Balcony view of The letting Go performance, MKG Hamburg

Stellmach performing The Letting Go, Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe Hamburg, 2015 © Studio Stellmach

Intriguingly, the French Psychoanalyst Didier Anzieu suggested that thought can happen in the skin, just as it does in the brain; so perhaps the idea that ‘letting go’ could happen via the skin, may not be as far-fetched as it first sounds…

For The Letting Go, participants and spectators alike are encouraged to turn the gaze inwards and explore vulnerability and impermanence with the artist, in a gallery, as part of a unique ritual resulting in a text-based bloodline tattoo on their body. Following a one-to-one enquiry and in response to the question, “What would you like to let go of?” a personal obstacle is identified, named and inscribed on the skin (no ink, no scar: a temporary wound). Over time as the physical wound heals, the word fades and disappears.

It is especially powerful to be confronted by a word as a wound on one’s own body.
Unsettling, but brings with it great clarity.
Katja, 2015


Installation view: Detail, The Letting Go, Kunst Galerie Fürth, 2015

Previous projects involving performances and happenings in galleries and festivals, such as Agent Provocateur at dOCUMENTA (13) and Pulse Miami were lauded by both the public and critics. Here Stellmach wrote statements in pen on participant’s bodies, statements which she herself had received, which critiqued the role of the artist and contemporary art in society. Participants enjoyed both the intimacy and playfulness of being transformed into a socially critical durational art work for a night. The confessional characteristic that this ‘bodywork’ encouraged – despite being situated in high-traffic art environments – led Stellmach to further investigations around intimacy, distilling this to: fear and trust. So she learnt to tattoo.

With the addition of the tattoo ‘gun’ to her practice, The Letting Go potently celebrates vulnerability and impermanence. By addressing fear, self-image, trust, the ritual, voyeurism and personal enquiry, the process offers an intimate and potentially cathartic experience.

Spectators watch Stellmach and a participant

Stellmach performing The Letting Go, Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe Hamburg, 2015 © Studio Stellmach

Viewers watch Natascha Stellmach's inkless tattoo happening at Wagner+Partner Berlin, 2013, photo by Oli Parzer

Spectators watch (but cannot hear) Stellmach’s performance, Wagner+Partner Berlin, 2013, photo by Oli Parzer


Installation View (detail), The Letting Go, Wagner + Partner Berlin, 2016

Wagner + Partner Berlin 2013 | Berlin Festival Germany 2014 | Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe Hamburg 2015 | Kunst Galerie Fürth 2015 | Wagner + Partner Berlin 2016

are public experiences (consultations are nonetheless kept private/out of earshot)  and free of charge for participants. Performances will be announced here and through newsletters (places are limited).

Teaser Magazine | Künstler Portrait: Natascha Stellmach by Katrin Kobberger – Artist Portrait (Deutsch)
Essay | Gespannte Erwartung: Ecce Me! – by Rafael von Uslar (Deutsch)
Nürnberger Nachrichten | Mit Herzblut gezeichnet – Review by Reinhard Kalb (Deutsch)
TV – Hamburg 1 | Diese Tattoos verschwinden von selbst (Deutsch)
Hamburger Abendblatt | Wenn das Museum zur Tätowierstube wird – Review by Heinrich Oehmsen (Deutsch)
Dazed Digital | Under The Gun – Review by Natalie Holmes
Berliner Zeitung | Das Böse ist immer und überall – Review by Ingeborg Ruthe (Deutsch)
Die Welt & Berliner Morgenpost | Kämpf den Dämonen – Review by Frédéric Schwilden (Deutsch)
Deutschlandradio Kultur | Kunst die unter die Haut geht – Andreas Main (audio & transcript: Deutsch)
TAZ, Die Tageszeitung, Berlin | Tattoo-Happening zur Selbsterkenntnis – Review by Meike Jansen (Deutsch)
a.muse Berlin | Beyond The Smoking Gun – Review & Interview by Julie Anne Miranda–Brobeck
Troublemag | Review & Interview by Carmen Ansaldo
Nau Nua Art Magazine | Interview by Juan Carlos Rom
Der Tagesspiegel | Vom Regen ausgewischt – Review by Michael Nungesser (Deutsch)
art in berlin | Scheitern – so many ways to fail – Review by Inge Pett (Deutsch)

Day 1, Gabi's Fret, 2015

Day 1, Gabriela’s Letting Go, 2015

Day 2, Reinhard's Sehnsucht, 2013

Day 2, Reinhard’s Letting Go, 2013

[Respect goes out to the 120+ daring, stunning souls who have participated in The Letting Go thus far.]


