Praise Shadows Art Gallery and Three Kings Tattoo will present the continuation of Nicole Wilson’s Ötzi, an exhibition and durational performance based on 10 years of research and time-based documentation. Beginning in 2016, Wilson tattooed herself with the famed copper age man’s tattoos using her own blood and documented the process of them fading as the blood was reabsorbed into her body. The debut of Ötzi in New York City will feature 15 photographs of the performance alongside the opportunity to collect a blockchain-based authenticated digital file of the tattoos themselves, allowing collectors to participate in the performance. The exhibition at Three Kings Brooklyn’s Greenpoint location will be followed by presentations at Three Kings Los Angeles in early 2022, and at Three Kings London in June 2022. The exhibition’s digital component was developed by Fairchain.
Ötzi is a Copper Age male natural mummy (scientists date him to 3300 BCE) whose body is preserved, cared for, and researched at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Italy. According to the museum, “61 tattoos were found on Ötzi’s body, all in the form of lines or crosses. Unlike modern tattoos, they were not made with a needle; they were fine incisions into which pulverised charcoal was rubbed. The tattoos are located near his ribcage and lumbar spine, on his wrist, knee, calves and ankles.” Ötzi is considered the oldest tattooed human mummy yet discovered (in 2018, nearly contemporaneous tattooed mummies were discovered in Egypt).
Nicole Wilson learned about Ötzi, Europe’s oldest known natural human mummy. An artist who has focused on sculpture and durational, process-driven works, Wilson created this work because “Ötzi stands in for an archetype, his marks are the signifiers without the signified. In that way, I saw an opportunity to use that lack of meaning (or our inability to find meaning) as a way to go further of what this mummy means to us contemporaneously and access him as an archetypal figure of ‘man’.”
In 2012, using the most current research available on Ötzi, Wilson tattooed images of the mummy’s 59 known tattoos on her body using her own blood. Her body reabsorbed almost all of the blood back into itself immediately following the tattooing, but left behind dark scars where heme, the pigment within blood, slowly disappeared from the skin’s surface.
In 2016, Wilson decided to re-execute this project following a new study that discovered more tattoos on Ötzi. The research confirmed that the corpse contains 61 total tattoos divided into 19 groups. In December of that year, Wilson brought two vials of her own blood to Three Kings Tattoo in Brooklyn. From the existing research, she had already rendered Ötzi’s tattoos concisely into digital design files that were then used to make stencils on site. The tattoo artist Mat Moreno tattooed the designs on her skin, using her blood as the pigment. Once again, her tattoos and placement matched Ötzi’s.
Over the next four years, Wilson documented the tattoos as they faded. Photographs of this process will be on view in the exhibition and are included in the forthcoming artist book.
Reflecting on the ephemeral nature of the tattoos, Wilson once said:
“As empowering as the initial action may be, I cannot keep his marks; they slowly disappear over time and leave me. But, this poetic action simply mirrors that the connection between any two bodies are beholden to the laws of the universe and circumstantial limitation.”
Visitors to the exhibition will experience Ötzi via Wilson’s photographs, documentation of the tattoos as they faded over time. On the reverse of each framed picture, the artist includes source material on the tattoo design. Also available in the exhibition is a special collection phase folder (editioned at 30) in the style of the Fluxus box, containing items such as the artist book, a screenprint of a drawing made in Wilson’s blood, print of the Score (set of instructions for collecting digital files of the tattoos), and an index of a selection of images from the process of tattooing at Three Kings.
Praise Shadows Art Gallery and Three Kings Tattoo present Nicole Wilson’s Ötzi October 23, 2021 – November 20, 2021 Three Kings Tattoo 572 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222 Open 11 am to 9 pm, seven days a week www.otziproject.com
Printed with Small Editions, the 96-page artist book Ötzi is available for purchase ($50) from Three Kings in Brooklyn, or online at the Praise Shadows Art Shop.
About the artist
Nicole Wilson is a visual artist with an MFA in Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University and a BFA in Sculpture from Tyler School of Art, Temple University. Through mould-making, conceptual conceits, and long process-driven projects, she makes objects that articulate and own absences and empty spaces. Wilson has sent the President of the United States a letter every day for the past 12 years and had her father design her coffin. In 2019, she was an Artist-in-Residency at the Bemis Center (Omaha, NE), and is currently an Assistant Professor of Sculpture at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, AR).
Tattoos on the Blockchain
Over the years, tattoo aficionados around the world have asked Wilson for her tattoo design files. Until now, these have never been available for purchase. The South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology has granted permission for the artist to move forward with sharing digital files of the tattoo.
Praise Shadows has partnered with Fairchain, a new framework for equity and trust between artists, galleries and collectors. This is the gallery and Fairchain’s third exhibition partnership. The digital tattoo files featured in the exhibition Ötzi will be authenticated and registered on the blockchain. Digital files of the tattoos will be editioned for collectors, who are then provided with the artist’s instruction on printing the artwork on paper for their tattoo artist. If a collector has purchased the work and tattooed the design on their body, the collector can put the digital file up for sale in the secondary market, where the artist receives a royalty for each sale. More information on the editioned tattoos, including edition and sale information, is available on praiseshadows.com