PERFORMANCE: March 15, 1996, Zap Club, Brighton.
Presented as part of Transmutations: Art of '96, International Festival of Live Art

This performance for TRANSMUTATIONS 1996 was commissioned on the theme of transmutation and alchemy. It involved collaboration with a Brighton based tattooist and employed galvanic skin response units connected to ‘energised’ clothing for members of the audience to wear. Bruce Gilchrist's left thumb print was scanned and then transferred onto his right shoulder by the tattooist as an image for inscription. One electrode from a galvanic skin response unit was attached to the tattooist—exposed flesh on his thumb contacting with the metal tattoo machine. A second electrode was connected to skin on Gilchrist's arm. The needle, when inscribing the image, closed an electrical circuit producing measurements of galvanic skin response, which were translated into amplified-sound within the space. The sound was modulated through a combination of changing skin potential and needle pressure.

The sound signal was converted into voltage to drive a series of vibrating electrical motors embedded within rubber clothing—jacket and shoes—which members of the audience were invited to wear during the three hour performance. The physically painful experience of being tattooed was transmuted into a pleasurable sensation for the audience-participant. The physical process of creating a permanent visual image on the surface of the artist’s body was translated into ephemeral sound and tactile sensations within the spectator's clothing.

"The vital thing is not the transmutation of metals, but that of the experimenter himself."


A participant wears the ‘vibration clothing’ described above, in Dissident States—a collaboration between Bruce Gilchrist and writer Nic Rogers as part of Disorders, a 24hr performance at St Thomas’ Hospital , London, August 1996.

Dissident States was commissioned by Beaconsfield. Software by Jonny Bradley. Electronics by No1 Electronics. Rubber clothing fabricated by Mark Fuller.

Photo by Nic Percy.

Selected projects & collaborations by Bruce Gilchrist © 2024