We are happy to present Bluttiefdruck – Nine Dragon Scroll: an interesting and experimental project by the German artist Etienne Steffen.

Bluttiefdruck is an attempt by artist Etienne Steffen to bring tradition and technique in accordance with unprecedented innovation. The interplay of consciousness of tradition and the unbroken fascination with the unexploited potential found in tattooing, resulted in the plan to combine performance, tattooing, etching and exhibition. The Nine Dragon Scroll by Chinese artist Chen Rong from 1244 served as the main point of reference in this nine-part series.

Bluttiefdruck, Tobe
Bluttiefdruck, Tobe

The centerpiece of the project was a performance in which the final dragon of the series that was produced for the exhibition got tattooed onto one of the participants bodies. The act however was performed using water instead of ink. The outflowing blood caused by the perforation of the skin was immediately captured with a piece of cloth, the impression retained forever. This technique was coined Bluttiefdruck by Etienne Steffen.

The first production of a Bluttiefdruck marks the climax, as well as the the end of the series. The performance was a logical next step and at the same time a product of the previous eight tattoos and etchings.

Previously, eight participants had received a tattoo with a dragon spanning across the whole arm. The traditional approach of Horimono, which relies on Ukiyo-e woodprints as a template, was reversed. Steffen initiated the process with the tattoos, the prints followed subsequently. Horimono doesn’t exclusively describe the tattoo itself, it also refers to the engraving that adds ornamentation to Japanese blades. The etchings produced for the tattoo motives are a depiction of itself. Steffen created a new method of dry point etching for this. The tattoo machine is used to push the dragons into the copperplate.

The aim of the performance was to dissect the process of tattooing from the lasting image it leaves behind, and focus entirely on the act. The participant endures the pain, but there is no reward. This results in an inner transformation of the participant, which often becomes part of the background, as the process of change is visible with conventional tattoos. Similar to a ritual the soul goes through a catharsis. This form of ritual cleansing is sometimes referred to as atonement. The marks left behind from a Bluttiefdruck, the perforation of the skin disappears after a few weeks. The impression on the canvas remains and serves as a memorial. The impression of pain inevitably reminds us of the Shroud of Turin which shows the full body imprint of Jesus of Nazareth.

This way the artist blends tradition with innovation, puts various types of media into context, and refers to a multitude of points in (art-) history.

Etienne Steffen is constantly looking for clients willing to participate in future projects. The one he’s currently working on is about Koi – and there are still places available!

Etienne Steffen
Neubrunnen Str. 8 – Mainz (germany)
e-mail: etiennesteffen@gmail.com