In what is thought to be a world first, London artist Michele Servadio has turned the agony of going under the needle into music, with the release of his first record, Body of Reverbs (BOR): New Rituals For Contemporary Bodies.
The limited-edition vinyl, to be released on September 7 in Hackney Wick, east London, features two recordings of Servadio’s avant-garde performance where he plays his clients’ like an instrument.
Servadio’s tattoo machine is connected to sound decks and the resulting noise is amplified and live-processed by musicians using effects and synthesisers.
“Body of Reverbs was borne out of the necessity to bring tattooing back to its archaic identity at a time when it has become a mass product,” Servadio said.
“It is a ritual where the process is more important than the image impressed on the skin and where sound is used to intensify the experience for both the client and the audience. It is the marrying together of sound and pain, to make art.”
The performance, the artist explained to Parloir.co.uk when we profiled him in February 2017, was borne out of experiments involving Sitex security screens – the metal sheets landlords use to keep out squatters – something Servadio was for three years after moving to London from his native Venice in 2010. That progressed, in 2014, to Servadio using a microphone and a synthesiser to see “what a tattoo gun sounded like”, and ultimately the beginnings of BOR – a performance then called Garabato (scribble in Spanish) that he toured around Europe with Paula Degaldo.
Fast-forward four years and BOR is a deeply haunting and layered performance that has transfixed audiences in settings as diverse as deserts, galleries and clubs across Europe where it has been refined and perfected into something so overwhelmingly-immersive it has led to one participant climaxing.
The record, released by Ekar Records, Here And Now Records, Non Piangere Dischi, Servadio and Varsi Gallery, contains the recordings of two performances in London along with a booklet chronicling its journey photographically, and writings from veteran tattooists, commentators and academics who give it a “cultural context”.
As one writer put it, Servadio’s performance might just save tattooing whose soul is being sucked-away by the likes of Instagram with the trade, “gentrifying at a greater speed than high streets”.
One recording on the album sees Servadio use an entire room to enrich the sound in a performance done as an installation, where the pulsation of the tattoo machine against flesh bounced off metal sheets and echoed through shrilling bottles.
“The aim was to create a total art practice where tattooing was at the centre of it. The industrial look and feeling of the performance was because of Hackney Wick where I live and where my studio is. The area was once the biggest art neighbourhood in Europe but is being flattened to make way for luxury apartments and microbreweries. So I created the ritual for my friends that live there, for this moment of change to resonate through this body, through this building and to impress forever a memory for them of this area, this lifestyle, being on the verge of extinction.”
For Servadio the record is a celebration of the ritual and cements the link between tattooing and art and is “more about raising questions rather than pleasing ears”.
“The record is raising a new flag for tattooing while making the project real and securing its place not only in the history of modern tattooing, but also in the wider art world,” he said.
“Music has always been a big part of my life and I have dreamed of releasing a record one day and finally with this project I can make my contribution.”
The record launch is set to be an unmissable orgy of alternative art performance unlike anything seen before in London – it will surprise, terrify, challenge and ignite the imaginations of even the most cultured vulture in a truly unforgettable, rabbit-hole plunging experience.
Gestures 01 will see Servadio perform Body of Reverbs live; French artist Olivier de Sagazan will disfigure and transform his face with paint and clay in a horrifyingly-transfixing meditation exploring the animal inside us all; artist Nick Tee will use pain and endurance to interrogate and unpick the prickliest of issues currently dividing populations across the planet; DJ and living-icon Dahc Dermur VIII will unleash his unique DJ-set that has enraptured audiences and made him a visionary and muse to the most aesthete and Italian punk drummer, composer and musical experimentalist, Matteo Vallicelli, will deliver a live set.
Buy tickets to Gestures 01 here.
Read Parloir’s profile on Michele Servadio here.