My Words Your Body


Written by Dan Haze
11 Friday 11th May 2018

‘My Words Your Body is an approach to tattooing that involves blind trust. The content of the tattoo will be determined by me through a conversation with the participant, who will not see it until completion, to be clear, the participant accords me the right to mark their living canvas in whichever I see fit. It is the antithesis of political correctness. Our conversation represents a short internal exploration of the participant, being challenged with questions about their past, present and future. Questions that are not necessarily comfortable, but evoke deeper insight that the usual first conversation between strangers. The project enables the participant to open up, allows them to be vulnerable in a safe one-on-one environment. Following the conversation I exit the scene, leaving both of us alone to individually reflect. When I re-enter, there are opposing forces, a calm place with a sense of dramatic suspense. A dialogue happens to agree on the position of the tattoo. The tattooing starts: still not knowing what one will get, how long the session will be, nor the degree of pain involved. The denouncement or exposure is not instant. In this moment of time, the participant is and is not changed. A permanent modification has happened to their body, which they can feel but not see. Another layer of performance involves filming and photographing the reveal. Its then presented on social media’


These are the words that caught my attention as I scrolled through my Insta homepage; his words, my Instagram. I’d followed Maison Hefner for some time already, his ironic-post-internet, insta friendly tattoo scripture has earned him 25k other fans too. As the above suggests My Words Your Body is his latest art project, in which, you guessed it he tattoos his poetic words on people bodies without telling them what he will be tattooing.

Contrary to what you may assume, I’m not heavily tattooed already, so it could come as a surprise for me to desire to be a part of this kind of pseudo-psychological come artistic experiment. I knew that this was some people’s idea of hell, walking into the unknown, relinquishing control to a stranger and coming out the other side with a tattoo, but the whole experience is undeniably exhilarating.

As I made my pilgrimage along Stoke Newington High Street I made sure that my Spotify was playing something cool, as I conjured up a scenario in which he checked my last song to abet his final decision. Images of Katy Perry’s lyrics inked across my chest made it tighten. Once inside the flat, I realized this wasn’t a T4 interview and I wasn’t in The Vamps and James Blake’s latest album remained unplayed…

When I arrived at the flat I was greeted by confusion, a neighbour who couldn’t quite grasp the concept of a blind tattoo or maybe the concept of the pop-up tattoo parlour in next doors flat. But eventually, I managed to make it along a few Shining-esc hallways to Maison makeshift studio. The flat’s interior looked like something described by Edgar Allan Poe; Ravens, teeth and Goya lined the walls in a rather macabre assault on the senses.

After many cigarettes by the stove, next to the only white thing in the flat- the fridge - Maison revealed he was a trained performer. It made a lot of sense as the whole experience was akin to that of performance art. His Germanic accent and moustache perfectly encapsulating the cliched ideas of the Euro-centric art scene (think a cast member of  The Square in a pair of Adidas trackies) All he was lacking was a black polo neck, glasses and an installation in the MOMA. Whilst there we talked, and on several occasions, Maison used the phrase ‘how you say’ (he’s German) and the thought that ‘this guy is tattooing words on my body and his grasp on the English language may be loose’ crossed my mind, yet still I stayed.

During our tranquil conversation by the mattress up against the wall and a chest of drawers pushed to one side he opened up just as much as I did, we talked about love and loss and everything that you’d expect. We discussed the feeling of doom, what it was and what it means to be doomed. You can feel doomed to be with someone and doomed to be without them. After around 45 minutes and a change of heart, he had an idea for my tattoo after we discussed my other tattoo, but after our conversation, he changed his mind. We decided the placement and Maison left the room to consult his notebooks. He was right, there was a sense of dramatic suspense like I was an audience as well as supporting character to this performance. Once he re-entered ex-machina, he began the process and I looked the other way, sans the blindfold that I imagined, thankfully avoiding any BDSM vibes that may have ensued.  

Whilst it was happening it made me think about the concept of trust. Trust is in an intangible thing, a subjective entity. We blindly trust any person who gives us drugs, we trust people who are in positions of power and we trust people with our hearts. Anyone who has power over us we trust. But when we choose to give power to someone over us, we are more exclusive. But I didn’t feel any of these constraints, this may have been because of the situation or because of Maison.  And as I walked away from that flat I’d never been to, from a stranger that I’d had an incomparable connection, wearing a permanent mark on my body, I felt surprisingly little change in myself and wondered whether all this was even worth writing about…


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