Berlin Tattoo Convention 2011

Published: 06 February, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 208, February, 2012

Berlin, the city of street art. Wandering through this open-air gallery is inspirational and exciting. It’s a capital city, but doesn’t feel like one – people here take the time to smell the roses, a completely different vibe to London’s familiar rush.

This is my first time at this long-running event. I’ve heard a lot about it and I was very excited to finally be able to experience it first hand. I had visions of a huge venue with endless crowds so busy they stepped on each other toes… but when I actually arrived at Arena, the thought ‘is this it?’ did pass through my head.

No disrespect to my imagination, but boy, how wrong can a girl be? However, with everything that was going on, I was soon very happy that it wasn’t any bigger. I could hardly keep up with the incessant performances on the stage, the competitions and taking in the progress of some amazing pieces being created under the hands and eyes of some incredible artists. And you have no idea how hard it is to pass by Kamil, Liorcyfer, Boog, Pavel Angel, Anabi… and many other artist’s booths without stopping by for at least a few moments.

Friday was nice and relaxed. I figured out what’s where and watched some great performances. Roc – the guy who puts latex gloves on his head and blows until they burst  – can eat a 1.5m long balloon and spin with a bowling ball attached to his ears. Very impressive – if not a little bit sickening!

Later on the Friday, and in a more serious vein, I had the great pleasure to see a performance steeped in symbolism from the beautiful Japanese butoh dancer, Sanaxxx. She travels the world with her dramatic solo dance – ‘Hannya’ – a story about a vengeful woman consumed by jealousy, and it is beautiful.

Another highlight of the day was Pain Solution Freak Show Extreme. Princess of Scars, besides hammering long nails into her nose, dancing with flowers pierced into her skin and more, has also demonstrated a brand new way to make a salad – slicing vegetables on her body. In case you were wondering – yes, she welcomes tips, but only in cash… and only stapled to her body by the audience.

The day ended nicely with the very first tattoo contest, with Best of Friday being won by Yliana Paolinie from One More Tattoo in Luxemburg.

Saturday kicked off early and from the morning until late night, there was a very busy schedule that included some great performances, a Tattoo Queen contest and no less than nine tattoo contests (Best Large, Best Small, Best Crazy, Best Individual, Best Asia, Best Portrait, Best Biomechanical, Best Realistic and, of course, Best of Saturday). And to top that, there were so many seminars that it would have been impossible to attend them all, even if I could have made the time.

But let’s focus on tattoos for a moment. The colour and life bursting out of some were just incredible. The tiger back piece by Chikai (Novosibirsk, Russia), or maybe the owl chest piece by Dmitriy Samohin (Ukraine), were probably the greatest animal tattoos I’ve seen in the last few years. Portraits are considered by many to be some of the hardest tattoos to get right… well, for guys like Cristian Radu, Miguel Bohigues, Den Yakovlev or Electric Linda it doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, I’m always most excited about the ‘crazy’ category – a section where anything can happen. Even when you think you’ve seen it all and you’re under the impression that nothing could surprise you anymore, along comes a tattoo to prove how wrong you are. The piece that brought a huge smile to my face in this case, was a leg covered in child drawings designed by a little girl and tattooed by Hacke from Taka, Erfurt.
After the competitions, the Superfly Suspension crew took over the stage. Those guys know how to make a human fly in the most bizarre way you could possibly imagine. There were ropes, hooks in the flesh and a lot of blood. What’s weird is that it all looked so painless that if somebody would have asked me if I wanted to join in, I would’ve said “hell yes!” You could hear cheering from the audience and screams of excitement from the stage; it’s a pretty incredible show, with images that will stay in my head for a long time.

Sunday with another five categories (Best Ornamental, Best Colour, Best Traditional, Best Black & White, and Best of Sunday) also revealed the Best of the Show winner – George Mavridis from Tattooligans took that prize for his colourful abstract portrait. The new Tattoo Queen 2012 was also crowned later that day; the beautiful Josephine Henke from Munich won everyone over with her smile and great back artwork from Janusz Bukowski (Yancoo Tattoo, Germany). She was handed over the crown and the title from 2010’s winner, Carina Jost.

Whenever I had the time I checked out booths one by one to see the progress of the work and there were a few artists that caught my eye. Volko and Simone from Buena Vista with their unique style; Miguel Bohigues (V Tattoo, Spain) with his beautifully executed portraits (Miguel also won first place in Portrait and Black & White Tattoo, as well as third place in Small Tattoo). And it was also great to see Daveee and Edek from Cracow’s Kult (Poland) working on their pieces. So many talented artists in one place at the same time will make your head a spin!

Even though I was busy working, I noticed that the atmosphere and the vibe from visitors was very relaxed and laid back. There was no rush and I loved the fact that people were not only tattooing or getting tattooed, but they were also drawing or reading, kids were playing and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Organizers did a great job providing just the right amount of entertainment, but I guess that’s no surprise when you realize that it was the 21st edition of this event.

I need to also mention here about Art Fusion. We hear more and more about this experiment lately. Every day at the convention people could watch some art pieces being created by various artists combining each other’s skills and styles. It’s such a great way to learn and express for the participants, and a very interesting experience to watch for the audience. In addition, just a wonderful thing to be part of, as afterwards all the pieces are auctioned with the money being donated to the social project ‘Ark Berlin’, for starving children in town.

Overall, I was very impressed with the Berlin Tattoo Convention. The location worked perfectly; it was easy to get to and I liked the fact that there was only one stage with everything was happening in one hall – a great idea to avoid potential confusion. There was a good artistic program over the three days. The calibre of artists was very high and I honestly wouldn’t want to be in the judges’ position as they obviously had some very tough decisions to make. It was a great place to meet old friends and make some new ones; the atmosphere was very friendly. German hospitality is remarkable; they are great hosts and pleasure to work with.

Auf wiedersehen, Berlin, I shall see you again next year…

Cultural Berlin

Berlin is home to 153 museums. The ensemble known as Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is situated in the northern part of the Spree-island, between the Spree and the Kupfergraben in the central Mitte district. As early as 1841 it was designated a ‘district dedicated to art and antiquities’ by a royal decree. Subsequently, the Altes Museum (Old Museum) in the Lustgarten displaying the bust of Queen Nefertiti, the Neues Museum (New Museum), Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), Pergamon Museum, and Bode Museum, were built there. While these buildings once housed distinct collections, the names of the buildings no longer necessarily correspond to their respective collections.

Apart from the Museum Island, there are many additional museums in the city. The Bauhaus Archive was founded in Darmstadt in 1960 with Walter Gropius and other members of the Bauhaus movement giving their support. The collection grew so quickly that a dedicated museum seemed attractive and Gropius was asked to design it. In 1971 the Bauhaus Archive moved to temporary accommodation in Berlin. Modifying the plans for the location beside the Landwehrkanal, political decisions and financial restrictions delayed things. The foundation stone was finally laid in 1976 with the building was ready by 1979. There was not that much left of Gropius’ original 1964 design apart from the characteristic silhouette of the shed roofs. In 1997 a conservation order was placed on the building.


Text & Photography: Agnieszka Hairesis