First it can be a matter of superstition or beleife for the tattooed. Every tattoo can be invested with religious or magical power and being a call to protection (cross, holy mary).
Seduction appears often but erotic tattoos are pretty rare. Nevertheless we can find numerous design with erotic meaning more or less understandable. Of course it exist a lot of representation of women with bare legs and breasts, the mermaid telling the meeting of cheating women. Some referencies are generally made with fantasy and appears in the bottom region especially in the gay community. We can talk about this amusing story of huntin court where the fox goes hidding in it’s terrier…the anus! Some writings like “love me”, “make love”, “girl’s toy”, “love tap” written just above the pubis are realy elliptical.
But the violence, hatred, revolt, weapons, the army are also recursive themes in tattoo. It still spreads in the “unconventional” communities and works as an antisocial mean of expression. Lots of gang members got their emblem tattooed on their skin. For the hell’s angels tattoo is a uniform. the skulls, knife, swastikas, guns, are symbols of aggresivity, desir of vengeance emblems of power and provocation. Some animals like the dragon, the panther express the force of the pushing back. The dargon is probably the most common image in the tattoo world. This creature is linked with superior forces it is for a lot of people the embodyment of the unconscious’s power. Tattoos are often covered with clothes and can be seen only by the close surrounding of the tattoo , which denies the exhibitionist theory. But the tattoo shows a gregarian tendence, it makes public the fanatics(svastikas, cross, red stars). Tattoo gather the memebers of a groupe and creates a solidarity. Tattoos are the imprimt of one identity.
Psychology says that tattoo has a double use. The firts is internal to ensure the durability of one self identity; the second is external is to capture the sight of the others. Tattoo tend to fight anonymity it gives a mark of distinction. Tattoo fixes an affect it works as cutaneous memory. It tells the story of a life: an iamge, a name, a date, etc…and enable to keep with one self a part of it’s life that oen couldn’t keep in an other way. So tattoo has also a strong affective and sentimental aspect. The place on the body of this design has a great importance and change according to the age of the tattooed. The french tattoo artist bruno tells us” from 18 to 22 years old sentimental tattoo is on the forearm, from 23 to 27 it is on the biceps whereas at 30 it is on the shoulder to end on the left side of th chest”.
Comtemporary tattoo refers to a personal history or a small groupe, it’s a desir to communicate an identity quest through one’s self or a groupe. But in our western societies tattoo is an individuam practice, a narcisstic lament on one’s life. On the contrary the inscriptions of so called “primitive” civilisation enable the equilibrium between identity and collective membership. III-Meeting with tattoo artists(april 1998) 1-Interview with a(tattooed) tattoo artist patrice 24 years old is a tattoo artist in lyon. He talked mainly about three points: role of the tattooer, the aesthetical and artistical dimension, and some aspects of the social role of tattoo.
Firts the profesional tattoo artist has a decisive role and influence on the tattoo. Before he makes a tattoo the tattoo artist ahs a meeting with his customer, they talk about the design it’s place on the body. The tattooer advises the customer, he makes everything for the tattoo to be harmonious with the body, the personality of the person and it’s culture. He tries to restore all in his own culture and to keep in the progression of the tattoo the coherence of a chosen culture to maintain the harmony and aesthetic value of the practice. Of course the tattoo artist cannot refuse to tattoo what the customer wants, he just explains him what means the design, where it comes from and why it would be ugly. The role of the tattooer asks some intuiton because he tries to find what is the best for the customer. If the tattoo is uglys or not harmonious with the rest people are disapointed. The crucial moment of the meeting, the interview, is at the moment of the drafting of the tattoo on the skin ; when the customer realises what the design will look like. Sometimes the tattooer refuses some customers. Most of the time for medical reasons because the customer got skin diseases. But the young age of some customers can be a reason to refuse, some tattooer hesitate to tattoo teenagers “they are not responsible enough”. The tattooer plays the role of a guide. When people come to get tatoo for the first time he teaches them not to wear any design, any design, to respect the harmonious shape of the body and designs. Most of the time we start the firts tattoo on the shoulder or the up of the arm to make the design progress on the arm or the back. All design are studied to fit with the others. On the contrary to tattoos made into a groupe made by the members themselves designs are spread on the skin; professional tattoo are made like a real work of art. So tattoo has moved to an artistical practice. The tattooer of the studio only work with painting technic. Nowadays tatoo doesn’t undergoes a revolution, the evolution is at the scale of the tattooer who tries to reach perfection in is art.
The evolution must be done in the spirit of people. Tattoo must be harmonious with the personality of the customer. “the designs must fit the beliefs, culture and creativity of the individual”. Those who want to get tatooed dolphins, dinousaures, wolves, because of the movies make of tattoo a fashion wich taint the artistical and creative side of this practice. The probleme in europe is that culture is going down. So people refers to culture of other societieswhich have kept their traditions. “Sometimes, we propose to people whom desir to get tattooed chines letters to have runes wich means the same thing but are european; but people refuses because they prefer the chinese calligraphy” But the problem is that europeans doesn’t identify themselves to their culture anymore.
Those times their’s a coming back of the celtic culture thanx to the youngsters. The “groupe of the tattooed” is apart from the other groups, different from those who are not tatooed. The tattooer i interviewed laughingly quote a moto of a t-shirt:” what tattooed people tells to not tattooed peole? nothing.” The tattooed people are a community, a sympathie between tattooed people when they meet.
But inside this group they are sub-groups organised volountarly(bikers, skinheads,gang memebers) where tattoo is an important mark, distinctive of the group.
For exemple a person who like dolphins, fishes, will feelclose to persons that adorne tattoos of the same style. It happens that people who belong to the same cultur got the same style of tattoo even if the design are differents. Some people irish or briton origin adorne celtic design, some from india prfers hinduists designs. Patrice tells me the story of a customer from mixed origins (black and white) who got a japanese dragons! The dragon has become a classical design which have a lot of meaning. Dragon can be a symbol of protection, it is the ward of superior forces which it embodies. it is also a symbole of power, strengh. 2- interview with a tattooed person. Interview with bruno, barman of the studio 38 years old. To him tattoo is a way to express culture. “it enable to show that ther are people that don’t forget ancient tradition and people”. Bruno’s tattoo has been inspired by celtic mythology; it goes from the soulder to his wrist . You can see numerous character of the mythology: the dragon, wizard, warrior, trolls, sorcerer, snake, torque…To him fixing these scene on his skin is a way keep tradition alive. In this way he appears as a ward of the celtic culture. When i asked him what makes peole having a tattoo he answered: the instinct! In fact Man has always painted his own skin or tattooed it and ues it’s body as mean of expression. In the begining tattoo was a tribal practice, it enabled peole to show they belonged to a tribe, a clan, their social status. This practice was worldwide. Then tattoo became an art thanx to the improvment of the technic design becam nicer and so the interst in tattoo moved to an aesthetical interest. In the start tattoo was a ritual. The acces to a new status must be earned, it implies that the individual give something from itself and suffer to obtain what he wants. Often because tattoo was a painfull practice it showed the courage and strengh of the one who had undergoen it. Thta why tattoo was reserved to chiefs, warriors, or marked the virility of young man that accessed to adulthood. Nowadays this practice has lost it’s social meaning. Even if tattoo can substituate in in groups presenting a primitive organization like gangs it is still a symbol of memebership. In a more wide way of understanding tattoo is a mean of expression. However tattoo stay an individual practice. It is no more imposed by society but it’s a choice of the individual itself who is the only owner of it’s own body and is the only one to use it fot this practice…