Avoidant Attachment, 2023

Temporary tattoos, baby oil, coconut oil, exfoliation gloves and accessories, water, baby wipes, towel, facecloths

Photography: Robyn Jordaan

When long term intimacy and goal-setting requires trust in an imagined future, but all your experience points to impermanence, how do you commit? To a goal, to a partner, or to something as simple as a permanent body modification?

Avoidant attachment refers to a psychological and emotional trauma response, where one avoids emotional closeness and dismisses the importance of intimate relationships. Audrey is part of the generation that had a relatively settled early childhood, but then collectively experienced acts of terrorism, a global financial crash, major natural disasters, and a global pandemic as their adulthood unfurled.

Performance Art Week Aotearoa

Socialised by the rise of the internet as a visual cultural accelerant, and taught to think of ‘self’ as a marketable product in late stage capitalism. In 2023, the rise of climate induced disasters is undeniable and a constant reminder of the precarity of the future. Audrey Baldwin (still) doesn’t have a tattoo.

The hegemonic significance of getting permanently inked has evolved rapidly over the past century. White (capitalist) culture has moved blithely on from its history of puritanical, race and class based judgementality, to assimilation, and subsequent embracing of tattoo as a celebrated artform. Ink, for those without cultural tattooing traditions, is often another means of contribution to one’s personal brand under late capitalism.

Adam Art Gallery Te Pataka Toi, Wellington

This durational piece explores the absurdity and sisyphean nature of contemporary conditions. The myths of individuality and self-reliance are exposed as Audrey invites the audience to assist in the application, and subsequent removal of, temporary tattoos.
Ready-made symbols bought in bulk from Wish. Skulls, roses, daggers, and wolves – straight out of the European canon; memento mori mass produced til arguably meaningless. Significant cultural imagery, stolen and synthesised by capitalism into ‘abstract’ ‘tribal’ geometrics of the 1990s. The cognitive dissonance hums with discomfort.

This act of strangers hands pressing on tattoos on her naked body and then scrubbing them off – in person and in real time – offers an invitation to share vulnerability, albeit boundaried.

Text: Khye Hitchcock