2015, Tate Britain
Skin, needles, ink, rotary machine, latex, plastic, bodies, trauma

Climate change is permanent; so are tattoos.

This piece explores lasting damage, scarring, and healing. Numbers are written on the body, brands are written on the gallery and, as carbon is released into the atmosphere, damage is written on the planet.

This is an unsanctioned performance by Liberate Tate in defiance of BP’s sponsorship of Tate.

The performers receive tattoos in the form of a number – the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere expressed as parts per million (ppm), in the year of their birth. A performer born in 1962 (318ppm) compares the
changes they’ve seen with a performer born in 1993 (357ppm). Being born in the same year has a new meaning – living through the same increase in carbon dioxide.

In response to climate change, this performance embodies the revisions being inscribed on our planet in an intimate, personal way. Each tattoo echoes the engraving act by the oil sponsor in transforming the body of the gallery.
There is a rich history of tattoos in art and protest, but protest tattoos as performance intervention in a gallery space is unprecedented. In the run up to the international climate talks in Paris, the artists invite Tate to reconsider their sponsorship deal with BP, and to begin to erase this scar from their skin.

Take part in Birthmark

Use our tattoo stencils and visit a tattoo studio. Print the tattoo stencils at A4. In London, we suggest Vagabond Tattoo Studio, Hackney; in Manchester we suggest Manchester Ink and Suburban Ink; in Glasgow we suggest Terry’s Tattoo Studio; in Berlin we suggest AKA. (Please email us with your recommendations further afield).

Birthmark tattoos are in ‘Travelling Typewriter’ font, point 30, kerning set at 50 for the numbers and at 100 for the guillemet.

Or, email if you would like to receive a tattoo from Liberate Tate, for more information on this possibility.

Birthmark Stencils_Page_1 Birthmark Stencils_Page_2


Exhibition Guide