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Press Release for Tuesday, August 2, 2016

‘Ink, Icons, Identity: Exploring U2’s Brand Through Fan Tattoos’ Exhibition at UNF

 Media Contact: Joanna Norris, Director
Department of Public Relations
(904) 620-2102

 “Ink, Icons, Identity: Exploring U2’s Brand Through Fan Tattoos,” an exhibit of the U2 Tattoo Project, will run Monday, Aug. 15, through Friday, Aug. 26, at the University of North Florida Gallery of Art, located in Founders Hall, Building 2, Room 1001, on campus. There will also be a free opening reception in the Gallery from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18.

This unique multimedia exhibit, curated by Beth Nabi, assistant professor of graphic design and digital media at UNF, examines the intersection of personal identity and brand identity through the tattooed fans of Irish rock band U2. It showcases bodily markings in the context of related U2 artifacts; presents the compelling personal stories behind the tattooed logos, symbols and lyrics; and explores the dynamic relationship between fan and band as U2’s visual identity passes into the hands and onto the bodies of fans.

“While the exhibit is built around U2, you don’t have to be a fan of the band to appreciate the show. It celebrates popular culture, tattoo art, graphic design, rock ’n’ roll and fandom in general,” said Nabi. “We all have a favorite band and probably a favorite T-shirt with a logo, image or icon of that band. This exhibit follows these symbols as they are transferred from temporary merchandise to permanent tattoos and explores the new meanings that emerge as brand identity becomes personal identity.”

Nabi, a 25-year fan of the band, studies U2’s visual identities, marketing and branding, and has presented her research on these topics at several academic conferences. She founded the project with visual anthropologist Chris LeClere and, coinciding with U2’s 2015 Innocence + Experience Tour, the pair traveled last year to 19 concerts in seven cities across three countries to document U2 fan tattoos.

Nabi and LeClere interviewed nearly 150 fans from 17 different countries and photographed more than 300 tattoos. In Dublin, they also had the opportunity to interview the two lead members of U2’s longtime creative team—Steve Averill, U2’s graphic designer since 1978, and Shaughn McGrath, U2’s graphic designer since 1990—to get the designers’ reactions to their work as tattooed on fans.

In 40 years as a band, U2 has accumulated a rich history of transient visual identities from each era or album, but no consistently used logo, according to Nabi. The U2 Tattoo Project was created to study what, in the absence of that official logo, U2 fans get tattooed and why. The project investigates the transition from marketing to body modification as fans go beyond ephemeral merchandise and permanently mark their bodies with a band’s identity.

Following the exhibition at UNF, it will be on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, as part of a fan celebration for the band’s 40th anniversary. For more information about this exhibition, contact Beth Nabi at or at (850) 284-0469.

UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.