–Aux frontières du Body Art : Les créatures de Lukas Zpira par Maxence Grugier
-ITW by Zaya Vandan – Hungary
You started your career 20 years ago, a lot of things happened, and your personality has changed, I guess. Your body is the medium and you can represent your thoughts, your lifestyle through it and you do it in a very unique way. What was first? the modification of your body which put in act changes of your way of thinking, or the way of your thinking set you in the way of body modification?
do you still have plans to make changes on your body? Do you have something new? or the canvas is already full?
I changed a lot throughout all these years … and I hope I also evolved . My body is a canvas which tells my story … Im far from being already full . My body is like the rest of my personality , in progress, and there are a few things that I want to cover or change… there are always a few mistakes through our journey ;)
Usually I like to think that it’s my thought and the way I am that changed first and the body followed, but there is also an interesting thing happening when you change you body … it’s the way people interact with you. The complete social relationship evolves and that helps you also to change, often for the best and it makes more tolerant but or sometimes it triggers the opposite ! There is definitely something that you don’t really imagine before you modify yourself which happens and somehow changes you on a very deep level.
-I read about your affair with the french court and the happy end of it, which was a surprise even for you. First of all congratulations for the success! It’s not only an incident with happy end, but a big step for the art you do and people in this industry. Do you think this incident could change the mentality of french everyday people or as usual, it happened behind the scenes and nobody knows about it?
Yes it was a big surprise for me to win this trial but I was well prepared . Of course I was afraid to get a condemned (I could’ve ended up in jail and get up to 40 000 euro fine) but I was sure of my good rights and knew what I wanted to say. I also had the support of some major anthropologist and sociologist from France I have been working with since already many years. The whole thing in the end was beyond the issue and more about the point of view the government will have toward body modifications. I was worried to end up in a “autodafe” rather than a trial. I won two trials . The position of the government was interesting and this trial set an example for the future of body modification in french society . It was a good surprise . What surprised me the most was the lack of support from the french body modification scene ! I got the support from a rich businessman who payed for my lawyer for the first trial and for the second I put publicly wrote about my case and asked for support . I got many supporters, but mostly people who follow and like my work, but not really from the big names in the industry and no one showed public support…
-You built a really interesting lifestyle, but I guess it was not something conscious at the first time. Maybe I am wrong… Do you think there was a moment in your career when you decided to do scarification and all side projects around it seriously to fight against the negative reception and causeless censorious laws?
My work has also been about creating a reaction which can help us to evolve . I guess thats what art is suppose to do … But when I was working on canvas or other support, even if I found it interesting , it was difficult to touch people , make them react, question me or question themselves. With the body it’s different because you take art into a social world where the body is our first interface with “the others”. You get a direct reaction, positive or negative, but you get a reaction, people question , and if they go further than the simple “is it painful / it is real”, the questions can begin to get interesting , you can exchange a point of view, and somehow interact with the way people see or think of the world surrounding them … It’s unique in the history of art. The body is the most interesting medium you can work with and also perhaps language . Words are powerful too … but not everyone reads them…
-I think it’s just impossible to fight with the laws and governments all the time with the same enthusiasm, even if you have positive progress and examples behind you. Do you have anyone who helps you? What do you want to achieve nowadays?
I have people helping me from time to time … often not the ones I expected . It’s always the same… when things are going well you are surrounded by “friends” but when you have problems you can count on just a few , and often not the ones who are the most present in your life… but they are the ones who are really important. I have good friends and can go to many places around the world and find peaceful places and nice people. I cant complain on anything, but sometimes I feel a little bit alone in middle of a lot of people if you see what I mean.
A few years back if you asked me what I wanted to acheive I would have answered “change the world” , now I would say “to help the world evolve” and a few years back I didn’t mind constantly fighting for that, now I wouldn’t mind things to get a bit more laid-back . hum … maybe Im getting old ;)
-As I see you are a very sensitive about the social questions/problems. and you want to open the peoples’ eyes and make wrong things right. It’s a very gentle thing, but what about your personal life? How do you live your everyday life? You never had a moment when you said ok, it’s enough, it’s better if I concentrate only on my personal life and being a part of the system?
I never felt part of the system … younger I didnt know why, it was more a reaction rather than anything else, but the older I get , the more I travel and see the world, the more I look at politics , the manipulations etc, the more I think I have to do something and need to tell why I know or what I feel, and some how , that make me concentrate more on myself , get more organised, more clear about what I says, controlling more what I show, get better and do more interesting things…. to start to make the my world evolve to be able to make the one around me do the same . Its like ripples in water when you trow a stone in it. I never wanted to give up because I see that what I do makes sense to me , for my family and for some other people . Im happy with what I do and with my life… Im at a point where I know what I need to make it better , it s just sometimes frustrating to still have to go the hard way for things that should be simple.
-the freedom is one of the most important things in your life, personal freedom, freedom of thoughts, of art, which all sound good, but not too real in 21st century, when you just get ready everything from the press, tv etc and you just have to get it down, not think and not hesitate, but eat it and be satisfied. how do you protect your child in these conditions?
That’s an important question specially at this point . My daughter is turning 17 soon and is starting her own life . It’s a constant question for me. So far I tried to help her understand that everything is possible in this world if you do what it takes to make it happen and if you respect people, people will respect you. I open the doors of life to her, showed her the path and let her make her own choices . I think it’s a chance for her . I wasted so many years of my life if front of some doors. Some were for a long time closed to me, some I didn’t dare open. I take her traveling with me, show her different cultures and work on some projects as well. She is doing the photos for the chaos chronicles, and since last year she decided to start seriously studying tattoo with different artists. She’s always been around many good people in this industry … I guess she got the virus !
-You brought a new term „Body Hacktivism”. What does it mean and what are your goals with it?
I created the body hacktivism manifesto at first to explain a bit more my work … Now it’s starting to become a little artistic movement simply because some people find something for themselves in it I guess. This year with some other artists, but not from the body modification scene, we want to start writing new chapters for the manifesto. Through the years I found more and more people who have interesting things to say about the same topic through different forms of art they use to express themselves … so the idea is to put these people together under some kind of artistic movement, like it used to be for the surrealists, dadaist etc … it’s been a while since the last major artistic movement .We will try to get the first one on its feet and going or should i say creating, since the beginning of this new century ;)
-I am very curious about your “the chaos chronicles” project. You travel a lot and see differences between the countries, menthalities and you share it with the people. But it’s only sharing the aspects. Do you have an utopistic world in your mind? Do you have a real concept for making the world more humane?
Unfortunately I don’t have so much hope in “humanity” or humans as a “kind”, only a few individuals and I live for those. I don’t see things getting much better for the future of our kind, that’s why I want to preserve the ones who are important to me. And i’m pretentious enough to think I can also change in a positive way the life of the precious few through my work. I don’t really understand people’s attitude and behaviours . I don’t understand why people don’t give to others the respect they want back for themselves … Perhaps because they don’t have respect for themselves. That’s often the case. People act like animals. Nowadays to survive you have to be a wolf , or you end up a sheep … that’s not a human attitude. I like to think as myself as a Buddhist, but so far I didn’t find enough compassion in me to achieve that.
-The tattoo industry is growing very fast, you see that every 3. man is tattooed, and there are a lot of magazines, sites, tv shows. What do you see in a tattoo world worldwide? How do you see it’s future? and what about the development of the body modification comparing with the tattoo art?
It’s good that you separate the two industries, tattoo and body modification . They are two different wordsl and at two different stages . The tattoo industry surprises me a lot , specially since few years . The last few years it as become more and more popular and getting more support, and now, in most “westernized” countries, you can easily work in any industry with tattoos … or at least it’s getting better as far as social relationships are concerned . But at the same time, it lost a bit of its “soul”, a bit of its meaning and its symbolic. I guess it’s the price to pay to get mainstream and for the artists to be seen as real artist . Since a few years, a lot of young kids are starting to do tattoos . There are more and more shops open, people practicing … a lot of them are in it just for the money and what they imagine a rock and roll life style. But in this young generation, there is also a lot of amazing artists who are emerging, some of them would’ve never dared before to try but who finally find a way to make a living though their art, find canvas to go around with the pieces they did on them. The level in tattoo is getting incredible and since the past 10 years I can’t stop getting more and more impressed with what people can do with a machine and some ink !
There is also more communication and meetings between the artists, bigger conventions, more workshops where people share knowledge. It’s really becoming an organized industry. It’s not really the case in the body modification “industry”. When I started I thought we could change a lot of things because we were working on changing the most important thing for the human, it’s body, and that you couldn’t go through that process without also changing your mind. I was seeing it as a way to express our individuality and to express ourselves and as we would go further into it, expressing more what we are, we would build an open mind for what is different. But obviously I was wrong , as it quickly became a way to show that you are part of a group or that you want to be, it somehow quickly became a little bit “cliche”, and instead of breaking the rules to create new ways, it became a way to create more rules. I’m a bit disappointed and since already many years, hope for a better and more creative future.