Your project sounded very powerful, but feeling it “from the inside” is even more amazing
– it has made a huge impact on my life.
Getting the tattoo has transformed all the overwhelming feelings into temporary letters,
that at the same time have taken the form of a very positive message for myself.
(Eli, Melbourne)

Selfie by Eli: Day 2, Mud, Melbourne, 2015

The Letting Go: Selfie by Eli, Day 2, Mud, Melbourne, 2015

I’ve been documenting the tattoo and it made me conscious of my thinking …
there’s a lot of scrutinizing going on in my head, that I didn’t realise before. (Oli, Berlin)

Selfie by Oli: Day 4, Scrutiny, Berlin, 2013

The Letting Go: Selfie by Oli, Day 3, Scrutiny, Berlin, 2013

How am I duping myself? … Adam, Melbourne

©Natascha Stellmach,The Letting Go: Selfie from Adam, Day 4, Dupe, Melbourne, 2016

The Letting Go: Selfie from Adam, Day 4, Dupe, Melbourne, 2016

After taking this picture, at the beach in front of my family’s house in Crete,
it was surprising to discover a father with his little daughter in the background.
So that’s where I left the little girl. Where she really belongs, on that beach.
The tattoo had completely disappeared the day I got back to Berlin.
Klairi, Berlin

Day 5, Klairi lets go of The Girl, inkless tattoo by Natascha Stellmach, photo by Klairi, 2013

The Letting Go: Selfie by Klairi, Day 5, Girl, Berlin, 2013

Nach sieben Tagen war das Tattoo schon so blass, dass es kaum noch zu sehen war.
Nach zwei Wochen war es dann ganz verschwunden.
Was für mich ein Zeichen war, wie schnell ich heilen kann und wie stark ich damit bin. [in English] Philipp, Berlin

Selfie by Philip: Day 6, Wreckage (Trümmer in German), Berlin, 2014

The Letting Go: Selfie by Philip, Day 6, Trümmer, Berlin, 2014

Es war inspirierend mit Dir zu arbeiten.
Die Findungsphase und Entscheidung für DUeLL war intensiv, verlief sehr unkompliziert und schnell.
Und ich weiß, dass dieses Wort (-Bild) genau das richtige ist, um mir bei der Transformation zu helfen.
[in English] Thomas, Berlin

Selfie by Thomas: Day 7, Duel (Duell in German), 2013

The letting Go: Selfie by Thomas, Day 7, Duell, Berlin, 2013

Ich lasse die Kunst ganz nah an mich ran.
Ich überwinde Angst. Die Folge: Ausstoß von Adrenalin.
Ganz in der Halböffentlichkeit und zugleich wie in einem Cocoon, einer Höhle.
Nur die Künstlerin und ich.
[in English]
Andreas, Köln

Selfie by Andreas: Day 11, Constraints (Zwänge in German), 2013

The Letting Go: Selfie by Andreas, Day 11, Zwänge, Cologne, 2013

Die Tätowierung wurde weniger zum Angelpunkt der Selbstreflexion
und schneller zum Alltag als ich erwartet hatte. Das sie da war, hatte an sich etwas selbstverständliches.
Sie war nicht etwas dem ich gegenüberstand
um mich mit ihm auseinanderzusetzen, sondern einfach ein Schriftzug,
der wie ein Namensschild einen Namen trägt, benannte wo meine Baustellen liegen.
Simon, Hamburg

Selfie by Simon: Day 18, Tank, Hamburg, 2015

The letting Go: Selfie by Simon, Day 18, Tank, Hamburg, 2015

After my initial teariness and distress whenever I saw the tattoo, I’m finding that it doesn’t have the same effect on me.
I look at it with a kind of ‘love’, or at the very least, a ‘positive acceptance and acknowledgement’
of a debilitating emotion
that I’ve carried my entire life.
Even the healing process of the actual tattoo
has been painless…as if it’s telling me not to be afraid of this word,
it can’t hurt you! Danila, Sydney


The letting Go: Selfie by Danila, Day 37, Unworthy, Sydney, 2014

Its been a struggle for me to let go,
I still find myself trying to reach perfection in some aspects of my life.
But I guess now that I am aware of it, its easier to remind myself that I have my four elements
and that I don’t need to be longing for that imaginary fifth one.
Anais, Berlin

Day 39, Anais lets go of Aether, inkless tattoo by Natascha Stellmach, photo by Anais, 2013

The letting Go: Selfie by Anais, Day 39, Aether, Berlin, 2013

Mir gibt der Prozess Kraft und einen somatischen Anker das ich gleichzeitig mit Geschprächen, Yoga, Tanz, Massage und Meditation verarbeiten kann. Natascha, Berlin


The letting Go: Selfie by Natascha, Day 43, Dearth, Berlin, 2015

Ernst-Nachschlag: I suffered through a vicious ERNST attack this weekend 😦
so I asked my son to re-ink it on my arm so that I can again 
watch it fade away starting now. 🙂 Mathias, Hamburg

Selfie by Mathias: Day 65, Ernst, Hamburg, 2015

The letting Go: Selfie by Mathias, Day 65, Ernst-re-inked by his son, Hamburg, 2015