A World Apart - 6th Krakow Tattoofest

Published: 19 September, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 203, September, 2011

In something of a coup, this issue we had the opportunity to get behind the scenes of the 6th Krakow Tattoofest with a great insiders report from the man who drives the car year after year – Aleksandra Skoczylas. Enjoy!

With the 6th Krakow Tattoofest now behind us, our emotions have fallen slightly as we return quickly to daily duties – like working on the next issue of our magazine which means not slowing down. I have to admit that this years planning was easier than normal because most of the organisational and logistical matters were already in place. Despite that, we have aimed the tattoo and festival interest at a much larger group of people than ever before and worked hard on drawing the attention of foreign tattoo lovers to the Polish scene and Tattoofest.

Every year, I consider that we still have a lot of work to do, but on the other hand, continued interest in the phenomenon of tattooing and the rising level of customer awareness is plain to see. Over time, tattoo has become more and more interesting and the environment is certainly now orientated towards the individual recipient.

From experience, I know all too well how difficult it is to meet the expectations of the people. The more I realise that in this complex mosaic of an audience, fans of tattooing and art lovers, the different attitudes and needs are plain to see. The main task is to try to please everyone. Last year, the fifth Tattoofest was connected with all-day concerts and a graffiti jam organised in front of the ‘Chemobudowa’ hall. This year, we focused primarily on the interior of the hall and decided to reorganise the exhibition space slightly by reducing the area and setting up booths only on the ground floor.

With a larger attendance than last year, it turned out that space to work for artists or to enjoy scenic attractions and competitions was not limited. Upheld by the opinion of many people with whom I spoke, it definitely made the event more consistent. The solution turned out to be so good that even a different spacing of the booths and marginally reducing their number, did not affect the number of invited tattoo artists. We managed to attract the leaders in the Polish tattoo scene, some interesting rookies and a lot of foreign artists. Many of them appeared in Krakow again, for some it was even traditional for them to come to their favorite convention.

I will not mention all the artists, but I have to thank very much for coming Robert Hernandez, a French team that came up with Jee Sayalero and Dimitri HK, Jack Ribeiro, Fat and a large representation of the Hungarian scene. It was also extremely pleasing meeting with Tom ‘Sugar’ and Jammes that have both worked for years in the UK.

I was also more than happy at the attendance of several tattooists, who I sought personally; Sandor Pongor and Tibor Galiger from Hungary, Mr. Halbstark and the phenomenal Den Yakovlev. Fortunately, this year Liorcifer also reached us. Despite the vicissitudes of lost luggage and the inability to work on Saturday, it is very likely that he will be our guest every year from here on. We could not do without these adventures! It is not only tattooist who are dogged by them this year, but also Sana, who was to appear with her performance ‘Hannya’. When I received the call on Thursday morning that due to problems with transport, she might not get to Krakow, for a moment I felt terrified. Fortunately, a few hours later it turned out that Sana with Travelin’ Mick would appear at the convention. I think that without Sana’s performance, the event would not be the same! Everyone watched breathless at her evocative, expressive dance, through which she sensationally managed to introduce emotion, infatuation, love, fascination with sex, betrayal and madness, the transformation in the legendary Japanese Hannya. This motif is well known in the tattoo world, less so the story behind it. It is therefore particularly pleasing that we could present Sana’s performance that is strictly connected with the world of tattooing and yet so different from the traditional attractions accompanying tattoo events.

The more standard kind of entertainment was a freak show by Lord Insanity, who from the beginning seriously warned that it is better “not to try at home” what he was presenting on stage.

Watching the faces and reactions of the crowd expressing confusion, disgust, horror and wonder, I assume that nobody attempted to repeat any of the tricks later!

Mr. Zabek, who performed on Sunday, could also count on the willing participation of people from the audience in his act. My favorite performances during this year’s show, included a fire show performed by the Krakow crew, "Balakolada". During past shows we had decided not to organize this type of show because of safety regulations and ‘Chemobudowa’ managers’ restrictions, but moving the show outside the hall was an instant hit.