-It is very hard to make researches here in hungary about the tattoo and body modification. There is no literature about it. Do you write articles and if yes, where were they published? also could you please make suggestions about good researches in these themes? because it can be helpful for all of us, who just poke about it in darkness.
hahaha ! I think that the most interesting influance for people who are interested into body modification is not about looking so much on what has been done in this field , but more looking on what the future can bring to us. There is no doubt that the way the human will change and that our evolution will not only be biological but that we will somehow be able to control the way we are more and more, we become, we evolve, and the technology will enter our body. it’s already begun. We already integrate a lot of things that are not organic. Fake tooth, boobs, heart, articulations, hair, etc etc . For the question around the evolution of the human through modification of the body I would recommend to look at that stuff rather than some people playing with blades and putting bloody videos on internet. The point is somewhere else . I tried to explain that when I wrote the body hacktivist manifesto, but I also have a blog about that and the different persons / artists / industries who are working around that : http://hackingthefuture.blogspot.com. There is a lot of interesting research everywhere . What the body modification industry is doing at the moment is just symbolic … it demystify the body and in the best of cases, creates new rituals, no more, no less.
-You are one of the most brave persons I’ve ever seen. Because i have no power to tattoo all my body just because I am afraid of the preconceptions in my profession, but the biggest thing I am afraid of is that the people will ignore my child because of me (in this way hungary is a very close minded country… If you are asian AND tattooed, that is something deviant. What do you see in peoples’ eye, when you for example go to your child’s school? How does your daughter think about your lifestyle now, after so many experiences and travels?
The thing is you can’t really be in the system and out of it at the same time but we often find ourselves in this situation. It’s not always easy to leave this paradox . For me the answer is to avoid as much as possible the world we live in and try to create my own for me and my family. Sometimes people say I’m lucky, but I’m not … I just dare to do things, and always payed the full price for it. People think I’m strong because I dare but actually I dare because I don’t feel strong enough to deal with the situations I don’t want to live with. It’s a matter of choices, there is not one easier than the other , but I think because I made some choices, things will be more easy for my daughter instead of having her stuck in the same situation we all are find ourselves in at some point. Because we don’t dare to change things we only reproduce the wrong ones. It’s difficult to stand when you constantly get attacked … for your colour, your race, appearance, choice of lifestyle or whatever. The only thing you get when you are different or do things in a different way is that that you get judged all the time , specially if you have kids … It leaves you no choice than to be better than anyone, you have no choice than to be good . If you survive the attacks you go through all the time because you chose to live the life you wanted people will respect it , not because they respect the fact that you chose a different path, but because you’re still standing after all that. But of course if you’re still standing, they will always look at you and say you’re lucky because you live what you want and the way you want to. The problem is that we live in a world where people reject what they don’t understand often without even trying… human you say ?
-you are an absolute artist and an outlaw. What kind of entertainment does the person like you prefer? (music, art, movie, comics, anything….)
Cinema at first. I have a real passion for it… but I like all forms of art, specially photography, anything conceptual, painting, music, poetry… travelling . I like to discover things … and … girls entertain me a lot also !
-You Can’t Say You Didn’t Know – ITW by Laurent Courau
(version française a la suite)
Laurent Courau : Let’s go back quickly to the legal issues of last spring, the reasons for this trial and your own conclusions regarding the judgment. Did you fear you might be used as a scapegoat and what would have been the risk encountered supposing the court would have convicted you?
Lukas Zpira : I was charged with voluntary aggravated assault on a minor after having performed a scarification on Pierre Yves Revellin who was sixteen at the time, whose father happens to be a lawyer, and put in a complaint. I was risking four years of imprisonment and a 45 000 euro fine. To cut the story short i was acquitted in the first instance as well as at the appeal, both times at the request of the prosecuting attorney. I had a pretty solid case and a lot of support…yours to begin with, as well as Thierry Ehrmann’s and the whole Abode of Chaos crew. Sociologist Philippe Liotard also came to testify in my favor and people such as the Anthropologists Bernard Andrieux and David Lebreton wrote letters explaining my work.
What’s really interesting here is the position held by the public prosecutors department, which in this case represents the government. It states in its judgment that scarification does not constitute an act of violence. This stance is quite progressive considering the average french person’s opinion on this topic. What is even more surprising and of huge importance is the fact that the judge asserts that from sixteen years of age we may do whatever we want with our body. I definitely wasn’t expecting this!
L.C : On a more general level, now in 2010 what do you think is the attitude of the french and foreign institutions in regard to “alternative body practices”? If i remember correctly 2008 and 2009 saw a real resurgence of legal proceedings against body art practitioners notably in Canada but in other countries as well…
Institutions have a tendency to reprimand anything that doesn’t fit in the mold but really they’re only playing their role. They check what goes on, they censor, they reassure and pretend to protect people, they control and frighten through media. They have “responsabilities” which they assume somewhat lamentably but i guess they’re simply fulfilling their function.
Obviously everybody knows that these institutions aren’t really “fair-play” specially if you don’t play with their rules but rather with their limits.But as long as you don’t go too overboard and can afford a good lawyer you should be fine. What we do is not that threatening to them, yet. They have already categorized us and put us away on dusty shelves amidst other counter cultures of the last century . The tidying up will come slowly, bit by bit, file by file. The institutions are already getting those in the “scene” looking to get some respectability to do the dirty work for them. In all of the counter cultures that have survived more than a decade this has always been the problem, those seeking recognition are in fact a cancer. And this is why I am a bit disgusted, you see i was judged and acquitted by the french government. If i would have been judged by those from the “alternative body modification scene” i would already be in jail…
Andrew Nilan, a young Canadian piercer, was suppose to go to trial for ‘illegal practice of medicine” following a procedure he did. A few weeks before the hearing of his sentence he committed suicide. What really killed him though is the fact that he was alone through the entire ordeal, without any support from those in the “alternative body modification scene” . The judgment would have created an interesting jurisprudence and everyone should have backed him up. But instead, “institutions” of the “scene” such as BME and BMX, and all those who transformed this utopia into a business, pretty much just ignored the subject.
The government is definitely exerting pressures, and this mostly through the medical lobby. There is a lot at stake when the body and its control is concerned and many members of the “alternative body practices scene” willfully play the game, whose rules are set by the government, in exchange for a “restricted” right to practice. In Australia, an important member of piercer’s association even threaten to denounce me and I know for a fact that the East Australia Health Department was running an investigation on me. There was an arrest in Japan too and i’m pretty sure I have a file with my name written on it and since then there hasn’t been any bodmod related events.
I’ve been wanting to do a U.S. coast to coast tour for a while now but it’s a bit tense. Even Shannon Larratt from BME had advised me against it. Should something happen, going from state to state the offense then becomes a federal crime which can get pretty hot. Once you’re on fire don’t expect anyone to put you out. When I had my problem in France I was lucky to have Thierry (Ehrmann) help me with the legal fees for the first trial. But when it went into appeal I spread the word in France that it was possible to help via donations. I needed 3500 euros and i got 2200, mostly from kids who wanted to get involved, at least for the principle of it. Besides a few long time friends who are in the business, no one dared to lift a finger. If it weren’t for the internet, my blogs and others sites such as yours the whole affair would have gone unnoticed, whether I go to jail or not.
L.C : Paradoxically at that period i never perceived you to have any antisocial urges or being a danger for those around you. You’ve certainly built a lifestyle that doesn’t follow the norms. You might be considered as marginal or eccentric but it seems to me that your approach is more constructive than destructive, this being of course my opinion. As far as the french society is concerned, where do you position yourself and what is your stance in regard to the fringes here and else where?
“Marginal” doesn’t have much of a meaning, besides, the system is well made. It swallows, spits out, formats, manipulates and transforms…Its an incredible machine. A multiple head monster. I don’t want to end up a victim so I’m not going to play David facing the infernal dragon. The “fringes” are an integral part of the system in which I’m not claiming to have a particular position. I’m just there de facto and not attacking the system per say. I’m just scattering grains of salt in the mechanism of this big machine and sowing seeds on my way. Reality is just a consensus we can alter. What interests me is to touch people in a way, to create some T.A.Z. in their minds through my work on the body, on this shell which envelops us and to which we often become prisoners. This approach seems like a good plan, at least it is for me and those close to me.
Transformation through the body is not obligatory. Being aware of what we are and the path we choose is enough. I don’t do what I do to piss off anyone but simply because I feel the need to. My approach was at first artistic and somewhat selfish. It has slowly drifted towards something more altruistic and political. I’m not trying to proselytize, I’m just expressing my ideas.
L.C : We have now entered an era where the body finds itself in the field of huge financial stakes, whether it be for medical and pharmaceutical purposes, for well-being and aesthetic or for insurance companies whose control on our lifestyle seem to be exponential. What do you think are the main risks, traps and dangers of this economical and political war around these organisms?
