ITW for Rebel Ink Magazine

-Place (city) of origin:

somewhere in the south of france

-Where you are located now:

probably an airport lounge!

What is the meaning behind the name Lukas Zpira ?

if you mean the etymological background of my name there is none but Lukas Zpira is an annagram of my birth name. 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 merge the body and the mind. I believe 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 ‘putting an end with baudrillard”)

-What was the motivation for you to move from working in mediums such as photography, painting and sculpture to body art?

it was a very logical and natural transition triggered by the birth of my daughter. I suddenly found myself with a big responsability of raising a child and knew that i wanted to have some type of security and regular income. i always knew that i would live from my art but didnt quite know how yet. i opened the studio, making the skin my new canvas.

-When you first opened the Body Art/ Weird Faktory studio, what kind of body modification work were you doing?

We started as a piercing studio in 1995 and soon we were offering 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.

-How did you train and prepare yourself for the kind of cutting work you do on skin?

Of course the artistic aspect of my work is something that i transferred from my experience with painting but i had to adapt myself as skin is a living canvas wich means that it evolves constantly but the technical element is something i learned on my own. i watched a few procedures done by steve haworth and got him to work on me as well. I first started to do small pieces on friends who were willing to let me try it out on them. To master precision and depth i also worked on apples a lot. The skin being quite tough but the flesh is tender it does resemble a bit to how the human skin reacts to being cut.

-Mixing bondage with scarification and branding, would you say your work is only about art, or are you trying to push the limits of the human experience?

of course its about both. When i met my wife satomi i was doing a lot of solo performances doing mainly hook suspensions, only a few people were doing this at the time but i soon found myself hitting a stagnant point. Satomi and I discovered that we both shared a common interest; suspension, me with hooks, her with rope! Satomi was working more with concepts of body manipulations like bondage, corsetry and tight lacing. We started to mix her universe and mine to create very unique performances. Adding a feminine and sensual touch softened the sometimes shocking image of hook suspension. Incorporating fetish imagery broadened our spectre and people are more receptive.

-Having toured around the world with your shows, do you find that some cultures are more receptive to your work and performances than others?

its difficult to list all the countries wich have been receptive since we travel so much but paradoxically it is often cultures that revendicate progressiveness that are the most close minded, such as france! we always get great response and positive feed back from south european countries and japan.

-How do you personally define “beauty ?

anything that is altered and or enhanced, wether it be a woman in a tight corset or an amputee with a cool prosthesis! Beauty should not be about conforming to a mold or a norm. i don’t find hollywood type beauty standards to be attractive. I prefer imperfections wich gives character and personality.

no body is perfect!

Have you toured America with your shows ? Do you plan to bring your show here in the future?

we’ve been to various cities in the U.S. to present our performances but encountered many problems with laws and regulations that ban this or that. For instance its illegal in nevada to do body suspensions and N.Y has very strict rules about nudity. we’ve even been banned from an event once because we supposedly encouraged non consensual BDSM practices. let me point out that this was a fetish related event! tattoo conventions on the other hand are usually good working conditions for us, especially for mario Barth’s events but then again the last show in las vegas had to be cancelled because of new laws on body modifications so at this point we focus more on seminars and workshops rather than performing but we re always open to suggestions.

-Does the experience of cutting and branding skin excite you, or does your fulfillment only come from the finished product?

the experience is as intense for me as it is for the receiving end. Its a very intimate exchange so of course the process is as fulfilling as the final product. the beauty of scarification is that the skin reacts differently from one person to the next and constantly keeps on changing throughout the years. There are no foreign bodies introduced under the skin and that’s also very interesting. of course i do find it exciting to do work on my wife but its in a completely different context!

-Can you explain a bit about the Hacktivism Manifesto?

I created the term body hacking out of necessity to redefine a new movement of artists who are working around mutations and using body modifications as a medium. I did not feel that terms such as cyber punk was adequate to represent my philosophy and neither did modern privitism. 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 hacking questions the freedom of choice concerning transformation options our society is facing and re evaluates the notion of collective interest versus individual interest. 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 my goal to create a group, its a state of mind.

-How do you respond to critics who would say altering the human appearance in the manner that you do is playing God on some level?

those who criticise body modifications in this manner are usually judeo-christian types who strongl y believe that god has created man in his image therefore we should not change it, to alter it is sin. i can’t change someone’s religious views but what is interesting is the law in france when broken down basically states that by altering your body you are attacking its integrity since it belongs to the country, not god! even when the act is consensual. This is one of the big issue i  question when our free will and freedom of choice is in the hand of a so called democratic country.

-What are you most recent projects you are working on?

i am presently in the healing stage of a new implant generation that i created. This is the first attemp and the protoype is my design but that is all i can tell you for now. all i can say is that 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. samppa Von cyborg being my accomplice we will soon develop a second generation with a few minor adjustments.

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