Very cool article posted on The Selvedge Yard (which is an awesome blog and if you haven’t bookmarked it already you should do it now) about Japanese tattoos with a ton of vintage photographs. While I like Japanese tattoos they were never really something I lusted after myself. I think it is their expansiveness and their symbolism which, as I understand it, is pretty…dense… and which somewhat intimidates me? Bah, it’s morning and I can’t bring myself to do some extensive internetting on this, so if you know more about this, let me know in the comments. Personally, I like the modern primitive / blackwork style a lot and I used some old drawings of Algonquin tattoos as inspirations for my left half-sleeve & chest. And the anthropologist in me recoils and yells “WHITE MAN APPROPRIATES NATIVE BODY MODIFICATION FORMS AND USES THEM OUT OF CONTEXT… WAAAHHHHHH!!!!”. See, academic training fosters hidden angst-ridden perspectives that you didn’t even knew existed. I’m a bad bad man and I need to be punished.
Seriously, the article on Japanese tattoos is great and if you are interested in the Modern Primitives Movement or are thinking about getting a tattoo I can not but highly recommend that you get your little gnarly hands on Modern Primitives by V. Vale, which is a collection of interviews and essays and was published by Re/Search in 1989. In my opinion this is mandatory reading if you plan on getting tattooed. Looking around on their website I noticed that Re/Search seems to have jumped on the Sailor Jerry bandwagon and carry a bunch of tattoo-related books now, so if you are into that stuff, knock yourself out. Beyond that they also published some other books like the Industrial Culture Handbook and FREAKS, which are pretty essential reading.
On a related note, it is surprising to me how widespread tattoos & modifications like stretched lobes and the devil knows what else are around these parts. In Germany tattoos are kind of okay, as long as they are not visible (because visible tattoos = criminal / antisocial element / perv / or, (because that’s the way we think) a member of the hardcore, hard-drinking working class who will never leave that social strata) and while stretched lobes might be more popular now, it’s not something you saw often three years ago when I was still living there. I had to hear a lot of stupid comments re: my ear lobes, even though they are not even that big (1/2 inch).
I don’t know, I guess what I’m saying is that it’s fascinating to re-visit a book like Modern Primitives 20 years later and to take a trip down memory lane.
Anyway, I’m meandering, so I better shut up now. Get the book or click the link and look at pretty pictures of tattooed, semi-naked Japanese men.