea behind the change was fueled by the desire of mutation, to fuse the body and the mind. I think that in order to change what’s around you, you must first learn how to change yourself. The first step of this evolution was to change my name. (see the text ‘putting an end with baudrillard”) Then came the birth of my daughter in 1995 wich motivated me to open my studio in Avignon, Body-Art Weird Faktory. We started as a piercing shop and then we started to offer services such as scarifications and branding. Implants came later. But being of course highly influenced by Warhol we were more than just a piercing shop, we did art exhibitions, performances and had various artists, sociologists and anthropologist come give lectures and seminars. The idea was to create a space dedicated to body mutation and all its relevent aspects and to give other artists a place to experiment and collaborate with others.
-What influences did you have that attracted you to start modifying yourself and others? Do you have any favourite body modification artists ?
I was 28 years old and got my nipple pierced. It was a real turning point for me or paradoxically a point of no return as i had finally cross the boundary and knew that this was the first step of my mutation. Being fascinated with cyber punk cultutre, science fiction and having grown up on comic books , the notion of a foreign metal object resting underneath my skin was the trigger to push my limits further. Making skin my new medium was the most logical step. Back then there were almost nobody doing extreme modifications besides Blair, Steve Haworth and a few others. Technically these were pioneers of the body modification scene but their approach didn’t correspond with my philosophy. I began to follow the work of australian artist Stelarc closely and found such inspiration in his notion of the obsolete body. I also have been working closely with Sammpa Von Cyborg, he is my accomplice in my new implant project!
-Where did you learn to do modification? and wort sort of modifications do you do ?
I learned a lot from steve haworth but never underwent a typical apprenticeship. I have collaborated with other artists as well and learned along the way but i am mostly autodidact. I perform a multitude of modifications from scarifications and branding to subincision, tongue splitting and transcrotal, subdermal and transdermal implants and soon will start to reveal the results of a project i’ve been working on for 4 years now which involves replacing large areas of skin with titanium.
-What modification do you have at the moment, did you do any of them yourself and what are the meanings behind them
I won’t give the full inventory of my modifications but to give you an idea i have 2 massive subdermal sillicon implants on both calves that were carved by Jessee Jarrel, beads on my chest, some transdermals, an RFID chip, but my pride and joy is my new implant on my forearm. After 4 years of research i found a way to replace large areas of skin with titanium. I am presently in the healing stage, this is the first attemp and the prototype is my design. I am at the moment working on the second prototype which will be bigger and better with the possibility of incorporating technology such as an ipod shuffle for example! I am happily surprised with the outcome and i hope this will open new doors for future modifications. I found a real lack of creativity amongst the modified community, it seemed to me that everyone was recreating things that have been around for some time now but nothing avant garde so i took the initiative to invent something new.
-You coined the term ‘Body Hactivism’ where did the term originate, how did you come up with it and what does it mean
I created the term body hacktivism in 2004 out of necessity to redefine a new movement of artists who are working around mutations and using body modifications or body hacking, as i like to call them, as their medium. I didn’t feel that terms such as cyber punk was adequate to represent my philosophy and neither did modern privitism. Of course some of these modifications have been around since the dawn of time and do represent some kind of rite of passage but unfortunately i see a lot of these “rituals” simply as cultural pillage. Sure some ritualistic elements can be found in these practices but i would rather see us create our own rites instead of ‘borrowing” or “appropriating” ancestral beliefs which are not in adequation with our times. We are living in an era where techno-medical discoveries are getting ahead of us and we have very little knowledge and control over some of these technologies that are being imposed upon us. Body hacktivism questions the freedom of choice concerning transformation options our society is facing and body hacking offers the ability to stay one step above. As i wrote in the manifesto, body hacktivism doesn’t include the need to be modified and all modified persons are not necessarily body hacktivists. Its not about creating an elitist group as is often assumed, but rather a state of mind, a concept or a philosophy to adopt.
You’ve been involved with numerous projects over the past couple of decades, could you tell us about some of those works.
Couple of decades? Wow! Am i that old? Yes i’ve been keeping busy with various projects. Chronologically it really all began in 2000 when after establishing the Weird Faktory i created a collective called ArtKor and during the Avignon Art’s festival we put on an event wich lasted 6 months. Over 80 performances including lectures and seminars. The collective is still active to this day with the core consisting of 4 or 5 members and we work in collaboration with other artists such as poets , musicians and videasts. Then i went on the road and began my crazy bod mod tour, during this tour i participated with a french film crew and did the Nobody’s Perfect documentary which focused on all body practices from modification to alternative sexuality. While in New York city i met the Vampyre clan Hidden Shadows and made a documentary with La Spirale’s Laurent Courau, published a book on them with Hors Edition who also published my first book Onanisme Manu Military. In 2003 on my second trip to Japan i met my lovely translator Satomi who i married 2 years later. We started performing together mixing new elements in our shows such as bondage. I began to photograph her in various contexts and this is how the TokyoLovedoll book was born. It was published by Edition Treville, a japanese publisher. I’ve done a few photo exhibitions in Tokyo at Vanilla gallery and Kinokuniya, in Berlin at Strichnyn and Abnormal gallery. Body modification wise i’ve been working with the italian body jewelry company micromutazioni on a new transdermal implant design and our catalogue should be out soon. I’m also doing a lot of seminaries on scarification, branding, implants and sclapel procedures and this all over the world from south america to australasia.
You also operate a photography company blowyourmind production which revolves around modified subjects. When did you start to take an interest in photography and how can people get involved ?
I’ve been interested in photography for many years but really started to focus on it when i began the crazy bod mod tour. Since i am constantly travelling i am lucky to meet some of the most unique characters around the world. It was logical for me to start photographing these counter culture creatures and document all that is underground. I don’t find most of the photography i see now interesting at all. A pretty girl in a pretty outfit just doesn’t seem appealing to me. I prefer the quirkiness in something unusual or something erotic mixed with a grotesque element. I am always opened to suggestions and am working on a new project about amputation and prosthetics.
-You’re currently on a world tour, what are some of your favourites cities to visit and can you tell us your favourite experience(s) that has happened whilst on tour ?
i’ll be celebrating the tour’s 10th year anniversary. It has taken me to all 4 four corners of the world and of course i have had some amazing experiences, met some wonderful people, too many to list here but just to name a few some of my favourites cities have been Osaka, Naples, Berlin, New York, Sao Paolo, Bueneos Aires and Melbourne.