This weekend, I had the pleasure of being part of an art project that started with an email I received weeks ago, that read ‘Get Inked at the New Museum Store with Amanda Wachob’ (It pays to be a member!). When I saw that in my inbox, I had to read it over + over again, just to make sure I was reading it correctly. Already a fan of Amanda Wachob’s work + with a two year waiting list, this was definitely an opportunity not to be missed. But apart from that, the project itself, launched by Amanda at the New Museum, sounded super cool.
The project, called ‘Skin Data‘ all started as an idea Amanda had. The idea Amanda wanted to explore was to examine the technology behind tattooing for over 5 years. After many failed attempts to work on this with various people, she recruited neuroscientist Maxwell Bertolero. Within this collaboration, Max wrote the code that would collect + analyze voltage + time data, produced by Wachob’s tattoo equipment while performing a tattoo. This data would then be translated into visual representations, which according to the New Museum, ventures into this invisible realm of the hidden or overlooked presence of technology in order to give expression to tattoo technology’s attendant processes + information. The design’s color, based on a spectral scale, is determined by the tattoo machine’s voltage + plotted by 1:1 mapping, while the duration of the machine’s pulse determines the length of the color band. The final data-which forms the basis of Wachob’s tattoos-are presented the same way as they would be in a scientific journal.
There were twelve exclusive tattoo sessions available between December 20, 2014 to January 17, 2015, but it was on a ‘first come first served’ basis. These twenty-three unique designs below, created exclusively for the New Museum Store, were limited to one participant.
For me, choosing a design was very hard, so to make it easier, I drew the ones I wanted where the tattoo was to be placed – left inner forearm – with the different colors of each design in makeup, just to get a feel for how certain shapes + colors would look like + getting a feel for just having something there. Unfortunately, for waiting so long to commit, my first choice was taken + I settled for tattoo #10 below.
When I arrived at noon on Saturday, it was a bit daunting as I respect this chick’s work so so much. Considering the high demand + constant barrage of praise, Amanda was incredibly sweet + humble. Besides being a pretty redhead, she had a mani with the creamiest mint on three finger nails + a reddish orange on the two other finger nails. Of course I scanned her body in a blink + noticed some traditional tattoos on her right arm + a beautiful bird on her chest which you can sort of see here.
For my tattoo, before any blood surfaced, I was given three sizes to choose from of my chosen design. After going to the bathroom mirror a couple of times, to see how I liked the placement + scale, I agreed on the medium size, as seen in the below stencil.
The tattoo machine finally began to buzz + Amanda started to record the data outputted by the tattoo machine during my session. As she started putting the needle on me, I could feel the pain but didn’t flinch once, which was shocking. I proceeded to ask Amanda questions, as talking is the best distraction for the pain.
It turns out that Amanda was initially studying photography + had no tattoos of her own but she had a friend that was doing an apprenticeship, sparking her intrigue. This then led her to a year’s apprenticeship of her own + that’s when she realized how this was her true calling.
I asked her if she’s ever tattooed herself before + she said yes, on the tops of her feet, but they need a face-lift since it’s been so long. But what was cool about getting inked inside a contemporary museum shop is all the amazing merch that in + of themselves can also be considered art pieces too.
In the glass display behind Amanda, there were artist plates that apparently are bestsellers.
But the one that was inevitable from my gaze was the one behind Amanda’s head called the ‘Youth Plate’ by Jack Pierson, featuring a light background + a man with full frontal nudity.
When my eyes moved further right, where I caught a glimpse of ‘Helvetica The Perfume’ by Guts + Glory + a fragrance bottle etched out by contemporary artist Kiki Smith for her ‘Kiki Perfume’, a collaboration between Smith + Christophe Laudamiel.
After completing my tattoo, Amanda gave me an original eight by ten inch canvas by her, featuring my unique design painted with tattoo ink + a paintbrush. Of course, Amanda also tattoos canvas as well, which are the newest pieces on her website. But she’ll create more of a traditional painting to prep for the abstract pieces she does on skin.
For any questions or touch-ups, she gave me her business card + an aftercare card that continued to resonate with her design esthetic.
Using this data + algorithms developed by Maxwell Bertorelo, several limited edition prints will be produced. Each print (sample image below of ‘Yvette’) will be a special edition of edition of 20, signed and numbered. These print editions will be available at the New Museum Store + online.
Now, thanks to Amanda, I’ll be forced to wave more with my left hand just to show off my new ink shown here. So what do you think?
And in case you were wondering, Amanda does not do unicorn tattoos.