Ignorant style tattooing has grown immensely in the last several years and if you're unfamiliar, these tattoos are intentionally done by professional artists to look like they were drawn by elementary school children. And while some of us might not get the movement, it's growing rapidly in popularity around the world. One of these artists is Rixard Tattoo, who specializes in abstract tattooing and has coined the term "tattoo performance." His performances use real tattoo machines and clients to create interactive designs that are 100 percent permanent. Many of his performances have gone viral on social media and we caught up with the tattoo performer to learn about his unique body art process.
How did you get your start in tattooing?
In 2012, my roommate left me a tattoo machine and I did some tattoos for the people in my neighborhood. Later, when I finished college at the University of Fine Arts, I bought my first professional machine and started doing tattoos for my colleagues. At that time, what I liked was the trash or ignorant style like Fuzi or Germes Gang. However, people were not very open and they didn't ask me for tattoos in my style. It wasn't until four years ago that people started to be more open to less conventional styles and I started to dedicate myself to it professionally.
What inspired you to start your tattoo performance series?
My path as a tattoo performer began when I went to tattoo in a park with only a battery, enabling me to do a tattoo without cables. This outdoor experience gave me many new ideas to carry out new actions. All of which were marked by situations of special difficulty, absurdity and previously unthinkable impediments. My performances counteract with the attitude of the conventional tattoo, in which much importance is given to the correct realization of the tattoo and clinical cleaning. These actions create a dissonance with the classic tattoo in creating eclectic random tattoos done outdoors and in conditions in which you never know what the end result will be. Creating abject sensations of attraction, repulsion, irony and humor.
Take us through some of the tattoo performances you’ve done.
Skype for Quarantine Performance, 2020 Amsterdam and Madrid. It’s a performance that talks about how to make a tattoo from a distance while being present virtually. The current pandemic hit my native country Spain very hard. In response to the situation, I began to reconnect and talk with old friends over video calls. This inspired me to create a tattoo from a distance in these times of quarantine. The action is based on a livestream, in which I’m guiding the other person's machine and during the performance he’s following the steps that my projected hand marks on his body.
Rixard Roomba, 2020, Amsterdam. This performance is based on loss of control and media automation. It’s ironic to visualize tools of daily use, such as this robot vacuum cleaner, to perform other jobs such as tattooing. It evokes a humorous sensation of surprise and play. In addition, this piece is part of a series of performances concerning the concept of safety distance in times of COVID-19.
Selfiazo, 2019, Valencia. The realization of the performance is hampered by adverse situations. The tattoo is executed through a selfie stick in which the tattoo machine is placed at one end of the stick accompanied by an endoscopic camera which is connected to a projector. The audience can follow a close up of the realization of the tattoo on a live projection. In this performance, the difficulty of using a stick leads to an eclectic execution of the tattoo.
Where do you come up with the inspiration for your performances?
I’m currently following artists such as Jan Hakon Erichsen, Marina Fujiwara and Pablo Rochat, who make very visual and explosive online content. What they have in common is that they use video and photos to create fast paced artistic videos that go viral on social networks. I also follow established artists like Roman Signer and Chris Burden.
How has social media responded to your performances?
My performances have been well received and shared by users on both ironic, trashy tattoo pages as well as more serious tattoo platforms. But it wasn’t until I published the performance ‘’Foot,’’ that I realized the force of virality that my performances have. ‘’Foot’’ is an action that consists of making a tattoo with the foot on the top of the head. This performance was shared more than 5,000 times from mine and other accounts. It resulted in more than a million views in less than two days.
I decided to start studying the social media impact and the global viewing of what’s apparently perceived as more superficial, crude, macabre or complicated content. I study the staging of tattoo-performances and unconventional actions that produce tattoos, in relation to contemporary art approaches and the tattoo world.
Where do you find people for your performances?
The people find me. Usually I work with friends or fans and I get approached by strangers that want to be part of my tattoo experiences.
What’s been your favorite performance thus far?
I suppose I have a special fondness for the performance “Foot” because of how viral, extreme and funny it was. The tattoo was done with the foot on the head of my friend Pipi. It was the first time that I used my foot to do a tattoo and it was very difficult to keep my balance. The performance was taking place at my friend's studio, Nou Barcelona. Although most of my videos are edited by me, this particular one was edited by my colleague, Dalien Zopel, with great results.
How do these tattoos hold up over time?
The final record of tattoo-performances are audiovisuals and tattoos with a life of their own. The tattoos evolve as the bodies that carry them. Due to the complicated realization, the images that are produced have a dirty and improved character. Over time, many lines are lost or widened, but instead of seeing this as an imperfection, this is something I’m deliberately looking for.
As for my tattoos done in studio setting; they usually evolve clean and I like to keep up with how they evolve
When you’re not doing performance tattoos what are you tattooing?
I have three different signature styles. One I call "Tattoo graffiti abstract," in which I design the sketch with Chinese ink and they’re abstract forms that I make automatically and very expressionisticly. Then I tattoo it with very wide magnum needles and add fine line markings to the edges.
Another type consists of very abstracted figurative line designs (especially dragons), made with colored lines, in which I simplify the shapes and use a dark and expressive line work.
For my latest design style, I make sketches with Blopens and then reproduce the colorful blurred effect on the body. Although this style is unconventional and the clients don’t ask for it yet, I hope that soon it’ll catch up and people start wanting it.
What performance tattoos do you hope to do next?
I have a document with more than 50 sketches and montages of new ideas to perform this year. Some examples are doing a tattoo with the bow of a violin while I play the violin, a tattoo with a drone or a tattoo with several simultaneous machines.