At the end of Saturday, just after dusk, the group presented a beautiful and impressive spectacle.

Also outside the hall, came into existence graffiti about ecology. Darek from "3fala" (one of the best known street art activists in Poland) with other painters (of course together with the efforts of bystanders, eager to catch a spray can) created some motivating works under the slogan ‘You tattoo / You segregate’.

New initiatives at this year’s show that we will certainly develop in the following years were meetings, lectures and film screenings in a conference room. The public have the opportunity to learn more about painting with henna, a tattoo in the film, laser tattoo removal, either to engage in lively debate of Polish blogger and tattoo fan Rdza, tattooer Robert ‘Robson’ and Dr. Krzysztof Swietek representing Krakow’s Academy of Fine Arts about diffusion and impact on high art of tattooing and tattoo art. Tattoos in the lead role can also be seen in sensual photographs by Bartosz Klimek – an exhibition which joined us in the hall of ‘Chemobudowa’. This year, viewers weren’t disappointed by ‘Banana Ink.’ The campaign was led once again by Saski and visitors can learn more about the technical aspects of tattooing and test their skills. I must admit that works on the bananas’ skins were much better and more interesting than last year.

‘Banana’ achievements were presented only in the booths. The stage was dominated by the most authentic tattoos, presented in nine competitive categories. Noteworthy is that, beyond top notch artists, who always perform well in the eyes of the jury, among the winners there were some new people. In competitions, a sensational debut in Krakow was made by Pawel Gawkowski of ‘Panteon’, winner of the trophies on several other Polish conventions. Also Spider will be able to decorate his recently opened studio in Gliwice with Tattoofest’s award. The prizes also went into the hands of AgRypa, working in the 9th Circle and other tattooist, Aldona of Warsaw Szerytattoo. For the first time convent’s award also went to Kuba Kujawa of Jazz Tattoo and David Rudzinski from Gulestus. The prize was a nice surprise for a young Hungarian artist Tibor Galiger. The next three went abroad (to Moscow) with Den Yakovlev and one with Tom Lennert to Germany. Overall, I have to say that the level of work presented in contests was ‘typical’, but it is a positive term, because otherwise you can only simply describe it as ‘high’.

Evaluation of the event itself is subjective – even more difficult when you are involved in its organization, but this year, together with the show of 2008 (the last one that was held in ‘Rotunda’ club) is certainly my favorite. Both because of the atmosphere, the guests whom we were able to attract and accompanying attractions. We still have a lot of work to do in the future but the direction we want to follow is becoming clearer every year. We know that the Tattoofest visitors are true fans, enthusiasts and people thinking about getting a tattoo – and maybe people who just want a different kind of entertainment than is normally served by the city every weekend. For each of them there is a place.

I hope that next year, we will be able to better meet their and your expectations.

Out & About

Kraków, the unofficial cultural capital of Poland, was named the official European Capital of Culture for the year 2000 by the European Union. It is a major attraction for both local and international tourists, attracting some seven million visitors a year. Major landmarks include the Main Market Square with St. Mary's Basilica and the Sukiennice Cloth Hall, the Wawel Castle, the National Art Museum, the Zygmunt Bell at the Wawel Cathedral, and the medieval St Florian's Gate with the Barbican along the Royal Coronation Route.

Out & About II

In the Market Square stands the Gothic St. Mary's Basilica (Kościół Mariacki). It was re-built in the 14th century and features the famous wooden altar, Ołtarz Wita Stwosza, the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world, carved by Veit Stoss. From the church's main tower a trumpet call is sounded every hour. The call is used to announce the opening and closing of city-gates and ends unexpectedly midstream. According to legend, the tune was played during the 13th century Tatar invasion by a guard warning citizens against the attack. He was shot by a Tatar archer while playing, the bugle-call breaking off at the moment he died. The story was recounted in a book published in the late 1920s called The Trumpeter of Krakow, which won a Newbery Award.


Text: Aleksandra Skoczylas