“I Will Always Have You” aimed to map the tattooing heritage of the neighbourhood by engaging with the public and documenting their tattoos, examining the power of their personal narratives and the construction of character. We wanted to extract the memories and remembrances that are stored in people’s body art.
In collaboration with Stand + Stare and Play Nicely, we created a Mobile Tattoo Parlour. This is a tattoo parlour with a difference – instead of inking new tattoos it digitally collected people’s pieces of body art and recorded the stories behind why they had them. The project offered an opportunity for people to share the memories, lost loves and tall tales that are etched into their tattoos. By gathering these stories, we hoped to explore and better understand the growing popularity of tattoos across the UK and the richness of the tattoo culture of Knowle West.
The Mobile Tattoo Parlour Has been digitally documenting people’s body art and collecting their stories. The themes that have been explored include: the power of personal narratives and myths in the construction of identity, tattoos as a repository of stored memories, and the performance of identity. We have seen heartbreak and celebration, childhood regret and childish allure – each tattoo has its own story, memory and place on the owner’s body.
The Parlour has now finished its tour having passed around the neighbourhood from “Marked Up” Tattoo Studio to The Park, from re:work on Filwood Broadway to Inns Court. It has now arrived back at Knowle West Media Centre. If you have a tattoo to show and a story to tell you can still become part of the archive by visiting us or going directly to the Knowle West Tattoo website and submitting from home.
On 11th September 2014 we opened the ‘I Will Always Have You’ exhibition at Knowle West Media Centre. The event was well attended and included live and close-up tattooing, interactive tattoo installations and a talk by Dr John Troyer from the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath exploring the history and cultural role of memorial tattoos.