Photograph by Dr. Gemma Angel, Courtesy of the Science Museum, London.
Top tattoo news from around the world included stories on preserving tattooed skin postmorten, more do-it-yourself tattoo machine madness, court battles over police tattoo bans, traditional tatau, and more. Here are the details:
In Vice's "Human Pelts: The Art of Preserving Tattooed Skin After Death," the article takes a look at those who have offered to have their tattoos preserved and displayed after their deaths. Most notably, Geoff Ostling, whose tattoos are largely done by artist eX de Medici, talks about how he chose to donate his taxidermied body as a work of art to be displayed at the National Museum of Australia museum (as well as all the gory details of skinning his tattoos once he's gone). There's also a great discussion with Dr. Gemma Angel, who shares her expertise on logistics of preserving skin, as well as the history -- and mystery -- behind the acquisitions at London's Wellcome Collection. Here's a taste:
As fascinating as it is, public exhibits of preserved tattooed skin are rare and controversial. That's in part because it's unclear whether many of these skins were acquired ethically. The preserved skins in the Wellcome Collection, for example, were all purchased from a single mysterious individual.I've linked a number of articles here on the blog about Gemma's work, including this one, "Collecting Tattoo Skin."
More buzz over Do-It-Yourself tattoos, this time over Jakub Pollag's art grad project Personal Tattoo Machine, which he claims "democratizes the tattoo industry, " adding, "It puts a tool used only by a limited group of people into the hands of enthusiasts, who are seeking an alternative and unique way to permanently mark their meaningful memories onto their skin." Of course, it also puts, in the hands of tattoo enthusiasts, skin infections, Hepatitis C, scars, and a permanent reminder of bad decision making. Also, if anyone can grab a tattoo kit on Amazon or eBay, what's the big difference here? Last January, I wrote on the Stick & Poke kits, also meant to "democratize" tattooing. Both are bad news.
In Chicago, cops have filed a lawsuit challenging the police department's tattoo ban, which requires officers cover up their tattoos that aren't covered by long-sleeve shirts and pants with skin-toned bandages. While I've written extensively on tattoo bans and employment discrimination, you may want to also check this National Law Review article that was published last week on regulating appearance in the workplace.
I was very happy to see my friend, master of Samoan tatau Pili Mo'o, in Mauitime.com, featuring his handtapped Polynesian tattooing, which he will be offering at Blue Hawaii July 1-15. As Mo'o notes in the article, he carries on the traditions of tatau, taught to him by master Sua Sulu'ape Paulo II, and honors the faith and trust his clients put into it.
Pili Mo'o handtapping tatau.
In other news ...
* Here's a piece on why many people are tattooing semicolons on their bodies.
* An article on "A day in the life of an all-female tattoo studio."
* Corneal tattooing -- as demonstrated at the NYC Tattoo Convention last month.
* Cross-stitch tattoos.
* And a sweet story on a "Tattoo Artist Turns Girl's Leg Braces Into A Pair Of Wicked Awesome Disney Villains."
Image via the British Museum.
An "intimate tattoo" found on a 1,300 year-old mummy is one of the highlights of the British Museum's "Ancient lives new discoveries" -- an exhibit that unlocks "hidden secrets to build up a picture" of the lives of eight people from ancient Egypt and Sudan, whose preserved bodies were analyzed, using methods such as CAT scans, to put the pieces together of who they were. The exhibit runs from May 22 to November 30, 2014, but if you can't make it to London, there are a number of outlets online, which offer some juicy details on that tattoo. Turns out it's more pious than sexy.
According to The Telegraph, one of the eight mummies, who was found in 2005 on an archeological dig in Sudan, had, on her right inner thigh, a tattoo with a monogram of a name spelled in Ancient Greek. Here's more from the article:
One of the mummies, whose remains were found just seven years ago, was so well preserved that archaeologists could almost make out the tattoo on her skin on the inner thigh of her right leg with the naked eye. Infra-red technology helped define it more clearly.
There's also an interesting short video on The Telegraph that further discusses the tattooed mummy, and the others in the exhibit. Check it.
The Mirror also had a piece on the mummy, which I found on the wonderful Tattoo History Daily. The editor of the blog, Anna Felicity Friedman, also posted the article on her personal Facebook page, and there's an excellent discussion in the comments, including links to further information on tattooed mummies, such as Gemma Angel's articles (Part I and Part II) on tattooing in ancient Egypt.
As I often say, whenever you hear people talk about a "tattoo trend," remind them that it's one of the oldest "trends" of mankind.
Today, I came across Gemma Angel's blog post "The Tattoo Collectors: Film & Fiction," a fantastic piece on the macabre theme of flayed tattoo skin as collected art in literature and movies. Gemma is a tattooist and PhD student, who studies the preserved tattoo skins of the Wellcome Collection, a London museum that houses an array of medial artifacts. So she's my go-to source for the history and culture surrounding the post-mortem preservation of tattoos, which she explores throughout her fantastic blog Life and Six Months. [We've written about Gemma's work before here.]
In The Tattoo Collectors post, she particularly focuses on Roald Dahl's Skin and the German film Tattoo by Robert Schwentke. She offers these thoughts on both works:
It is interesting to note that both Schwentke's film and Dahl's story locate the preserved tattoo within the sphere of the art world - both treat the tattooist as 'great artists' in their own right, whether he be a painter or Japanese tattoo master. The value of the work is considered to be far greater once the artist/tattooist is dead. And both narratives identify the collector of tattooed human skin as fine art collectors who possess a cultured appreciation of the tattoo. Despite this, Dahl and Schwentke's collectors look down upon the tattooed themselves, occupying a more privileged class position.Gemma also discusses the very real practice of tattoo preservation, most notably the collection at the Medical Pathology Museum of Tokyo University, and she even offers an interesting anecdote about "the fetishistic tattoo collecting practices of Ilse Koch, the wife of commandant Karl-Otto Koch at the Buchenwald and Majdanek concentration camps."
The whole post is a great read. Check it.
Photo by Gemma Angel
There's a great interview in HuffPo UK -- entitled "Unlocking The Mysteries Of The Tattoos Of The Dead" -- with Gemma Angel, a tattooist and PhD student who studies the preserved tattoo skins of the Wellcome Collection, a London museum that houses an array of medial artifacts. [We wrote about Wellcome before here.]
In the Q&A, Gemma discusses her favorite preserved work (a large chest piece), her efforts finding who were the people behind the skins, and also who were those collecting these skins. There's a great quote related to the latter:
I think these collectors knew they were doing something that was a bit dodgy. I've come across references to one or two scandals which came about as a result of particular doctors harvesting and preserving tattoos - you might keep a pathological specimen from a human body for a teaching aid for medical students, but can you really justify keeping a tattoo? It seems there's some aspect fetishisation involved, of the tattooed image, and the skin itself. It's complicated, and I don't know if I'll ever get to the bottom of it, but I've got some time yet.
Through the article, I found Gemma's own personal site brilliantly titled Life and Six Months, based on this Sam Steward quote: "With some grim humour I always answered the question about how long a tattoo would last by saying: 'They are guaranteed for life - and six months'."
Check her site and see more photos of the tattooed flesh in the HuffPo piece.