“Tattoos have always carried an air of rebellion with them. Throughout history, they have been both demonized and romanticized, and that polarizing effect is what's so attractive about them,” says Javier Betancourt. A world-renown tattooer and owner of Ocho Placas Tattoo Co., the young man is passionate about tattoos.
“The word 'fetish' alone can bring about uneasy feelings — visceral fears of being bare, exposed, and forced to endure pain in order to experience pleasure. Not only is it something intimate that's already not safe or proper to bring up in a normal conversation, but it's a taboo and carries the risk of rejection and being ostracized from society.”
With Art Basel and Miami Art Week looming, Betancourt is poised to bring his tattoo consciousness into the world of art and into the international conversation with his limited-edition print series, "This Is Meant to Hurt You."
He believes in the tactile power of the product — a publication featuring original photography and interviews with notable people in the tattoo and music community — and the myriad possibilities that can emanate from putting time and effort into such a work.
“There's nothing like a book or magazine in my opinion, from the smell and feel of the paper to watching it age with you. It's just something that digital media will never have.”
In keeping the launch of this premiere issue under the old-school theme, he has secured the Royal Budget Inn on Biscayne Boulevard as the event site. “The idea behind the release being at a motel is definitely a marriage of the two worlds. I want to provide an evening and event that is of high society and a certain level of refinement but still in a seedy place, very much a mirror into the way that I see things,” he says.
Alongside his work, he has chosen an ad hoc army of like-minded artists who come from the tattoo and fetish world: Daniel Albrigo, Tamara Santibañez, Chase Lisbon, and Jose Leyva; as well as partners Hattie Watson, the Broken Shaker, and Sang Bleu.
Betancourt does not make any lofty allusions when it comes to the future of the skin-art, as he says, “Tattooing is at a crossroads. With the popularity of tattoo reality shows and social media, in general, much of the primitive and rebellious charm of tattooing is disappearing.”
As an artist and now publisher, Betancourt can go far with the widespread acceptance of the art form. “Part of this project is to showcase the forms of tattooing that I find to be elegant, timeless, and uniquely special. I want people to see those pieces that have a personality and soul and relate to them the same way I do.”
"This Is Meant to Hurt You"
Friday, December 4, and Saturday, December 5, at the Royal Budget Inn, 7422 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami. Open to the public. Visit thisismeanttohurtyou.com.