For me the only real danger is what we may call the “collective interest”, specially when it starts to tread on our freedom. We’ve seen how easy it is to control and manipulate people, in the name of this so-called “well being”, with notions of fear. Fear of religion, of 9/11, or H1N1. Our future as a species is quickly deteriorating. Man as we know it now might not be around much longer. It’s about time we worry about who’s gonna pull the strings and for what intent.
Yes the stakes are definitely enormous. Probably one of the biggest open market as of yet. The derivatives are countless and the schemes profuse. We might see an emergence of a new humankind whose evolution will be dictated by needs (often of others) norms (obviously) wealth (personal) social position, geographic situation or cultural and social environment.
If you’re American and made a fortune with the internet or new technologies, chances are that for a few millions bucks you’ll get to live till you’re 150 and never have to worry if you can still get it up or not., you’ll be like superman! But If you’re African and haven’t had time to think about making it big because well you’re too busy just trying to survive, chances are that you’ll die at 35 from AIDS or some pediatric disease like the measles because you can’t get the 5 euro vaccine you need.
It sends chills up my spine when I think about it. I personally began the battle through reflection and then took action, which I respectively call ” Body Hacktivism” and “Body Hacking”. It’s still at an anecdotal stage but the idea is to at least trigger the process of questioning and bring forth some answers.
L.C : I haven’t been following on updates of new techniques for body modification since a few hears so I’m not aware of it’s evolution. Are there any important news? Have you been implanting on others RFID chips such as the one you have implanted in your hand? I believe there were talks of developing specific applications for these chips which meets the notions of body hacking. Have you been working on new projects of technological implants?
I still have the RFID implant in my hand but haven’t found anyone to work on application development but I’m not giving up…
Other than that for the past four years I’ve been secretly working on a new type of implant which I boldly named M.A.T.S.I. (Multi Application Titanium Skin Interface). It is basically a sort of receptacle (a pod) made of titanium where the centre of the piece sits below skin level . The skin around this pod is what holds it in place. It is then possible to place various objects in the receptacle. It can be whatever you want. For the second generation i would like to put in an MP3 player. Despite a few defects during the conception of the prototype, the first generation test proved to be successful as it’s still in my arm. Because of its design its possible to put in an electronic device but with the option of being able to take it out should it stop working, or recharge it or replace it for a new one. The first prototype is 2 cm in diameter and round but i think its possible to go as large as 15 cm square if the placement on the body is adequate.
I came to this result after fusing two ideas. The first one was to eliminate parts of the skin in order to create a new interface which in theory is impossible. The second idea was to create a technological implant without encountering the problem of becoming prisoner of a unique technology. I had been pondering about functional implants for a while but the rapid evolution of these objects in terms of their size, memory capacity or processor speed was always a problem. Another issue was how to supply energy to these items and the last but not least was the long term reliability. With this system everything becomes possible since the implant is not subcutaneous but transcutaneous. It’s both inside and outside. Now the real problem for me is the lack of financial means. I’m basically working on developing these alone in my corner without any support or subvention. If everything goes well I should be able to present the latest model with the MP3 player sometime next year…but I repeat that the possible applications are numerous.
In the same field of research, Stelarc (who has always been a great inspiration for me) has finally been able to develop his third ear project and has been awarded with the Ars Electronica Golden Nica, quite a prestigious prize, for his work on hybridation. Unfortunately I strongly believe he is not getting the credit he deserves. A few years back I had negotiated with Stelarc and Cyril of Hors-Editions (which sadly no longer exists) to publish a re-edition of Stelarc’s somewhat forgotten work on suspension which he experimented with long before the “modern primitive” movement. This project included several new archives, some magnificent images, unrevealed footage and texts translated in 3 languages dating back to this period. At the request of Stelarc I had drafted the preface but the crisis hit and Hors-Edition didn’t survive. This beautiful project never made it past the stage of mock-up.
In another sphere there is also the work of Kevin Warwick, whose interview which dates back to the late 90’s can be found on La Spirale’s website. Although he seems to have been inactive since then, his assistant’s work (kind of anecdotal), probably in need of some publicity, implanted himself with a chip which he then infected with a virus. Now where things get really interesting is the domain of sports and the military but most of all of people affected by invalidism or amputation, whether it be from a body part or impaired of a faculty.
I have a blog (Ndlr : HackingTheFuture.Blogspot.com) where I regularly post links or articles related to this domain. There’s enough to imagine a very interesting future, where we will all live till we are 100 years old, with over-developed senses, almost omiscient. I remember smiling to myself while having a look at a 1960’s book explaining how new technologies would be at the service of mankind (or mainly to housewives ) with all the designs and ideas for domotics. Besides micro-waves and luxury car accessories we are far from these utopias of the past and I can’t even imagine what the future leaders have in mind as far as my utopias are concerned!
In the “alternative” scene of body modifications there has been a few evolutions but no real revolution. I have been waiting a while for new concepts to emerge, different point of views or maybe new influences, but so far I haven’t see anything exciting. I’m not sure anymore its worth expecting anything but I’m still hopeful to see someone come out with something interesting. But one thing is sure, BME etc is dead and obsolete.
L.C : Speaking of technology, we’ve witnessed that most of the alternative fields of the nineties and beginning of 2000, notably cyberculture, has now drifted further form its original futuristic vision to shift towards retro tendencies, from burlesque to the revival of 70’s and 80’s punk and the come back of cold wave or old school hip hop. Which areas are you still able to perceive this special vibration, optimistic and prospective, once found everywhere at that time, from free parties to publications such as Cyberzone?
The thing is that we’ve gone from cyberculture dreams to cyberpunk nightmares. Fortunately good things always come out of trash. Of course somewhere sometimes very powerfull things happen but its getting more and more difficult for those things to survive. Cyberzone which unfortunatey only published 4 (excellent) issues is a good example. Maxence Grugier, the founder of the magazine and who also happens to be a genius of the press, had to take on a day job in order to pay his rent. The publication was too avant garde, not profitable or exploitabe. From the days of Cyberzone until now, we’ve invented and imposed reality tv as the new standard of entertainment. We desperately search far and wide in the four corners of the world for “hidden talents” and hope to watch them hatch through our big plasma screens, as they would inside an incubator!
Art is being institutionalised and patronage died with the 20th century, those in power preferring speculation over philanthropy. I don’t think we’ll see anything new come out of the artistic field if we follow this road. Thierry Ehrmann’s Abode Of Chaos is one of the rare exception. But the tittle of the biennale I will be curating there next summer speaks for itself : “Surviving The Apocalypse” (Ndlr : http://www.borderlinebiennale.tv). Unfortunately we don’t see much optimism these days. Seems like the only type of optimism we see is associated with luxury and symbols of social success. I guess that’s the dream nowadays, to sit comfortably high enough on the social ladder to avoid the sewer smells coming from down below.
The shift you mention actually demonstrates a type of withdrawal of values in every circles, even in the alternative ones. It comes from the fear of the future, fear of taking risks. It basically comes down to a lack of initiative and imagination. It’s interesting to note that the cycle we have experienced since the beginning of the 20th century that would normally bring the arrival of a new music genre (and the cultural movement that would come with it) has been broken. Since the techno revolution nothing new has immerged. We keep ruminating the same music, the same fashion. The media is telling us that this is all cyclical instead of telling us we’re just going around in circles
Steampunk’s popularity is a good example of this withdrawal into oneself, and may symbolize a type of fear of new technologies. Things of virtual nature are replaced by more palpable objects, familiar and recognizable. We are no longer in the imaginary world but rather one of desire. Tim Burton’s Alice goes to Underland, not Wonderland. She kills the Jabberwocky and drinks his blood. Lewis Carrol said…”Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it”
L.C : Recently a politics commentator was saying that ‘France is an old tired country.” I can definitely say for myself that I would extend this statement to the rest of Europe (maybe not all but most of its countries). Through your travels, how do you perceive the different dynamics in Europe, North America, Australia, South America and Japan? Is this sense of exhaustion specific to France and Europe? Or is it found worldwide?
I completely agree with you as far as the phenomenon extending throughout Europe. The thing with France is its tendency to always overreact, like a need for self-compassion. I’ve bee traveling since 10 years and observing. I see France plunging deeper and deeper, Europe is crumbling to pieces, the U.S. have become a caricature of itself and Canadians just trying to hold onto their identity. Japan is exhausted trying to get itself out of a crisis only to fall into the next one, Asia in general is lost between tradition and evolution, between sharing and the law of supply and demand. As far as Africa goes, it’s just trying to survive or exist, racism is omnipresent. I guess Australasia is not doing too bad, perhaps because it’s isolated and maybe some parts of South America, it’s got nothing left to lose (if we put aside the Chavez case that is)
We are finding ourselves under more and more control and surveillance, constantly tested. Ghettos are becoming more ghetto, the riches take refuge in their fortified mansions and the middle class end up in lodgings under video surveillance. There is still just as much cash circulating in the world but its repartition has changed a lot since the crisis. No big news here, the poor are poorer and the rich, richer. I’m just surprised there aren’t more violent reactions and terrorism other than religious. I’ve been traveling long enough to say that I like the world and the human as an individual, I’m almost filled with hopes at times but humans as a group or species makes me sick.
