Thursday, April 28, 2011


The Daily Mail, that bastion of English manners and morals (and a newspaper that has always reviewed my books very fairly) had its knickers in a twist recently on discovering that children can go on line, buy tattooing kits for just 30 quid, and in the Mail’s terms be “branded for life,” although branding, it seems to me, is a rather different type of body modification.

They cited the case of 16-year-old, Levi Brady, from Cardiff, who had the phrase ‘100% Welsh Lamb’ tattooed on her lower back.  Apparently this was done by a professional, though not an especially good one judging from the picture below.

Levi’s mom, Renee, was quoted as saying, “The tattooist has branded a child as a piece of meat for the rest of her life.  It is the most disgusting thing to have on a young girl and the location of the tattoo is grossly inappropriate.”

Well I certainly don’t think getting tattooed as “100% Welsh Lamb” is exactly a good idea, especially since at some point young Levi may be accused of being mutton tattooed as lamb.  But when you see some of the appalling things that people have tattooed on their bodies, she could have done much, much worse.

I don’t suppose I’ll ever get a tattoo.  I’ve thought about it on and off for at least 25 years but the big problem is that I could never decided what to get.  It never at any point crossed my mind that a food related tattoo was an option, but apparently many others feel differently.

Quite a few seem to go for the butchery option, most often a pig.  I have to say I find this oddly appealing.  Some of them really are quite well drawn.  Like this one:

Arguably such a tattoo would "brand" you as a pig (or at least a pork lover) for the rest of their lives, but I guess some people can live with that.  The pig also has the bonus of offending Jews, Muslims and vegetarians alike.  

At least there seems to be something classic about meat imagery.  Cupcake imagery I’m not so sure about, but there seem to be tons of cupcake tattoos around, and the feet are a popular place to have them.  

I suppose if you get tired of a foot tattoo you can always keep your socks on.  It’s much harder when you have a massive one tattooed across your chest.

No, no, really, how could anybody possibly live to regret a tattoo like that? This one apparently belongs to a woman called Robin who was studying baking and patisserie at the Texas Culinary Academy. I wonder if she’s considering a career change yet.

There are loads of tattoos of beer cans and soup cans, tattoos of Colonel Sanders, Aunt Jemima, Ronald McDonald et al.  And of course fast food logos have already been designed to be powerful and eye catching and symbolic, so hey, wouldn’t it be a great idea to have them tattooed all over your body?

All of which brings me to Wim Delvoye, a Belgian artist whose work I first saw in New York where he’d created an installation known as “Cloaca”, a giant poop making machine.   That's it below.  Food goes in one end, undergoes many mechanical and chemical processes and thoroughly lifelike feces are eventually excreted.

As you see, the machine was as big as a bus and it left you feeling what an amazing thing the human body is, that nature could so easily produce what art and science could only do with enormous difficulty and effort.  It also, of course, sticks it to the art world, which is always fun.

Since 1990 or so Delvoye has also been tattooing pigs.  I have to say this doesn’t seem entirely right to me, I mean it’s got to hurt the pig somewhat, the pig can’t give consent, etc, but then a lot of things are done to pigs that they would probably never consent to, and in fact the pigs in the pictures look happy enough post-tattooing, though in some cases they're taxidermied, so it's not all that easy to tell.

What I thought might be really cool would be to own a pet pig, have a pig butchery diagram tattooed on your body, then have a human butchery diagram tattooed on the pig. 

Wouldn’t that be cool? I don’t think I’m going to go that route personally but I hope somebody else does: knowing the way of the world, somebody may be at it right now.


  1. excellent post - I'm a huge fan of Wim's work - have you seen his 'inlaid marble floors' made entirely with luncheon meat? Check it out - they're really beautiful - he photographs them immediately after laying them out as they only last about 5 hours, then the meat starts to dry & curl. I remember reading he had to go to Asia somewhere to get the pigs tattooed - no one would do it in North America.

  2. Thanks Jen

    I didn't know about the luncheon meat floors - they look wonderful - I feel another blog post coming on.