One of the most innovative, and controversial, tattooers today -- a result of his multi-body works and the avant garde style in which they are rendered -- is Little Swastika (his name being a reclamation of the peaceful ancient symbol and not one of hate). In a private atelier deep in the countryside of South Germany, tattoo collectors from around the world offer up large swaths of their skin (he only does big work) for Little Swastika to realize their visions in a feverish, audacious style that is both brutal and sophisticated at the same time.
Exploring Little Swastika's work and life is Ink, Blood, and Spirit, a 15-minute documentary short directed and produced by Claudio Marino and shot and co-produced by Maciej Ustarbowski. A quick teaser of the film is below.
There are a number of screening dates worldwide. In NYC next Thursday, May 22, the film will be shown at Sacred Gallery in SoHo at 8:30pm. It should be an eye opening and inspiring evening, which I'm looking forward to. You'll also get a chance to view the works currently showing at the Sacred Gallery.
See the Facebook event listing and also the film's page on Facebook.
For more on Little Swastika, check his site and Facebook fan page. He will also be showing fine art works, as well as screening the film, in an exhibit in Cologne, June 13-15, and celebrating ten years of tattooing in Tengen, Germany, July 11-13.
For even more, read about Little Swastika's work on previous blog posts here and here.
I'm excited to see this film, not just because tattoos play heavily in this love story, but especially because the strong female lead is a tattoo artist. According to the film's site, the plot unfolds in the following way:
The Broken Circle Breakdown tells the love story between Elise and Didier. She has her own tattoo shop, he plays the banjo in a band. It is love at first sight, in spite of major differences. He talks, she listens. He is a dedicated atheist, although at the same time a naive romantic. She has a cross tattooed in her neck, even though she has both feet firmly on the ground. Their happiness is complete after their little girl Maybelle is born. Unfortunately, Maybelle, at six years old, becomes seriously ill. Didier and Elise respond in very different ways. But Maybelle does not leave them any choice. Didier and Elise will have to fight for her together.
While Emilie Guillaume was brought to the film to design the tattoos on the character of Elise, director Felix Van Groeningen also worked with Emilie on the development of the character -- learning about her life as a tattooer, seeking ideas for the tattoo studio in the film by visiting Emilie's studio, and even adapting some of Emilie's own tattoos for Elise. Emilie told Slate:
"Felix didn't know a lot about tattoos," Guillaume, 32, told me by phone. "It was a real discovery for him. He wanted to know about the life of a female tattoo artist so that the character didn't fall into becoming a cliche." [...] "He wanted the tattoos to tell the story of a life and not just be about imposing a style," Guillaume said of the director. "To create a credible character and make it seem natural that she would have those tattoos, I designed the motifs specifically adapted for her, as I would do for any person."
Emilie further explained to Slate the process of designing the tattoos and how they were tranfered to the body of Veerle Baetens, who plays Elise. Emilie's sketches of the tattoos are also highlighted in the article. What I found particularly interesting in the Slate interview is how some very real experiences of tattooed women are translated in the film, as noted below:
Check the trailers and scenes from the film here.
[Thanks, Jesse from Diabolikdvd.com for the link.]
We spend a lot of time here at the Needles and Sins Compound discussing the application of tattoos but, every now and again, the issue of removal comes up. More often than not, any discussions of removal are about making way for a larger piece or eliminating a youthful "mistake," but I recently watched the documentary "Erasing Hate" and another facet was revealed: what happens when your tattoos no longer represent your personal ideology, much less your ability to function in society?
The documentary profiles Bryon Widner who joined the racist skinhead movement in the American mid-west as a teenager and it wasn't long before he had adorned his face with the violent markings of a violent ethos and lifestyle. But as he grew older... he grew up - recanting both his bigotry and beliefs. The one problem? Well, it's kind of hard to re-enter a culture of equal rights when your face is covered in images of racism.
In an interesting turn, he reached out to the Southern Poverty Law Center for help - an organization known for battling and monitoring hate-groups. They not only located a plastic surgeon who agreed to do the removal, but they also provided $35,000 for the grueling two-year procedure through an anonymous donor. The documentary follows Bryon and his family over the course of his journey and it's definitely worth a watch (especially if, like me, you hate neo-Nazis).
"Erasing Hate" is available on Netflix streaming, or for $1.99 on Amazon instant video.
Yekra is a revolutionary new distribution network for feature films.