The world is on the verge of chaos and it’s a pity because it can be incredibly beautiful if we just look at it other than through our television. I have a project called “the chaos chronicles”around that topic. it’s a nomadic point of view of our world, using photos, videos and text. For now I put everything in a blog http://www.thechaoschronicles.org. In the future I would like to arrange my travels around that project to push it further.
L.C : You’re one of the rare people i know to have gone so far into examining their original identity and social conditioning, which I’m sure gives you a particular point of view on the world surrounding you. Based on your personal experiences what necessary actions must be taken in order to trigger a psychological and creative awakening of our societies? What kind of advice would a “freak” give to the working mass and normative society to get out of the rut in which it has fallen into?
Hahaha! Ok. I don’t judge individual choices but try to understand them and I’m not here to give any lessons but if people gave the respect to others they themselves expect in return it would be a good first step forward. Respect is something that is lacking in all environments; the value of one’s word is also really important specially nowadays where so much relies on verbal agreement; to allow yourself the right to change, to never forget your dreams and that you always have the possibility of choice, even though it seems difficult. Also maybe to realize that to love doesn’t mean to posess, even if we’ve always been told the opposite.
But anyways, I’m not gonna play the guru! …Believe it or not, I always try to see things positively and with a smile, to do things in a serious way but not take myself too seriously! My philosophy is a mix of Dalai Lama and Robert Sheckley whose quote i always keep in mind: “Anything ceases to be funny from the moment it sits on you”.
L.C : You are the father of a fourteen year old teenager who’s been traveling around the world by your side since she was very little. If I remember correctly you once said during an interview for the movie “No Body is Perfect” that you hoped your daughter would not be confronted to the boundaries you experienced in your youth. Which brings me to ask you, what is your vision of the future today?
Mayliss has been traveling with me since she was five years old. We’ve been to five continents and twenty five countries together. I’ve always tried to prepare the way for her and give her opportunities, to show her that everything is possible as long as you make the effort, that there is not only one way or one truth, that between black and white there are so many shades of grey. But most of all I try to teach her respect. Respect of others and of herself . I think it’s the foundation of everything.
Despite what some believe, to try won’t cost you any more than not doing anything. All of this happened thanks to her, so I owe her at least that much. We build the world we live in. “what you give is what you get” they say. I try to give the best of myself to live in a better world. Even though my vision of the world can be quite pessimistic at times, I can’t give up, not yet anyways. No matter what happens I know i’ve still got things to do. Something can come out of all this…Like many, I’m still searching.
L.C – Revenons rapidement sur les événements judiciaires du printemps dernier, les raisons de ce procès et tes propres conclusions à l’issue du jugement ? D’autre part, as-tu craint de servir de bouc émissaire et quels auraient été les risques encourus dans le cas où la cour se serait retournée contre toi ?
Je passais à la base pour « coups et blessures volontaire sur mineur », suite à une scarification effectuée sur Pierre Yves Revellin, qui avait seize ans à l’époque des faits et dont le père avocat avait porté plainte. Je risquais quatre ans de prisons et 45 000 euros d’amende ! Pour faire court, j’ai été relaxé en première instance, ainsi qu’en appel, à la demande de l’avocat général. J’avais un dossier assez solide et pas mal de soutiens… le tien déjà, celui de Thierry Ehrmann et toute la raya de la Demeure du Chaos. Philippe Liotard est venu témoigner à la barre en ma faveur et des gens comme Bernard Endrieux et David Lebreton avaient écrit des lettres pour soutenir et expliquer mon travail.
Ce qui est très intéressant, c’est de voir la position du parquet, qui représente l’état, dans cette histoire. Il affirme dans son jugement qu’il ne voit pas un acte violent dans la scarification (ce qui est quand même plus progressiste que la position de la moyenne des Français sur le sujet !). Et il réaffirme, chose importante, la libre disposition du corps dès l’âge de seize ans ! Pour moi, cela a été une surprise totale.
L.C – De manière plus générale, quelle est l’attitude des institutions françaises et étrangères en 2010 vis-à-vis des pratiques corporelles « alternatives » ? Je crois me souvenir que les années 2008 et 2009 ont été le théâtre d’une résurgence des poursuites contre les pratiquants de modifications corporelles au Canada et dans d’autres pays…
Les institutions ont tendance à réprimer tout ce qui dépasse, mais finalement elles ne font que jouer leur rôle. Elles contrôlent ce qu’il se passe, elles répriment, rassurent, font semblant de protéger les gens, les contrôlent et les effraient à travers les médias, etc. Elles ont des « responsabilités »… qu’elles assument, certes en général assez lamentablement. Mais disons qu’elles remplissent plus ou moins bien leurs fonctions.
Évidement, tout le monde sait que les institutions ne sont pas vraiment « fair-play ». Ce qui est d’autant plus vrai lorsque tu ne joues pas vraiment dans les règles, mais plutôt avec leurs limites. Mais en gros, tant que tu ne débordes pas trop et que tu peux te payer un bon avocat, ça passe. Notre travail ne fait pas encore, loin de là, trembler les institutions. Nous sommes déjà catégorisés, rangés sur une étagère poussiéreuse au milieu des autres contre-cultures du siècle dernier. Le ménage se fera en douceur, petit à petit. Les institutions se servent déjà de ceux qui sont au sein de cette contre-culture et qui recherchent une certaine respectabilité pour faire le sale travail… et ils sont légion, comme dans tout mouvement contre-culturel qui a survécu plus de dix ans. C’est leur cancer… et c’est là que ça me dégoûte un peu. Tu vois, j’ai été jugé par le gouvernement français et j’ai été acquitté. Si j’avais été jugé par le milieu des « modifications corporelles alternatives », je serais déjà en prison depuis longtemps…
Au Canada, Andrew Nilan, un jeune pierceur, devait passer en procès pour « exercice illégale de la médecine », suite a une procédure. Quelques semaines avant de passer en jugement, il s’est suicidé. Ce qui l’a vraiment tué, c’est le fait d’aller au casse-pipe tout seul, sans personne derrière lui et sans soutien de ce « milieu des modifications corporelles alternatives ». Le jugement allait créer une jurisprudence intéressante et tout le monde aurait du être derrière lui. Au lieu de ça, des « institutions » du milieu, telles que BME et BMX, tous ceux qui ont transformé cette utopie en business, ont juste plus ou moins ignoré le sujet.
Il y a une pression exercée par les gouvernements et surtout, à travers eux, par le lobby des médecins. C’est certain. Le corps et son contrôle représentent des enjeux importants. Le milieu des « pratiques corporelles alternatives » joue aussi souvent le jeu des gouvernement en échange d’un droit (restreint) à exercer. En Australie, un membre important d’une association de pierceurs a ouvertement menacé de me dénoncer et je sais que le East Australia Health Department a enquêté sur moi. Il y a eu des arrestations au Japon. Là aussi, pas de doute qu’à la suite de ça il y a quelque part un dossier sur moi et personne ne s’amuse plus à organiser des événements ouvertement tournés vers les bodmods.
Il est clair que c’est parfois tendu. Je voudrais faire un tour des États-Unis depuis longtemps, d’Est en Ouest. Mais Shannon Larratt de BME me l’avait déconseillé, car si tu vas d’état en état, le délit devient fédéral et ça peut vite devenir très brûlant. Et le jour où il y a le feu, il ne fait aucun doute que le mec se retrouve tout seul sur scène. Lorsque j’ai eu mes problèmes en France, j’ai eu la chance d’avoir Thierry (Ehrmann) pour casquer mon avocat pour le premier procès. Mais quand je suis passé en appel, j’avais fait passer le mot en France qu’il était possible de me soutenir via des dons… J’avais besoin de 3500 euros, j’en ai récupéré 2200. Uniquement des dons de jeunes qui avaient envie de s’impliquer, au moins par principe. Mais, mis à part une paire de vieux potes que j’ai dans le business, personne n’a levé le petit doigt pour moi. S’il n y avait pas le net, mes blogs et quelques autres sites comme le tien, l’affaire serait passée inaperçue… que j’aille au violon ou pas.
L.C – Paradoxalement à cet épisode je ne t’ai jamais perçu comme étant animé de pulsions antisociales ou directement dangereux pour tes prochains. Certes, le cadre de vie que tu t’es construit déroge aux normes. (sourire) On peut te considérer comme marginal ou excentrique, mais ta démarche me semble certainement plus constructive que destructrice. Ceci n’étant que mon point de vue, j’aimerais que tu nous dises toi-même de quelle manière tu te situes aujourd’hui par rapport à la société française, mais aussi par rapport aux marges d’ici ou d’ailleurs ?
