Tattoos, rare creatures, art and passion in We are ExtInked at The Manchester Museum

By Culture24 Reporter | 30 August 2011
A photo of a man holding an eagle with a tattoo of it on his arm
Huw Spencer and the White Tailed Eagle, which he is a "proud ambassador" for as part of We are ExtInked at The Manchester Museum© Andrew Firth
Exhibition: We are ExtInked, The Manchester Museum, Manchester, until November 13 2011

Conscience circlers the Ultimate Holding Company are used to tackling deathly subjects head-on, having emerged in 2003 by re-enacting Guantanamo Bay in Manchester, complete with nine participants subjected to elements of incarceration and sensory deprivation.

For their latest social incision, the group have picked 100 endangered species in the UK and responded to each one with an original illustration and an accompanying tattooed human ambassador, exhibited in a series of drawings, photographs, videos and skin etchings here.

The project began as part of celebrations marking the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth in 2009, selecting species indigenous to our shores and reproducing them in pen and ink depictions by talented artist and ardent activist Jai Redman.

A black and white photo of a woman with a bird tattoo sitting in a chair
Jenny Jones, ambassador for the Shrill Carder Bee© Anatomy Projects
Hundreds of visitors then applied to adopt each one at the launch in 2009, with the chosen ones receiving a free inking of their imperilled creature.

The hotly-contested race to represent a rarity has resulted in real passion among the participants – check out the blog and you can find explorers foraging through the Lincolnshire nature reserves which provide the only remaining homes of the Tall Thrift plant, or raising hundreds of pounds in support of a campaign which has turned eye-catching grouse the Western Capercaillie from certain extinction to modest recovery.

ExtInked, then, is both testimony to an ongoing, stirring battle and the first time the original artworks, documentary footage of the tattooing processes and photographic portraits of the ambassadors (taken on an ancient camera) have been united.

They’re shown alongside the museum’s remarkable collection of specimens and more news on the good work carried out by the ton of volunteers, complementing the new Living Worlds space.

“It fits perfectly with the themes of the gallery,” says Henry McGhie, the Head of Collections at the venue.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with individual people who have been so inspired by nature that they have made it part of their everyday lives.” This exhibition could add a few more enlistees to their ranks.

  • Open 10am-5pm (11am-4pm Sunday and Monday). Admission free.
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