Tattooed bodies and care practices

With Elena Sorokina, Luc Renaut et Rafaël Cellier
Cycle "ORLAN : sortir du cadre"

Les Abattoirs
Free entrance

As defined by political scientist Joan Tronto and civil rights activist Berenice Fisher, care is "an activity characteristic of the human species that includes everything we do to maintain, perpetuate, and repair our world so that we can live in it as well as possible. This world includes our bodies, ourselves, and our environment, which we seek to connect together in a complex, life-sustaining mesh." Initiatives related to the practice of care, well-being and health, remain marginal within museum institutions in France, and the contemporary art world in general, however some artists and curators have integrated this notion into their research and practices and are trying to imagine new ways of taking care and inventing more supportive systems of creation and collaboration.

Echoing the ORLAN exhibition, the speakers will focus on the question of the body, through the practice of therapeutic tattooing. They will question the link between therapeutic tattooing and care, both of which have an ambiguous relationship to the art world, neither completely inside nor outside. Thus these two practices move the lines and question the capacity of the art world to transform itself and to become one with the public. This conference will be an opportunity to question the transformation of the body through the act of care and as a practice of empowerment, to reflect on therapeutic tattooing as an artistic practice of care and to understand the issues they cover.


Elena Sorokina is an art historian and exhibition curator.
Born in Russia, Elena Sorokina is a graduate of the Whitney Museum of American Art ISP in New York and the Friedrich Wilhelms Universität in Bonn.  She was the artistic director of the High Institute of Fine Arts (HISK), Belgium, between 2017-2018. Between 2015-2017, she was part of the curatorial team of documenta 14, Athens and Kassel. Elena Sorokina has curated at BOZAR, Art Brussels and WIELS (Brussels) at the Centre Pompidou and Musée d'Art Moderne (Paris) at SMBA/Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and other institutions. Her recent exhibition "Crystal Clear: Travels in Sustainable Exhibition Making" opened at Pera Museum Istanbul in December 2020.  She recently co-organized "Spaces of Exception" a special project for the Moscow Biennale and the colloquium "What is a Postcolonial Exhibition?" a collaborative project of SMBA/Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Stedelijk Museum. In 2022, she is associate curator for the Armenian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, as well as associate curator for the Forms of Fragility exhibition at the Rudolfinum in Prague.


Rafaël Cellier is a tattoo artist based in Paris and Brussels. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Cergy (former student of ORLAN) and developed an artistic practice that was first performative before focusing on tattooing, which is now his main activity. Rafaël Cellier practices handpoke tattooing, which is inspired by traditional tattooing techniques performed without a machine. He favors an approach that is both artistic and sensitive, by associating the energy of the LaHochi with tattooing. This transformation of the body is for him a vector of a spiritual change.

Luc Renaut is a lecturer at the University of Grenoble. He devoted his doctoral thesis to the different forms of body marking (ancient and traditional uses): tattooing, but also body painting and scarification. His research focuses on three areas: ancient and late antique iconography, clothing and adornment between Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and the history of tattooing. He is currently preparing a book tracing the first developments of tattooing in the West, from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, based on a set of largely unpublished and/or unknown sources.

In the continuity of this conference, Tattooed Bodies and Care Practices: Therapeutic Tattooing Sessions are scheduled at the Abattoirs on Saturday, May 14, between 12:00 and 11:00 pm, on the occasion of the 18th edition of the European Night of the Museums.

Tattoo artists will be present in the rooms of the museum and will propose to the visitors to be tattooed and to share together the experience of therapeutic tattooing.