Being locked up may take away many personal freedoms, but artistic expression has always found a way to remain present, even when faced with punishment or restriction. Body art has long been a form of asserting the self, commemorating triumphs and loss and advertising an attitude to others. Goof Vermeulen draws upon the prison culture in his series of tattoo machines made from found objects. Each machine has its own box, decorated with skulls, women, and playing cards. The form of the machine follows function more than an established aesthetic. Made with whatever can be scrounged, each unique piece looks more like a Rube Goldberg device or art object than professional machine. Ballpoint pens, Sharpies, tape, string, toothbrushes, and motors form the bare bones of functioning equipment.
While not meant for actual use, the machines are physical expressions of a population of people that we generally think of at the margins of society. The machine featuring a suffering Christ brings up notions of atoning for sins, pain, and repentance. Marking the skin with symbols forms a bond of brotherhood between subject and artist, forging a connection through physical discomfort and creativity. The creation of the machines themselves are also acts of rebellion against authority. The machines can be purchased through Vermeulen’s Etsy store.