« Les marges », ca ne veut pas dire grand-chose. Le système est bien fait. Il ingurgite, recrache, formate, manipule, transforme… C’est une machine incroyable, un monstre à multiples têtes. Je ne me sens pas une vocation de David devant terrasser cet infernal dragon. Je n’ai pas envie de finir en victime. Les marges font partie intégrante du système, donc je ne m’en revendique pas particulièrement, j’y suis juste « de facto », c’est la case qui m’est attribuée. Donc non, je ne m’attaque pas au système. Je pose juste des grains de sables dans le mécanisme au cours de mon passage. Je plante des graines d’aléatoire sur les plates-bandes. Pour moi, la réalité n’est qu’un consensus que l’on peut altérer. Ce qui m’intéresse, c’est de toucher un peu les gens, de créer des T.A.Z dans leurs esprits au travers d’un travail autour du corps, sur cette matière qui les enveloppe et dans laquelle ils se laissent emprisonner. Ca me semble effectivement plutôt positif comme plan… ça l’est en tout cas pour moi et les miens.
Ca ne passe pas nécessairement par la transformation du corps. Juste par la prise de conscience de ce que l’on est et de notre devenir. Je ne fais pas ce que je fais pour emmerder qui que ce soit, mais parce que j’en éprouve le besoin. Ma démarche était à la base artistique et égoïste, elle a doucement glissé vers quelque chose de plus altruiste et le politique. Mais je ne fais pas de prosélytisme… j’exprime juste mes idées.
L.C – On voit bien que le corps est actuellement le terrain d’enjeux financiers importants, que ce soit d’un point de vue médical et pharmaceutique, en matière d’esthétique, de bien-être ou encore pour les compagnies d’assurance dont la mainmise sur nos modes de vie est exponentielle. Quels sont pour toi les principaux enjeux, pièges et dangers de cette guerre économique et politique autour de nos organismes ?
Pour moi, le seul vrai danger, c’est ce qu’on appelle l’« intérêt collectif ». Surtout lorsque celui-ci se mêle de nos libertés. On a vu comme il est facile de manipuler et de contrôler les gens en son nom, à coups de peur du divin, de 9/11 et de grippe A. Les choses dérapent maintenant sur notre devenir en tant qu’espèce. On sait que l’humain tel qu’on le connaît n’existera certainement bientôt plus. Il serait temps de s’inquiéter de qui va tirer les ficelles, au nom de quoi.
Les enjeux sont énormes… certainement un de plus gros marchés jamais ouverts. Les dérivés (et les dérives) sont innombrables, les pièges sont multiples, à commencer par celui de créer de nouvelles espèces humaine dont les évolutions seront dictées par les besoins (souvent des autres), les norme(s) (évidemment), la richesse (personnelle), la position sociale, la situation géographique ou l’environnement culturel et social.
Si tu as fait fortune dans l’Internet ou les nouvelles technologies et que tu es américain, il y a des chances qu’en échange de quelques dizaines de millions (une broutille), tu deviennes un vrai superman, que tu vives jusqu’à cent-cinquante ans avec une barre dans le slip toute la journée. Si tu est Africain et que toi t’as pas encore pensé à faire fortune parce que tu cherches juste a survivre, tu crèvera à trente-cinq ans du SIDA ou d’une maladie infantile, telle que la rougeole parce que personne te filera le vaccin à cinq euros dont tu aurais eu besoin.
Ca me fait froid dans le dos, quand je commence à y penser. Personnellement, j’ai déjà commencé la résistance à travers la réflexion et l’action que j’ai engagé. Ce que j’appelle respectivement le « Body Hacktivism » et le « Body Hacking ». C’est encore anecdotique à ce niveau, mais l’idée est juste d’essayer d’apporter un début de réponse et de susciter quelques remises en question.
L.C – N’ayant pas suivi l’évolution des techniques de modification corporelle durant ces dernières années, je n’ai pas connaissance des plus récentes évolutions. Est-ce qu’il y a eu des nouveautés importantes ? Tu portes toi-même une puce RFID et il t’est arrivé d’en implanter à d’autres personnes. Je crois même me souvenir d’idées d’applications spécifiques à ces puces dans la droite lignée du body-hacking. Qu’en est-il aujourd’hui, as-tu eu l’occasion d’avancer sur ces projets d’implants technologiques ?
J’ai toujours l’implant RFID dans la main, mais je n’ai trouvé personne pour développer de réelles applications avec moi. Mais je ne désespère pas…
En dehors de ça, je travaille depuis maintenant quatre ans, et dans le quasi secret, sur un tout nouveau type d’implant que j’ai pompeusement appelle M.A.T.S.I (Multi Application Titanium Skin Interface). Il se presente sous la forme de petites cuves en titanes (un « pod ») dont le centre se trouve en dessous du niveau de la peau, celle-ci prenant appui sur les bord de la pièce. Il est ensuite possible de venir déposer un objet dans ce réceptacle. Ca peut être ce que l’on veut, pour la seconde génération j’aimerais y placer un lecteur MP3. Le test du premier implant est très concluant. Et malgré des petits défauts de conception du prototype, il se trouve toujours dans mon bras. Grâce à ce système, il est possible de mettre un objet, électronique ou autre, dans la cuve, à la place de la peau, mais avec la liberté de pouvoir le changer quand il ne fonctionne plus, de le recharger, de le remplacer par autre chose, etc. Le premier est une cuve ronde de deux centimètres de diamètre, mais je pense qu’on peut aller jusqu’à des pièces de quinze centimètres carrés, en assurant un bon placement sur le corps !
C’est en croisant deux idées que je suis arrivé à ce résultat. La première était de supprimer la peau sur certaines parties du corps pour créer une nouvelle interface, ce qui en théorie est impossible. la deuxième était de créer un implant technologique, en cherchant le moyen de ne pas rester prisonnier d’une technologie unique. Ca fait longtemps que je réfléchis à des implants fonctionnels, le problème étant toujours l’évolution rapide de ces objets en terme de taille, de capacité de mémoires ou de puissance des processeur, par exemple. Un autre problème était le moyen de fournir l’énergie a cet implant, et, dernier problème, mais pas des moindres, celui de sa fiabilité à long terme. Avec ce système, tout devient possible car l’implant n’est plus sous-cutané, mais transcutané… il est à la fois dehors et dedans ! Le seul problème qu’il reste pour moi, c’est le manque de moyen. Je fais ça dans mon coin, sans subventions ou soutien. C’est un peu à la pelle et à la pioche comme truc. Mais si tout va bien, je présenterai le modèle avec lecteur MP3 dans le courant de l’année prochaine… mais je répète que les applications peuvent être multiples.
Dans le même domaine de recherche, Stelarc (qui a toujours été un exemple pour moi) a finalement pu développer son projet de troisième oreille et vient d’obtenir le prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica, un prix assez prestigieux pour son travail sur l’hybridation. Je pense malheureusement que son travail ne trouve pas l’écho qu’il mérite. J’avais négocié quelques années en arrière avec Stelarc pour que Cyril, le fondateur des défuntes Hors-Éditions, puisse sortir une édition remaniée et remplie de nouvelles archives sur le travail (complètement oublié) de Stelarc autour de la suspension (qu’il a expérimenté bien longtemps avant la vague « moderne primitif »). Le projet comprenait des images fabuleuses, des vidéos inédites et des textes datant de cette époque en trois langues. J’en avais rédigé la préface, à la demande de Stelarc. Mais la crise a eu raison de Hors-Éditions. Le projet n’a jamais été plus loin qu’une très belle maquette.
Dans un autre registre, il y a le travail de Kevin Warwick, qui est en interview sur La Spirale depuis la fin des 90’s, mais qui n’a pas fait grand-chose depuis cette époque, et celui (plus anecdotique) de son ancien assistant, en mal de publicité je pense, qui s’est fait poser une puce qu’il a ensuite contaminée avec un virus… Ensuite, et c’est là où c’est vraiment intéressant, il y a le domaine du sport, du militaire, et par-dessus tout celui des personnes invalides, amputées, que ce soit d’un membre ou d’un sens !
J’ai un blog (Ndlr : HackingTheFuture.Blogspot.com) sur lequel je poste régulièrement ce qu’il se fait dans le domaine. Il y a de quoi imaginer un futur assez intéressant, où nous serons tous centenaires, avec des sens sur-developpés, presque omniscients. En même temps, je me rappelle avoir eu un petit sourire en regardant un bouquin des années 60 qui expliquait de quelle manière la technologie à venir allait se mettre au service de l’homme et surtout de la ménagère, tout les délires sur la domotique, etc. À part le micro-onde et les équipement des voitures de luxes, on est loin des utopies du passé et je n’ose pas imaginer ce que l’avenir risque de faire des miennes d’utopies !
