The most recent issue of "RE/Search" focuses on tattooing, body piercing and scarification for adornment, gratification, and ritual purposes. This is a thorough study, including 22 interviews, 2 essays, and hundreds of photographs.
Disturbing to many, eye opening to all, this book documents (and has encouraged) much of the recent explosion in tattooing and piercing. Interviews and essays cover the history of American body experimentation from carnival sideshows and military tattooing, to self-designed experimentation and culturally-proscribed rituals. Both wearers and creators of the art explain themselves. The associated worlds of sexual fetishism, sadomasochism and rites of passage are also covered.
The most extensive pieces are on Fakir Musafar, an ad agency executive, whose experiences with piercing, skin stretching, and other ways of expanding his body's stamina, started at age 12; D. Ed Hardy, founder of "Tattootime," the most beautiful and tasteful tattoo magazine and; Genesis and Paula P'Orridge, who candidly detail their personal iconography and the development of their tattoos and piercings. The transcendent/ spiritual aspects of intensely painful rituals are also discussed. Many of the people interviewed see these rituals as ways of personal transformation or ways to tap the unconscious, the supernatural, and the subconscious.
"Modern Primitives" touches on international tattoo and ritual traditions, from the Asia and the South Sea Islands, to Native America. One scholarly essay concerns a recently discovered, but suppressed, interpretation of Mayan glyphs which reveals that the kings and queens pierced their tongues to receive oracular messages.
There are beautiful images, disturbing images, and something that will give even the most jaded viewer the willies! (see page 27)
20 Romolo St., #B
San Francisco, CA 94133
Here is the TEXT POPUP for Modern Primitives:
The skull symbolizes the idea of making friends with death, confronting death, transcending death - death as a transformation rather than real death; death in the sense of: die to the ego and transform yourself.
What I don't like is the obvious. I'm in theater 24-hours a day when I'm in public, and of course you get asked obvious questions over and over again.
- Tattoo Mike (who has tattoos on 80% of his body)
Most other cultures revere androgynous characters and people who are different - fools, midgets, nuts - as "god-like." In this culture, these people could only find a place in a carnival.
- Fakir Musafar
People have more trouble with nipple piercing than anything else. You could probably put a piercing through your brain and have less trouble.
- Monte Cazazza