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Monday, January 12, 2009

Bite and Burn Encore review

Jason Fitzpatrick's fresh blood and tattoo ink transformed into prints at MSVU Art Gallery.

Posted By on Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 1:48 PM

An odd assortment of metal-heads, indie-kids and the old-guard gallery crowd came together last Saturday in the spirit of morbid curiosity, voyeurism and artistic enlightenment.

A hushed silence and palpable air of tension fell over this group of over 50 people, who jam packed around a small stage at Mount Saint Vincent Gallery for the opening night of Jason Fitzpatrick's Bite and Burn Encore. All eyes fell upon artist Amber Thorpe, as she tattooed a solid bar on Fitzpatrick's chest, and printmaker Dax Morrison, who took impressions on paper of the fresh blood and ink.

Part of the excitement arose from the fact that the exhibition contained elements of danger. The stage upon which Thorpe tattooed Fitzpatrick was so shaky that when I tried to balance my beer on it, it spilled a bit. Also, a clumsy patron could have easily stumbled into the action, with potentially disastrous consequences.

The sterile professionalism of Morrison, Thorpe and gallery technician Stefan Hancherow, and the indifference of the performers to the audience, created the feeling that viewers were inappropriately witnessing a private moment, typically off limits to the public. Patrons were also kept on their toes by several biohazard signs, instructing people not to touch the human blood in the exhibition. This wasn't always easy though. At one point in the performance, a bloody Kleenex slid off the stage, landing right beside my shoe, where it was promptly scooped up and disposed of by Morrison.

Fitzpatrick chose the design to facilitate printmaking, rather than a personal attachment to the rectangular image. The new prints differ from Morrison’s older prints on display at the gallery, which each blotted out in unique ways onto the paper. Saturday’s prints, of which Morrison will select the best 10 to make a limited-edition set, are more uniform in size, shape and colour. But to achieve this uniformity, Fitzpatrick had to sacrifice the quality of his tattoo.

Unlike the prints, it’s doubtful the tattoo will turn out very well. “Because it was tattooed so much, probably, the ink won’t hold and it’ll just be a black splotchy mess,” says Fitzpatrick. To facilitate the printmaking process, Fitzpatrick told Thorpe to re-tattoo him a few times in an hour, something she wouldn’t ordinarily do. “The tattoo artist had a hard time with that,” says Fitzpatrick, “because she’s used to giving a tattoo that’s a finished product.”

After the performance, local band Realizer pounded out Sabbath's “Fairies Wear Boots” as gallery-goers made a quick beeline to the free charter bus to Gus' Pub. Everyone on the bus seemed energized by the show, and yelled at the driver let them off at the Agricola Street liquor store. All and all, it was an intense and bizarre way to kick off a Saturday night, which we can't expect to repeat any time soon.

Amber Thorpe tattoos Jason Fitzpatrick.

Thorpe and printmaker Dax Morrison.

Morrison gets ready to take a print.

Morrison takes a print.

Realizer pounds out "Fairies Wear Boots."

Gallery-goer Vivian Belik and the biohazard sign.

Fitzpatrick's older work.

Gallery technician Stefan Hancherow carries fresh prints.

Vivian Belik contributed to this article.

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