Dans le milieu « alternatif » des modifications corporelles, il y a eu quelques évolutions, mais pas de révolution. Je ne suis pas sûr qu’il y ait beaucoup de choses à en attendre, je garde quand même l’espoir de voir quelqu’un arriver avec quelque chose d’intéressant. Mais il est sûr que BME et tout ça, c’est devenu assez ghetto et finalement « has-been ».
L.C – En parlant de technologie, on note que les circuits alternatifs se sont pour la plupart détournés de leurs positions futuristes du tournant des années 1990 et 2000 (la fameuse cyberculture) pour se recentrer sur des tendances rétro, du burlesque au revival punk des années 70 et 80, du retour de la cold wave au hip-hop « old school ». Où perçois-tu encore aujourd’hui cette vibration spéciale, optimiste et prospective, que l’on retrouvait partout à cette époque, depuis les free-parties jusqu’à des parutions comme Cyberzone ?
Le truc, c’est qu’entre-temps on est passé des rêves de la cyberculture aux cauchemars du cyberpunk. Heureusement, il y a toujours quelque chose qui sort de la pourriture ambiante. Et oui, il y a à certains moments et à certains endroit, des choses très fortes qui se passent ; mais il devient de plus en plus dur pour ces choses de survivre. Cyberzone n’a existé que le temps de quatre (excellents) numéros et Maxence Grugier, son créateur, qui est quand même un petit génie de la presse, doit prendre un boulot d’appoint pour payer son loyer… trop pointu, pas bankable. Entre l’époque de Cyberzone et aujourd’hui, on a inventé et imposé la télé-réalité comme standard. On va racler jusque dans les moindres recoins de tous les pays à la recherche désespérée de talents que l’on pourrait voir éclore sur nos écran plasma, comme ils le feraient dans un incubateur. Des talents desquels ils peuvent tirer un profit immédiat… même les perdants rapportent !
L’art s’institutionnalise de plus en plus et le mécénat est mort en même temps que le XXe siècle, les puissants préférant la spéculation à la philanthropie. Ce n’est pas comme ça que l’on verra arriver des choses nouvelles dans le champ de l’art. Je place quand même pas mal d’espoirs dans des projet comme Abnormals à Berlin, qui est à la fois une galerie (deux galeries en fait), une communauté d’artistes sur Internet, un éditeur et depuis peu une fondation. Mais il est clair que l’optimisme n’est plus trop à la mode. La seule forme d’optimisme qui s’affiche encore aujourd’hui, c’est le luxe, les symboles de la réussite sociale. C’est ça le rêve actuel, se situer assez haut dans l’échelle sociale pour ne pas trop sentir les odeurs de merde qui viennent d’en bas.
Le recentrage dont tu parles démontre un repli des valeurs dans tous les milieux, y compris chez les alternatifs. C’est la peur de l’avenir, la peur de prendre des risques ; ce qui démontre un manque d’esprit d’initiative et d’imagination. Il est d ailleurs intéressant de noter que le cycle qui voulait qu’il y ait depuis le début du XXe siècle un nouveau mouvement musical (et le mouvement culturel qui l’accompagne) tout les dix ans est rompu… ça fait plus de vingt ans, depuis la révolution techno, que rien de nouveau n’est vraiment arrivé. On ressasse indéfiniment les mêmes musiques, on nous ressort les même modes, etc. Les médias disent que les choses sont cycliques pour ne pas nous dire que nous tournons en rond.
La popularité du steampunk démontre aussi ce repli sur soi, ce besoin de raccrocher la technologie et les délires virtuels qu’elle promettait à des éléments plus palpables, plus reconnaissables, plus famillers. On ne se trouve plus dans l’ère de l’imaginaire, mais dans celle de l’envie. La Alice de Tim Burton se rend à Underland, plus à Wonderland, et elle tue le Jabberwocky et bois son sang… « Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it », disait Lewis Carrol …
L.C – Comme le disait récemment un commentateur politique, la France est un « vieux pays fatigué ». Un constat que j’étendrais pour ma part à l’Europe toute entière, à quelques nuances près. D’après tes nombreux voyages, comment perçois-tu les différentes dynamiques en œuvre en Europe, en Amérique du Nord, en Australie, en Amérique Latine et au Japon ? Est-ce que le sentiment d’épuisement mentionné plus haut est spécifique à la France et à l’Europe ? Ou est-il partagé par l’ensemble de la planète ?
Je te rejoins entièrement quand tu étends le phénomène à l’Europe. La grosse variante avec la France reste sa tendance à en rajouter, le besoin d’auto-compassion. Je me balade depuis dix ans et j’observe… je vois la France qui s’enfonce, l’Europe qui s’effondre, les États-Unis qui ne sont plus qu’une caricature d’eux-mêmes, des canadiens qui essaient de le rester, etc. Le Japon s’épuise à sortir d’une crise pour entrer dans une autre, l’Asie se perd de manière générale entre tradition et évolution, entre le partage et la loi du marché. Quant à l’Afrique, elle se meurt d’essayer d’exister. Le racisme est omniprésent. Ceux qui s’en sortent peut-être le mieux, c’est le continent austral (peut-être parce qu’isolé) et une partie de l’Amérique du sud (peut-être parce qu’elle n’a plus rien a perdre)… encore faut-il faire exception du cas Chavez.
On est de plus en plus contrôlé, surveillé, testé. Les ghettos deviennent de plus en plus des ghettos, les riches se protègent dans des palaces de plus en plus fortifiés et les classes moyennes dans des lotissements sous surveillance. Il y a toujours autant de tunes en circulation sur la planète, mais la répartition depuis la crise a bien changé. Les pauvres sont de plus en plus pauvres, les riches de plus en plus riches… mais ce n’est pas un scoop. Je ne comprend juste pas pourquoi il n y a pas plus de réactions violentes, de terrorisme autre que religieux. Je me balade depuis assez longtemps pour savoir que le monde me plaît, l’humain en tant qu’individu aussi. Il me remplit parfois même d’espoir, mais l’humain en tant que groupe ou espèce me donne la nausée.
Le monde est au bord du chaos et c’est bien dommage, car il est incroyablement beau quand on le regarde autrement que depuis un poste de télévision.
L.C – Tu fais partie des rares personnes que je connaisse à être allées aussi loin dans la remise en question de leur identité originelle et de leur conditionnement social. Ce qui ne peut que te donner un point de vue particulier sur le monde qui t’entoure. Et justement, quels seraient selon toi et d’après tes expériences les ressorts nécessaires à une relance psychologique et créative de nos sociétés ? En somme, quels seraient les conseils d’un « freak » aux masses laborieuses et à une société normative pour sortir de l’ornière dans laquelle elles se sont engouffrées ?
Hahaha ! Ok. Je ne juge pas les choix individuels, j’essaie au pire de les comprendre et je n’ai pas la prétention de donner des leçons… mais à la base, si tout le monde accordait à l’autre le respect qu’il réclame pour lui-même, ce serait un bon premier pas. Le respect est quelque chose qui manque dans tous les milieux ; la valeur de la parole donnée me semble aussi très importante dans une époque où tout doit être mis par contact ; s’accorder le droit de changer, ne pas oublier ses rêves et ne pas oublier que l’on a toujours le choix, même si c’est parfois difficile ; et peut-être aussi se rendre compte qu’aimer, ce n’est pas posséder, même si on nous a toujours appris le contraire.
Mais bon, je ne vais pas jouer mon gourou… Personnellement, j’essaie juste de toujours prendre les choses avec le sourire, autant que faire ce peut, de faire les choses sérieusement et en essayant de ne pas trop me prendre au sérieux… même si certains ont du mal à le croire. Ma philosophie se situe entre celle du dalai lama et de Robert Sheckley, dont je garde toujours en mémoire la phrase : « Toute chose cesse d’être marrante à partir du moment où elle s’assoit sur vous ».
L.C – Tu es le père d’une adolescente de quatorze ans, qui a fait plusieurs fois le tour du monde à tes côtés depuis son enfance. Et je me souviens d’une phrase de toi, à l’occasion d’une interview dans le film No Body Is Perfect. Si ma mémoire est bonne, tu espérais que ta fille n’aurait pas à se confronter aux barrières que tu as connu dans ta jeunesse… Ce qui m’amène à t’interroger sur ta vision de l’avenir aujourd’hui ?
Mayliss voyage avec moi depuis l’âge de cinq ans. Nous avons déjà visité ensemble près de vingt-cinq pays, sur cinq continents. J’ai essayé et j’essaie toujours de déblayer le terrain pour elle et de lui ouvrir des possibles. J’essaie de lui montrer que tout est faisable à partir du moment où l’on s’en donne les moyens, qu’il n y a pas qu’une voie, qu’il n’y a pas qu’une vérité. J’essaie de partager avec elle toutes les nuance de gris qui existent entre le noir et le blanc. En fait, j’essaie avant tout de lui apprendre le respect, celui des autres et celui d’elle-même. C’est la base de tout, je pense.
