The Human Canvas

Tatoo me by Illma Gore

Over one year ago the LA-based street artist Illma Gore started her project ‚Tatoo me‘ on Gofundme  after it was refused by kickstarter without any explanation. For just 10 $ over 3000 people could eternalize their stories, pictures and names on her skin. The project is still going on and her limit of 6000$ has exceeded to almost 17.500 $ and pledged to the homeless youth organization SPY.

The American-Australian artist from Brisbane, born on the 2nd march 1992, rosed to prominence in 2013 when she firstly used her skin as a canvas for the slogan ‘My T-shirt didn’t match my rights’ referring  to the same-sex marriage debate demeaned by Tony Abott as “the fashion of the moment”. To spread her message, she was using Brisbane as her venue by riding topless through its streets.

Although she is not a classically trained artist and is not lead by any agency, her art pieces are causing controversies around the world. The latest case: ‘Make America Great again’ showing Donald Trump naked as a pastel drawing showed with a micro penis. Facebook and eBay were banning her and her art piece from their websites so she decided to offer it as a free download on her homepage.

In a short interview she was replying that she will continue to make work that might be censored with the question ‘Why’ on the tip of her paintbrush, because it is an artist’s responsibility to paint the times we are living in. Describing herself as a gender fluid futurist she is stating “In this point in my life, with the amount of significance we put on labels and words in a language that is just different grunts in various octaves, identifying as gender fluid futurist resonates to me right now. I mean the future is now… and now… and now.”

Considering life as art itself may be the core of her work, orientating herself towards the works of Marina Abramović or Christian Boltanski who sold his life to australian millionaire David Walsh. “From an early age it became evident that everything I did was juxtaposing; the first lesson I learned as a child was not to draw on the walls, but all I saw was a big blank canvas.”, so Gore.  And like this she is now using her own body, her vivid skin as a canvas that is breathing and will become older, but can never be recreated or sold to a gallery. Every five years she wants to exhibit herself for one month naked in a gallery so that people can see how the work will change and probably fade away within the years, like the people, which inked symbols she is wearing, will simultaneously change and hereby challenging the concept of individuality.

Like your body is indisputable your own so are the human rights. Another art project by Visual art collective Tilburg CowBoys called ‘Human rights tatoo’ is aiming to tattoo the complete Declaration of Universal Human Rights with the full 6773 characters on 6773 human beings around the world to create awareness and spread a worldwide unity. On the occasion of the murder of the artist Steven ‘Nyash’ Nygah in Nairobi the project was initiated. 2959 of the letters had already been tattooed.


Thomas Büsch

Filmmaker, Founding Member and Secretary General of diyalog, promotion of cultural exchange with Turkey. Since 2012 he is also project manager of InEnArt.

Leave a Reply