For years people saw tattoos as a sign of rebellion. A middle finger salute to the rest of the world. Outlaw bikers got tattoos. Sailors on leave in Singapore got tattoos. Lifers in the joint got tattoos. But now in the United States one out of every three adults under forty has a tattoo! So what happened? How did tattoo go from something that was put on you to an expression that comes from within you? Tattoo Nation tells the story of a few people who helped transform the world of tattoo, and the way we think about tattoos, forever. This is the true story of the ink revolution.
The documentary "Tattoo Nation," has been lauded as one of the best contemporary films to explore tattooing to date. While the basis of the movie is black & grey tattoo culture, overall, it educates on the roots of how the art form arose from the streets to the galleries. Now the film is available for viewing straight to your computer or TV.
Last night, the much-anticipated "Tattoo Nation," a documentary on the history and evolution of black & grey tattooing, premiered in Los Angeles, complete with a red carpet laid out for tattooing's own A List, including Don Ed Hardy, Jack Rudy, Freddy Negrete, Good Time Charlie Cartwright, Tim Hendricks, and Cory Miller (who narrated the film), among many others.
Danny Trejo was also in attendance, as his own experience getting needled in prison plays heavily into the narrative of the film. There's even footage of him taking his daughter to get tattooed (in a studio, not a cell).
Check the Tattoo Nation Facebook page for photos from last night.
As noted in my last post on the film, the nationwide release is next Thursday, April 4th. In some cities, like LA and Modesto, the film will play for a week, but in most others, it is an initial two-day limited engagement. There are over a hundred cities and locations for the screening, which are largely listed on www.Dandeentertainment.com.
** For those in NYC, I'll be hosting one of the Manhattan premiers: The April 4th showing at AMC Empire 25 at 234 West 42nd St. in Times Square at 8pm. I'll be handing out N+S stickers and buttons and also selling copies of my Black & Grey Tattoo box set in the lobby. The screening may sell out, so it's best to buy your tickets in advance. **
I've given this film a thumbs up already, but it's also been given shout-outs from outlets like the Hollywood Reporter, LA Weekly and a mention in Variety. And as a number of reviews have noted, this isn't just a movie for tattoo collectors, but anyone interested in art, culture, or just a shirtless Trejo. Director Eric Schwartz may not have any tattoos, but he really does our community justice, reflecting the true reality of tattoo culture.
While black & grey is the central theme, the film examines tattooing in contemporary US history overall. It's strength lies in the oral histories of those who created history, like Hardy, Rudy, Cartwright, Negrete, Mark Mahoney, Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand and the other greats featured. Check the preview below to get a taste, but I highly recommend you going out to see it.
And for those in New York, I hope you'll see it with me on Thursday.
There's been tons of buzz for the film "Tattoo Nation," which explores black & grey tattoo culture -- but really so much more.
Announced yesterday was the first 118 cities and locations for the screening of "Tattoo Nation," which you can find listed here on their Facebook page. This is huge for a tattoo-centered film, and I'm sure there will be more dates added.
I'm also fairly certain that these screenings will sell out in a lot of theaters, and so keep checking www.Dandeentertainment.com for info on buying tickets in advance in different cities. In some cities, like LA and Modesto, the film will play for a week but in most others, it is an initial two-day limited engagement.
I had the opportunity to see the entire film and I feel it really does justice, not just to the black & grey genre, but to tattoo history in general as well as contemporary tattoo culture. I'll have a full review as time nears for the premiers. Meanwhile, check the trailer below.
One really wonderful development in the tattoo community lately has been a greater prominence of women's voices. There's the third edition of Margot Mifflin's Bodies of Subversion being released (review to come); tattooed woman-centered Things & Ink magazine, the Ladies & Ink blog, and more features on female tattooers in general industry mags.
Now a new project is set to be released that is getting tons of buzz: "From Voodoo to Vogue," described as "A look into the breakthrough of female artists in the tattoo industry through one of its leading pioneers, Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand."
Filmmaker Eric Cannon has been capturing Kate's stories and her adventures as she travels the world, but there are also the stories of fellow tattoo legends, and even an interview with Louise Collins, Sailor Jerry's widow, among much of the footage. The potential for this film is immense, but it needs funding to get off the ground.
The Kickstarter campaign for From Voodoo To Vogue launched yesterday and is seeking a hefty sum to move forward. It's a gamble, but as Eric says on the Kickstarter page, a smaller fundraiser won't cover the goals of the full scale production planned. There's a listing of expenses from production to publicity, and donations can be made as low at $1 ($10 and over gets you perks).