J’essaie parce que ça ne coûte pas plus d’essayer que de ne rien faire, contrairement ce que l’on croit. Et peut-être tout simplement parce que tout ça a commencé grâce a elle, je lui dois bien ca. On fabrique le monde dans lequel on vit. Ca ne fait pas de doutes. Les anglais disent « what you give is what you get ». J’essaie de donner le meilleur de moi-même, pour vivre dans un monde meilleur. Car même si ma vision du monde est finalement plutôt pessimiste, je ne peux me résigner, pas encore. Je sais que j’ai encore des choses à faire et que quoi qu’il arrive, il y a quelque chose à sortir de tout ça… comme beaucoup, je cherche.
-ITW 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.
–ITW Modify Magazine
-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.
-ITW Dose magazine
-hey there Lukas and thanks a lot for taking the time to reply to us! Which part of the world are you in at the moment and what are you working on, what has 2010 brought you so far and what are your plans for the near future?
LZ: It’s my pleasure! i’m currently in Paris apprenticing a very close friend of mine for heavy body modification. 2010 has been good so far, i’ve been working closely with the italian company Micromutazioni in develloping a brand new catalog featuring tools and implant jewelry for extreme mods. I designed for them a new prototype for transdermal implants which we will soon be putting to the test and i also was finally able to unveil a new implant i inserted in my arm a few years ago. This is my new pride and joy since its healing so nicely. I’m the only one with the prototype and i believe this type of implanting technology will be revolutionary. It will at last be possible to replace large areas of skin with metal and incorporating electronic components. This is an immensely important step for me, i haven’t seen any progress in the body modification community in years. Everyone seems to copy whatever has been done already but no one has taken the inititative to create something avant garde. There has been a few minor adjustments done on already existing pieces or techniques but unfortunately the market was flooded before anyone had properly taken the time to evaluate effectiveness and safety. People get hungry in this “business”, want fame and money and are willing to rip off anybody just to get credit. I’ll make sure this doesn’t happen, i, samppa von cyborg and XeddyX will be the only ones performing this procedure, if anybody wants this implant they’ll have to come and get it from us !
-Body Hacktivism in popular culture took a leap with Stelarc’s Golden Nica award – but where is that critical point when BH as such becomes commercially acceptable? RFID is already available for implanting and advances in touchscreen prototypes already use the body as canvas. Still, how do you see the breakthroughs and the level BH is accepted in society?
LZ: I put in a RFID chip in my arm about 5 years ago and remember how strongly criticized i was from the mainstream as well as the body mod community. Now the first chip has been infected with a virus to contaminate computer systems, this experiment was conducted by british scientist dr Mark Gasson who has directed professor Kevin Warwick’s research team. At the time my chip only had a very simple application, to open a door but i did this to demonstrate the close relation between body modification and science and what the two can achieve together but more importantly my goal was to educate people on how easy it is to combine these and not necessarily to our advantage. This is where body hacking takes on a whole other meaning. Yes we do have many new wonderful technologies but many of these are intruding in our privacy and taking away our freedom. This is why it is so important to understand these technologies and their possibilities, fast forward to the future and be aware of what the government can do with them and always stay one step ahead and be knowledgeable and possibly offer services such as removal of these chips if let’s say there came a point in time where they became mandatory at birth. So its very difficult to retain the perfect balance between being “commercially accepted” and remain underground. And it is ironic how even contemporary art has now been accepting and giving awards to pioneers such as Stelarc who in my eyes is on top of the chain and embodies the notion of Body Hacktivism since they were always the first to point a finger saying we were mad scientists experimenting on humans, that what we were doing was not art, they kept revendicating themselves as being progressive and open minded, this shows us that we were too avant garde even for the modern art world but fortunately we do have support coming from academic circles made up of professors, sociologist and anthropologist who follow this movement closely and share many common opinions.
-BH is regarded to be mere eccentricity by many opposers of body hacktivism, although it is more like a reflection to reality, a return to a previous, tribality-focused mindset of a society. That tribality still exists but the motifs and the symbols have gone above skin depth. How does one get past the fear of experimenting with herself and how does skin and body as canvas regain its original values?
LZ: If there is a certain tribility then its symbols have gone below skin depth not above. I created the term body hacktivism out of necessity to redefine a new movement of artists who are working around mutations and using body modifications as a medium. This being the philosophical approach of the manifesto I did not feel that terms such as modern primitives was adequate to represent my philosophy. Of course some of these modifications notably suspensions, scarifications and lobe stretching have been around since the dawn of time and do represent some kind of rite of passage but we do not live in tribes anymore and 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 re evaluates the notion of collective interest versus individual interest. This is the same collective interest that makes me uncomfortable because it has too many tribal references. Even within the modification community we are seeing this phenomenon of mimicking. So many possibilities are available to stay away from this mold yet we always see the same piercings, implants etc. As far as body hacktivism being regarded as eccentric, wouldn’t that be some kind of compliment? Eccentric, original, unusual are all synonyms. And the opposers you mention often fit the same profile, religious extremists who believe that god has created man in his image and to alter this body is a sin.
-What’s your take on regenerative medicine, regrowing fingers, limbs and organs? Is it just DARPA’s media machinery as acknowledged stem cell researchers tend to say, what do you think?
LZ: I’m all in for erradicating illnesses! This is an incredible breakthrough but implicates a lot of ethical issues. Even though there are so many different types of stem cell research, adult, amniotic, umbilical, unfortunately the one that gets all the attention is the embryonic type and the controversy once again comes from religious fanatics who believe life starts at conception or that these research will inevitably lead to reproductive cloning. The first cell has now been “created” with a synthetic genome by Craig Venter and his team. This triggered a strong reaction by the vatican as you can imagine since this new finding does shake the grounds of their belief, that man can not create life, that it is simply a production, but my main concern lies on a different level. Who will detain the rights for the patents, at what cost? We’ve already seen organizations battle over exclusivity notably WARF and Geron Corp. Another moral debate comes to mind, since so many countries have different laws about stem cell research, embryonic stem cell research has divided the international community, using the human embryo is permitted in Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Greece, Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands. Meanwhile its illegal in Germany, Austria, Ireland, Italy and Portugal, and obviously some states in the U.S. are pressing for a complete ban on all types of these research. This leads me to wonder if progress in this field will be reserved for the richer countries because of insufficient funding in under developed nations? Creating an even bigger gap between third and first world? And aside from therapeutic purposes what will be other usage? if we project ourselves in the future and follow this logic its totally conceivable to see governments creating super human soldiers as war machines or sex bombs for the porn industry! Once again, this technology is in some ways a dream come true, i’m just not so sure i trust those in control and their motives because it’s all too easy to manipulate populations, specially in the name of medical research.
-If you had to express body hacktivism through music, art pieces or movies to get the message through, what pieces of art would you mention ?
LZ: as for a movie, kazunori Ito’s Ghost in the shell, I love the illustration work of french multi media artist Yann Mihn and most definately Ray Kurzweil’s human v2.0. all 3 illustrate the endless possibilities of the posthuman, mixing nanotechnology, robotics and cybernetics to surpass our last physical frontiers.
-How does mind hacking complement body hacking – how does BH intertwine with yoga, brainwave syncing or meditation?
LZ: yes of course i do hope that with any type of body hacking some preparation is involved. Wether it be before the act or after, one can not alter their body without altering their mind. For many, pain can be an issue but we must differentiate pain as a sensation from suffering. The pain experienced during a suspension for example is self induced and its goal is to surpass the body’s boundery to achieve a positive goal as opposed to pain that in involuntary caused by illness that must be endured with obviously some negative impact. Therefore the best way to overcome this pain associated with some of these practices is to prepare properly, even if some anesthetics are used one can not help but feel some apprehension.For instance i personally like to put myself in a very relaxed state before performing a suspension, i listen to music and focus on my breath. Each person has their own techniques, may it be yoga, zen or whatever the purpose is the same.
-Will it take eight more years for the Body Hacktivism manifesto 3.0 to be born ?
LZ: I think i’ve pretty much said what i had to say and the fundamental lines for body hacktivism are set. There is no interest for me to go back on it since i focus on the future, not the past. But of course there is always room for evolution and progress and i am working on a new text “in the beginning there was the future” which will most certainly create a definitive rupture between body hacktivists and the rest of the body modification practicioners which are to me much too conformists and normative.
-What are the best places in Paris for a body hacktivist ?
LZ: Unfortunately and quite paradoxically there aren’t really any places in paris solely dedicated to the body. Surely there has been a few interesting art exhibitions but it would be nice to see something turn up like a ‘faktory” for body hacktivists. If in lyon though there is The Abode of Chaos. This is one of the few places we are free to experiment and present performances, it’s our artistic laboratory!
-and a last thing ?
LZ: don’t be a victim of the future..invent it
ITW ? (forgot the name of the magazine -sorry about that-)
1. Who are you ?
Lukas Zpira… Body Hacktivist, Photographer, Documentarian.
