Getting your privates pierced is nothing new. Having them tattooed may be a little more unique. Having your vagina tattooed under the direction of a world-famous artist is…well, what is it? Is it art?
Garage magazine has decided to debut with multiple covers of “living canvases.” Former POP editor Dasha Zhukova’s new fashion-meets-art magazine approached several artists – Jeff Koons, Jake and Dinos Chapman, John Baldessari, Paul McCarthy, and Damien Hirst – with the brief to design a tattoo, which would then be inked onto willing participants.
Hirst persuaded 23-year-old London-based illustrator Shauna Taylor to have her vagina tattooed with an iconic Damien Hirst butterfly, which was then photographed, along with all the ‘INKED’ participants, by ex Dior Homme creative director, Hedi Slimane. The result is displayed in all its glory beneath a strategically placed peel-away sticker à la Andy Warhol’s iconic Velvet Underground album cover.
Tattoo artist Mo Coppoletta was handpicked by Hirst to ink the green-and-black tattoo which took two sessions to complete.
“I was hoping it might feel kind of nice, but it was probably the worst pain I have felt. I thought I was going to pass out” Taylor told the New York Post , before managing to put a positive spin on the whole experience:
“I love it. I would have been stupid not to be part of this project. I have a piece of art on my vagina. Not one single person can ever say they gave birth through a Damien Hirst piece of art. I can [if I ever give birth].” [Telegraph]
“The official title of Hirst’s work is “Butterfly Divided” as the image fits on the two symmetrical halves of this part of the body, with Shauna’s tampon string dangling down in between.” [Bitch Magazine]
Is it art? Is it objectification? Is it both?
It seems to me that this is a case where it might be both. The participants are obviously being used as objects for the purpose of creating art.
But why is there controversy?
Individuals get tattooed all the time. Their motivations behind getting their body-art is none of our business, so you could argue that the same applies here. The fact that these tattoos have been called art and placed in a public context changes things. We are now allowed to consider it and even judge it.
But where does the consideration and judgment start and end?
The fact that they are being used as artistic objects becomes tricky to deem wrong if they themselves wanted to do it and are happy with the experience/result.
Are we to consider the aesthetic value? The possible meaning?
What could Hirst be saying by wanting his “iconic butterfly” tattooed on a woman’s vagina? I could read a lot into it, but I merely come back to the thought that this is a piece that is meant to make people talk. Period. Whatever they want to say about it is up to them.
Would we be talking about this if Hirst had directed her to have a butterfly tattooed on her shoulder?