Here's more on the film from:
Through Kate's colorful stories and anecdotes, we will be highlighting the female role in the art of tattooing from the beginning of time. Key Messages: A brief historical overview of how the modern tattoo industry evolved globally from prehistory Ice Age through the industrial age mechanization of electric tattooing to the "Old School" days of military paydays to the current trendy embracement of modern tattooing.And here's a taste of the footage here:
There's been a lot of buzz over the documentary "Tattoo Nation," and if you check this official trailer, you'll understand why.
The film, directed by Eric Schwartz, explores tattooing largely from the perspective of black & gray culture -- a tattoo genre that found its origins in prisons and growth into a fine art. Heavily tattooed film and TV star Danny Trejo narrates the film and shares his own stories of getting tattooed with guitar strings and homemade machines while behind bars. His professional tattoo work, done by some of black & gray's finest, is continued during shooting, with Mark Mahoney working on Trejo's backpiece while the actor discusses the evolution of the art form.
Mahoney is joined on screen by his fellow godfathers of black & gray: Charlie Cartwright, Jack Rudy, and Freddy Negrete. Other legendary artists sharing their stories are Ed Hardy, Kate Hellenbrand, Henk Schiffmacher, Filip Leu, Rick Walters, and Tennessee Dave. The younger generation of black & gray greats, including Chuey Quintanar, Mister Cartoon, Jose Lopez, Franco Vescovi, among others, are repped as well. It's a Who's Who of the tattoo world.
Beyond the history of prison and LA street style of tattooing, the film delves into tattoo acceptance and battling stereotypes. Indeed, it's an important film for lovers of all tattoo art and culture. We're counting down the days to its release in theaters nationwide this October.
For updates, follow Tattoo Nation on Facebook and Twitter.
From TAM blog & Occult Vibrations, I learned that the 1984 documentary, "Signatures of the Soul" is now available in full and free on NZ On Screen.
Directed by Geoff Steven and hosted by Peter Fonda, the film explores the history of tattooing as well as its role in contemporary society -- that is, up until 1984. Here's the site's synopsis:
"Shot in NZ, Samoa, Japan and the United States, it traces the history of tattooing from Ancient Egypt through its tribal importance in the Pacific, to a counter culture renaissance that began in the 1960s. Leading practitioners (including superstar Ed Hardy) are interviewed and observed at work, while their clients wince their way towards becoming living canvasses."
Also on NZ Screen are short clips from other tattoo documentaries: "Tattoo" (2000) and "Ta Moko" (2007).
In May, I raved about the documentary Travelling Ink, a film that was part of a collection of films made for the Body Arts exhibition at the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford, UK. Now the films, including the one above on Tatau and Ta Moko, are available to download for free as part of Oxford's iTunes University podcasts.
What's particularly cool is that you can enjoy the films without being tied to a computer as the podcasts can be viewed on any device. But if you prefer to stream them online without downloading, you can watch them here.
Travelling Ink was created by anthropologist Cyril Siorat, and directors Dr. Udi Butler and Alan Mandel.
This video contains footage of extreme body modification & some nudity. It would fall under the "Not Safe For Work" category, unless you're at Goldman Sachs where you can get away with anything.
This week, a film exploring various body modification has been released in the UK on DVD:
Tattoo's: A Scarred History is a documentary that claims to take a "sociological look at tattoos and tries to answer the question of why tattoos have become such a large part of today's society."
The why question of tattoos, to me, is just as fascinating as the art. When constantly asked about why I have become heavily tattooed, I often simply say. "Because I like it," but naturally there are deeper layers to it, some I may not even be conscious of. In tackling this question, the documentary talks with a variety of experts as well as collectors:
"With help from sociologists, psychotherapists, MP's and Bishops, we delve into the minds of people to discover their emotional and personal reasons for getting a tattoo, including Meg Gaffney's powerful story as she seeks a tattoo artist to replicate her nipples after battling breast cancer."
This promo text from the film got me excited that we'll finally see a film on modern tattooing that takes a serious look at the art and psychology of body modification. Unfortunately, the video above seems to tell another story -- the usual freakshow you see on most tattoo-related films including, but not limited to, the green-scaled tattooed penis. It also discusses other body art like tongue splitting and scarification but with the presenter wincing while saying, "Personally, I'd never have this done [looks off into the distance and sighs]." Sigh, indeed.
Keep in mind that I'm only responding to what is presented in the trailer. As it has only just been released in the UK, I've yet to see the full film and thus this post is not meant as a review. In fact, it has gotten praise from trusted tattoo source Skin Deep Magazine. So I may be unnecessarily harsh here and the trailer may simply have the shock elements up front to attract those beyond the tattoo community.
I reserve full-on snobiety when it becomes available for purchase in the US. For those in the UK, you can now buy the film on Amazon.UK for about eight pounds.