2. Because of Franko B, there is a general conviction that artists specializing in Body Art are mentally unstable. This mental imbalance is often attributed to some trauma one carries from his childhood. What is your opinion on it? Don’t you feel offended by this stereotype? And why is it that your scope of interests focuses on body modification?
I am unsure why Franko B’s work would lead to a general conviction that artists specialising in body art are mentally unstable. It’s not Franko B that is mentally unstable but it’s the people who say such things who are the unstable ones. I think this kind of behaviour demonstrates a lack of understanding of one’s own self rather than a ny lacking on the part of Franko B. I think people like to attribute performances that express themselves through the body, using the body’s excrements, to some sort of trauma because they don’t understand the logic behind it. The use of the body in performance art isn’t about some trauma one has experienced and as such and is damaged and can’t conceive of “socially acceptable” ways of expressing one’s self through art… It’s about expressing changes in each one of us, the affect experience has on us, how other people affect us and how we in turn affect them… By using the body to express these things we express in the best way, physically, what we experience emotionally and intellectually… Using the body in this way is the only language that can be used that will properly communicate what we are trying to say. So I suppose in response to the people who say that body art is a result of a person’s mental instability, all I can really say is that perhaps they need to look at themselves a little closer…
My scope of interests aren’t confined to body modification alone. My photography explores a variety of ideas, some of which are body modification, but also include the exploration of counter-cultures, such as that of the Vampyres. With regard to my performances I don’t see body modification or body art as an end in itself – body art is simply on of the mediums I use to express what I am trying to say.
3. What political preferences do the artists like you represent?
Political preferences? I am unsure what you mean by this. And as for other artists, I can only speak for myself. I have a very close relationship with the la Demeure du Chaos and the political ideas expressed at part of these over 2,000 art works are quite obvious… I don’t necessarily define myself with a political preference per se though. I think there are bigger, more important things happening then politics. Larger philosophical questions that resonate more deeply with me then meagre questions of politics. If I had to answer, perhaps Amour Fou as described by Hakim Bey…
4. There is a theory that says that progress in art goes along with the one in science. It becomes pretty visible on such examples as: scholasticism and the medieval Christian art, the philosophy falling under the Humanities and the art of the Renaissance, physical optics and impressionism, psychoanalysis and surrealism, medicine, with its huge subfield – transplantology and body art… What is your opinion on how this correlation will evolve in the future?
I am very interested actually in physics, especially quantum mechanics. I think there is some very interesting ideas for art that lessons from quantum mechanics can teach us. Having said that I believe that elements of quantum physics can be seen right throughout history and not in just in art. For example David Bohm, before he died, was very interested in the ideas of Jiddu Krishnamurti, who quite concisely describes how the troubles of human relationships and human thinking can be overcome by a way of thinking that marries thought, action, emotion, object, into one whole. I think this is where the challenge for art now lies. I guess, for myself, I am trying to explore some of these concepts – the body is used as an extension of the mind, as the mind, seen physically. Or what I might do in a performance – how does this change the environment around me? How does this person react? How does this experience affect (become?) the performance? These questions can then move into bigger questions about general experience of relationships and interactions. Where do I end and you begin… I guess in answer to your question, I don’t think there is a correlation between science and art, I think it’s all part of the same machine.
5. Your life motto goes: „No Body is Perfect”. Ever since, however, certain trends have been gaining in popularity, from time to time. For example: trends focusing on the “going back to nature”, as well as statements that the human body is beautiful in itself, and there is no need to additionally beautify it in an artificial way. You, as an expert on implants and scarification, surely have a distinct view on this issue. Do you find a natural, unaltered body interesting, appealing, or sexy?
To start, for me, body modification is partly about aesthetics in the way it explores different ways of seeing or experiencing the world, but I think it is more than that. As I mentioned above, I see body art as a medium and so the motto “No Body is Perfect” is much more about the physical body and the how the body is as an extension of the mind (which is also the body). In this thinking then, the motto is not about people who modify their bodies with piercings, tattoos and scarification – it’s about all bodies – nearly everybody modifies themselves in some way – be it dying their hair, shaving their legs or changing the way they do something for a lover who did not like this or that idiosyncrasy. In response to your question, I would ask you what is a natural body? A body that is born without a leg is natural but a body that has a leg removed after birth is unnatural? A body that has been badly burned and scarred as a result of exposure to a bush fire (a natural occurence) is this natural or unnatural? A modification that I put on my body as a result of past experience – natural or unnatural? If you are asking specifically whether I find people without tattoos, or brandings, etc beautiful then yes of course! I find beauty more in people who are pretty but have some imperfection. Those little imperfections are beautiful and are what make people intriguing – I find that very sexy.
6. What new does Body Hactivism bring into the field of Body Art and Body Modification ?
I think perhaps this is where some people perhaps get confused about the intent, at least on my part, of what I use body modification for – it is not an end (as I said earlier) but a medium for expression (not wanting to sound wanky – but it’s true!). Body Haktivism is more about activist activities through self expression. It’s an important distinction because it
7. Do people who change their bodies want to change the world as well?
Unfortunately not. I don’t think there’s a definite correlation between the two. There are a lot of people who get body modifications just because it’s cool and they think they’re part of a movement to change the world or they think that they are different from everyone else and know some things – but, a lot of it is often just fashion for them. It’s the same for any kind of “off-the-wall” thing that moves a little more into the mainstream. The initial thinking behind it is lost (in translation?!) so that you only end up with the effect and no one seems to remember the cause… Why they are doing this thing. It’s interesting actually if you look at how patterns develop in nature, in relationships, in life, how you can get to a point and you look back and at the different things you’ve done to get there and perhaps you can’t work out why you’ve continued to make the same mistakes over and over again even though you know it’s not going to get you where you want to go. I think people can get confused between cause and effect. Gandhi says “be the change you want to see in the world”…
8. What do you value most in art? What artists and art movements inspire you most?
Probably the most important and influential would be surrealist philosophy (not the artistic movement specifically) and pop culture has also had an important influence on my work so far such as comic book art. I am a big fan of David Nebreda’s work. For me, he is the Van Gogh of the 21st century.
9. You have a lot of tattoos on your body. What aspects influence your choice of the tattoo design? What relationship (if any) do you have with the tattoos on your body?
They are mostly representations of mind, ideas and thought… I think that language often doesn’t properly represent what goes on the mind – I think that there may not be a language that exists yet which correctly translates from pre thought (ie. not in language) to word to speech. So I say that they, my tattoos are representations of my mind, perhaps they are pre-thought, before words, emotions or feeling? And some are a little more self explanatory…
10. Satomi Zpira – what you think of the artistic achievements and activities of your wife?
Satomi is a most creative and gifted person. She is intelligent and explores concepts, feelings and emotions that embody an ongoing dialogue… I think we feed off each other creatively and as you can seen similar themes in much of both of our creative work – performances, photography, writing…
As for TokyoLoveDoll… she has been a creation, a character that grew as we grew and took on different shapes and played games with her, this creature… she is reflected light and ephemeral, beautiful and fleeting, she is a question. TokyoLoveDoll is part of Satomi’s artistic achievements I suppose but I would not call her that – I think she goes beyond artistic achievement and she goes beyond Satomi and myself – she is the Gestalt of our love… greater than the sum is its parts…
11. The Soul or the Body? Isn’t excessive focus on the body or the soul the shortest way to socio-religious fanaticism? These we very well know from the history of culture
I don’t believe in soul … I think the problem comes when people try to fragment things too much. I think the birth of socio-fanaticism occurs by creating dichotomy between, within a person, ie. the body and the soul (whether you believe in them or not) occupy the same space theoretically and i think it’s this inability to see that each are part of the same and don’t belong as separate that leads to socio-religious fanaticism… It’s separating things that cannot be separated that leads to this splitting in thought that so negatively affects society in this way…
12. Last but not least, will implants and transplants lead humanity to cyborgization? Does this vision invoke positive correlations for you?
See I think the term “cyborg” is a little old fashioned – this term was coined when much of the opportunities we have today weren’t available yet. It also depends what you mean by cyborg in any case! We have been implanting organs and pace makers into ourselve for some time now so perhaps you could argue that we are already a society of cyborgs! I also think that perhaps this term “cyborg” is a little too inflexible… this metamorphosis that we are going through is a continued evolutionary process that will not stop at becoming a “cyborg” whatever that is.
I think in order to survive we need to adapt and remain flexible and malleable. It’s hard for humans because we tend to be terribly uncomfortable with change as it is unfamiliar territory. I think things, on a mass scale, as a movement toward this kind of change, will happen slowly. More slowly then the take up of things like tattoos and piercings as the implants or nano technology will take more of a change in thinking i think… tattoos and piercings can be seen perhaps more superficially in terms of progress toward change and evolution… things like changes to genetic codes or use of nano technology will take more commitment on the part of individual toward change and evolution, so we shall see…