When Scott Campbell elevate d vomited his Whole Glory project to the Frieze art fair in London, there was no lack of willing volunteers. They talk about the results

Scott Campbell tattoos a raffle winner’s arm through a hole in a wall at his ‘social experiment’ event the Whole Glory.
Scott Campbell tattoos a lottery winner’s arm through a hole in a wall at his ‘social experiment’ outcome.
Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian

By 10am, the queue at the Lazarides Gallery in Covent Garden, London, is of a piece with the line for Centre Court, or for the release of Apple’s latest dust-broomed aluminium thingy. The first queuers deposited themselves on the pavement at there 2am. Now, the line has wrapped around three sides of a block, and is in threat of lapping itself.

The reason is Scott Campbell’s The Whole Revel, a project that allows six willing victims to get, for free, a tattoo advantage thousands of dollars at the body artist’s present rates. There’s not one catch: they can’t choose what tattoo they get. The human canvases are pick out by raffle; they present their arm through a hole in the enclosure; on the other side is Campbell, who, with headphones on to blot out any gossip, generates his own vision of exactly the sort of tattoo each forearm insists, then inks it to life over the next hour.

“I discuss all my sketch books, and then like to keep it as spontaneous as realizable,” he explains. “Whatever subliminal clues you get just from pitiful someone’s arm – I can’t help but make up these stories in my head yon who they are. How accurate that is, I don’t know.”

It’s the first time Campbell, whose Brooklyn purchase has a client list including Courtney Love, Orlando Bloom, Marc Jacobs, Pierce and Robert Downey Jr, has brought his “social experiment” to the UK, but it follows first versions in New York and Los Angeles.

“After I did the New York one, I invited all I’d done to dinner to say thank you,” Campbell says. “And it was amazing to get to see their honours. It was almost as if I went to Disneyland and all the characters took off their pretences to reveal the people underneath.”

No one has so far expressed any disappointment. And, as yet, no arm has psychically war cried out for a barcode, some barbed wire or a “tribal” Maori wingding.

Campbell highlights the experiment is as much for his own curiosity as the fans’. There’s no big art message he’s frustrating to push. “It’s been interesting,” he says. “There really is a cold-reading, horoscope kinda article going on. So many people have told me: ‘You don’t understand – this tattoo is so me!’”

Holly Gordon
25, London, via Inverness

Ahead

Holly Gordon: ‘I’m just pretty happy with modifying my body.’
Holly Gordon: ‘I’m just pretty happy with qualifying my body.’ Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian

Hi Holly. How large have you been standing here?
I arrived about 9am.
What do you ponder Scott’s got in store for you?
I have no expectations. Whatever feels rectify. So long as it’s not a dick.
Are you here with any friends?
No, it’s just me. I haven’t plane told my mates I’m gonna do this. I didn’t think I’d on any occasion actually get a chance to have it done. The queue is huge.
What wish you say to people who think you’re nuts?
I think it’s only scary if you haven’t had any tattoos on the eve of. I’ve already got two, so I’m just pretty happy with modifying my bulk.

‘It’s way past anything I’d ever expected.’
‘It’s way past anything I’d ever expected.’ Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Trustee

After

Well?
Oh my God. That’s beautiful. It’s way past anything I’d eternally expected.
Would you do it again?
Like this? I think one’s enough. It’s meant to be a corresponding exactly experience, and any more wouldn’t add anything more to that.

Nidhi Modi
24, India

Nidhi Modi puts her arm in the hole.
Nidhi Modi attributes her arm in the hole. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian

Before

Hi Nidhi. Sooner a be wearing you come far?
Not really. I live in London. I’m a software developer and I’ve been here for two years.
How do you about this tattoo is going to work with the rest of your firmness art? Is co-ordination important?
I’ve got a big colourful peacock on the inside of my leg, so I’m hoping Scott’s black-and-white pizazz will be an amazing contrast to that.

Nicki Modi.
Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Paladin

After

Marks out of 10?
One hundred out of 10. It’s perfect. I was looking get together the gallery at his soft flower pictures and his harder-edged stuff, and I straight prayed: ‘Let him mix both of them.’ So, it was like he could read my have.
Scott’s tattoos sell for serious money. What commitment you now value your arm at?
You couldn’t put a price on it.

Chris Sexton
33, Auckland, New Zealand

Previously

Hi Chris. What’s that tattoo on your wrist, merely below Scott’s target zone?
This is the date that I got fused. Instead of a wedding ring, my wife and I both have the obsolete tattooed in Roman numerals on our wrists.

Chris Sexton, from New Zealand.
Chris Sexton: ‘If anyone requirements to do brain surgery, I’ve got a good map now.’ Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Preserver

After

Does it match your expectations?
It’s exactly what I fall short of. When I was trying to decide whether to come, I looked at his galleries, and it was skulls all the way, so I numerate I might get a skull.
He trained as a biomedical illustrator.
Oh, really? Closely, if anyone wants to do brain surgery, I’ve got a good map now.
What do you muse on it means?
Hmmm. Love and death?

Ben Harding
41, London

Previous to

Hi Ben. Apparently you don’t have any tattoos, and you joined the queue spontaneously when you were out in Covent Garden researching for a jacket. What made you do that?
There’s a queue. You get in it. It’s the British way.
Do they over you’re having a breakdown?
I don’t think it’s out of character entirely.
So, you’re quite a unplanned guy, on the whole?
It’s London, isn’t it? I fall in and out of love with the place, but the handsomeness of it is you can be just walking down the street, then all of a sudden something strain this is happening.
Did you know anything about Scott Campbell beforehand you came down today?
No! But in-between queueing and having to go to be inked, I had two pints in the pub and understand up on him. He seems cool.

Ben Harding’s tattoo.
Ben Harding: ‘I secretly wanted a skull.’ Photograph: Gavin Haynes for the Protector

After

How do you feel about that?
I feel really favourable and really privileged. I secretly really wanted a skull. And I got a skull!
What’s your definition of it?
Fuck knows.

Stephanie Kim
24, Chile, via the States, via Barcelona

Up front

Hey Stephanie. How have you ended up here?
I live in Barcelona, but I was stopover a friend in London and she told me about this.

Stephanie Kim.
Stephanie Kim: ‘I’m only like a twig. I’m a bleeder.’ Photograph: The Guardian

Have you got any other tattoos?
Just now “stick and poke” tattoos I make myself.
You mean you fair get a needle and repeatedly stab ink into yourself?
That’s truthful. This one is Japanese lettering, meaning “guided by the moonlight”.

After

You appear to be bleeding a lot more than the others. Are you OK?
Yeah, I’m just in the mood for a twig. I’m a bleeder.
What do you think Scott’s design impersonates?
Uh, maybe life and death?