GhentWho wants to get a tattoo, in the middle of a busy library, without knowing in advance what the design will look like? A lot of people apparently. The team from the art festival ‘Tumult in Gent’ received more than 300 entries for their special stunt. Nine of these were selected to act as living canvases.
A lot of enthusiasm, but also a lot of nervousness on Thursday morning in the De Krook library. A temporary tattoo studio was set up on the ground floor. Artuur Maertens, a 21-year-old student, signs a consent form. Only then – weeks after he agreed to get a tattoo at the library – is he shown the design that will soon be on his body. He can still refuse if he wants to, but it’s a definite ‘yes’. He can also decide the size and location, the rest is out of his hands.
“In the last eight editions of our festival, artists have taken over the public space,” says Timon Van De Voorde, co-organizer of the art festival ‘Tumult in Gent’. “This time they are tracking the inhabitants of Ghent themselves.” Nine artists have been commissioned to design a tattoo in recent months. A few weeks ago, a call was sent out to find skin companions: people who were interested in getting the design pierced into the body, without knowing what it looks like.
“We received no less than 323 entries,” says Timon. “All ages: the youngest was 18, the oldest 75. From people who already had many tattoos to people without tattoos. A reflection of the city.” From the pool of candidates, the team selected nine ‘skinmates’ – as there were only nine designs. “People who believe in the festival, in the artist and in the specific project. Not just people who wanted a free tattoo”, laughs Timon.
“I had seen the call go through Facebook and I immediately felt addressed,” says Artuur. “I already had three tattoos, so the step was smaller, and I like to make art. I also really like the connection with Ghent.” Artuur’s tattoo was drawn by the graphic designer Benoit Vangeel (28), who is not averse to a few tattoos on his body. “I very often work for culture and especially the music sector,” he says, just before the needle goes into Artuur. “I design a lot of album covers, but I was immediately a fan of the idea of designing a tattoo for a living canvas.”
Benoit took the typology of the word ‘tumult’ as his starting point. “I edited it graphically in such a way that it became a tribal tattoo, something I drew a lot as a child.” Can also be done by experienced tattoo artist Nick De Rudder – stage name Nickskin – from Studio Noir. “It often happens that people just walk into our house and impulsively get a tattoo. It’s called walk-ins. But this is different. Walk-ins can still choose from a book of designs, here the artist decides. And then there’s the location: I’ve never put a tattoo in a library.”
After Artuur, eight other ‘skin buddies’ come by for a tattoo spread over three days. They feature designs by Bert De Geyter, Corbin Mahieu and Lauren Bouden, Sofie De Cleene, Shervin Sheikh Rezae, Remy debb, Noa Verborgh, Maya Wuytack and Simon Verougstrate. The NOIR tattoo artists are still being replaced by their colleagues from Studio Klinik and Bodydesign. “In the coming days, we will also collect skin stories, in a cozy cabin next to the mini studio,” says Timon from ‘Tumult i Ghent’. “There you can tell the story behind your tattoos or hymen.” In the coming days, De Krook will be more than just a place where you can read, borrow, study and eat brunch.
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