Interview with Marc Brandenburg and Hiddy of Temporary Tattoos

Ng Yi-Sheng

July 12, 2016

Ng Yi-Sheng

For me, Club Malam was the most epic event of the closing week of The OPEN—possibly of the whole pre-festival itself—so I’m keeping my wrap-up of the event till later.

But while I was in attendance on Thursday, I got to interview a number of folks, including Hiddy, a 23 year-old NAFA Diploma in Arts Management student who’s also a singer for the amateur band Pop and Pie.

He was a model for German/American Marc Brandenburg’s Temporary Tattoo live art event, which involved a number of volunteer models (bare-chested young men and bare-armed young women) strolling around at leisure among party-goers.

I was gonna interview the artist at first, but he’d disappeared, so I sat down with Hiddy.

NYS: So how did you become a model?

Hiddy: I got involved in this Temporary Tattoo though a friend who actually is there. He’s Hafiz. He told me of this gig and then after that I was keen on joining, so I gave it a go.

NYS: Did you have to audition?

Hiddy: I didn’t need to audition, but I had to meet the director of this Club Malam herself, and she interviewed me. So from there we started liaising. I think this was two months ago.

NYS: Why did you volunteer?

Hiddy: What made me interested in this is that it’s my first doing something like this. It’s art in a different form. It’s art on a human being, which is rarely seen. I mean, it’s not rarely seen, but you see real tattoos on people… but this is kind of like a tattoo, more of an artistic expression kind of thing, rather than a tattoo that shouts a statement. Because usually tattoos in Singapore, they shout statements of aggression or secret society kind of things…

(At this point, Marc Brandenburg discovers us and butts into the interview.)

MB: He has no idea what he’s saying.

(I think he’s joking. But it’s clear that he’s got a very different interpretation of the work from his model.)

MB: You don’t even see that many tattoos here. In Europe for me, that statement was that it’s more anti-tattoo. Of course I have loads of friends who have tattoos, and some of them are rally great. But for me it was a statement that was totally anti. Because I don’t like anything that’s very permanent and I prefer something that would change.

And this whole idea of a “child”… It was something that I loved in my childhood to have these chewing gum tattoos—I know chewing gum’s not allowed here—and it was this whole idea around that as well.

And all of this imagery, it’s all taken from real life. So all of the imagery is things that I at one time took a photo of and took a drawing. I do freehand drawing, and at one point I found a company who would turn my drawings into tattoos.

Last year I had a museum show in  Germany and the whole theme was based on homelessness and capitalism. So I did a whole tattoo sheet based on the woman who lives in front of my door. Next to my door is my bank, and she lives basically in front of this bank and builds up these little sculptures made out of stuffed animals and stuff. So a lot of the images are from her, you know, sitting in front of the bank door, and a lot of the imagery is the stuff that she sits there with as she nods away on heroin. And people they don’t really like to see that of course—homelessness and drug addiction is something we want to ignore.

Photo by Hafiz Ibrahim

NYS: What’s it been like working with Hiddy and the other models?

MB: Oh it’s fun! He’s very fun. It’s all been really nice because they’re all like a group of friends and they all know each other and there’s a nice energy because there’s a nice energy—they’re like a little gang. So it’s been really fun. And at one point everyone was tattooing everyone else, and that’s exactly what I wanted it to be. So it was totally it’s an interactive thing.

It’s not the first time it’s happened. Also with people who’re not so well known to each other—even they start. Everyone starts tattooing each other. It’s really nice.

NYS: And when did you start applying these tattoos?

Hiddy: We started at three-plus.

MB: You were the first.

Hiddy: I was excited!

MB: You were fun. He’s wonderful.

NYS: Hiddy, what do you think of Marc’s designs?

Hiddy: It’s really fun. Because lots of his tattoos are actually influenced are actually my influences, like there’s Michael Jackson…

MB: The thing is my drawings are always negatives. The images that I’ve done in the last twenty years, they look like photo negatives.

NYS: Sorry, I’m talking to Hiddy now. Could you talk about other designs you like?

Hiddy: Quite a few. Like I love to eat McDonalds and there’s Ronald McDonald here…

MB: The symbol of capitalism!

Hiddy: …actually, a lot of the tattoos here, they symbolize different things in life.

MB: Yeah, life in the 20th century, good and bad. I grew up in America as a child, so of course Ronald McDonald is something that’s totally intertwined with my childhood. But at the same time it’s a symbol for this hardcore capitalism and a lot of things that of course we don’t like: obesity, bad food, all these things. So it has a positive and negative, and you find that with a lot of the imagery.

Hiddy: For me I think all these tattoos symbolize the rat race that we’re forced to be put in.

MB: Yeah that’s great, because that’s what it is.

Hiddy: We’re forced to be put in this rat race by people who govern.

NYS: Marc, are there any tattoo designs you specifically made for Singapore?

MB: Not for Singapore. I mean, like the last images were based on I did a show in Brazil, but I see it more as a universal thing anyway. And there will be definitely be Singapore images too—everywhere I go I take photos, so the next place I go to there’ll be images of Singapore. It always takes awhile. Because I just got back from New Zealand, and they were asking me the same thing: “Are you going to do anything with New Zealand images?” Because these are all pencil drawings and they have a lot to do with taking your time. I do everything free hand. so I can’t just do a Singapore image like that. And I’ve never been to Singapore before.

Hiddy: We’re gonna bring you around!

(We later went upstairs and discovered a buttload of ordinary folks who wanted tattoos. So Marc had to oblige them!)

I got a few done myself!

That's from Saturday night, by the way. The tats stay on pretty well as long as you don't scrub them!

  • 2016