Thursday, January 11, 2007

TATTOO SPIRITUALISM IS SKIN DEEP.

There are certain things in this town in Oregon that really blow me away occassionally. For a while i've been amazed by the really stupid spiritual hippie dippie names the tattoo spots have. Here are their actual names. (for the record, i've met a bunch of the dudes who tattoo at these spots & they generally aren't bad at all, it's just the business names that drive up the fucking wall.)

High Priestess: They're primarily a piercing joint, which i'll get into later. This isn't so bad as a double entendre as this is a big glass-blowing patchouli location, but when i want to get tattooed or pierced by a priestess, high or not, i'll let you know. Here's language from their website.
"Those of us within the HPP family consider body modifications to not only represent a mind state or way of life, but a legitimate art form as well. It is perhaps humankind’s oldest form of self expressionism. It has been a right of passage for countless cultures and indigenous tribes as long as time can tell. We are a dedicated tribe of modern day primitives here to bring this ancient art form into our present world."
Spiritual Tree: Yes, Spiritual Tree. This is probably the stupidest name for a tattoo parlour or anything i've ever heard. "Oh man, it's like... it's like a SPIRITUAL TREE! Heavy!"
Sacred Space: Before the collapse of culture, women used to only get tattoos on their Sacred Space & maybe their ankle.
Evolved Ink: This ties with Spiritual Tree for most obnoxious name. I'm not sure if they are saying that they put nanomachines into the tattoo ink so that your tattoos hide when your mom sees you naked or what, but it isn't alright to call a tattoo shop "Evolved Ink". It's just not right.

IT'S A CON
What really set me off on this mission to clarify the place of tattoos in society was a High Priestess advert that said "decorate your soul". Jesus H. f*cking Christ! Tattoos are for the dregs of society, people living on the edge of a knife, not for wanna-be aesthetic buddhas. "Piercing your soul." "The crayon marks on your consciousness." "Metal pimples all over your body." It's not spiritual, it's body graffiti; skulls, knives, flowers, dice, snakes & chicks. That doesn't mean they aren't cool, it just means it aint right to sell this service with spiritual bullshit. It's like if Motorhead became Buddhists. Kill me! If your idea of spirituality is getting tattoos, you're wrong. You're just plain wrong. These tattoo parlours are selling you a service, not initiating you into a tribe. The tattoo slingers aren't priests, they aren't even initiates for the most part, they do tattoos & they have been pushing to sell more & more of their service. So, a tattoo gun isn't called a gun anymore, it's a machine or tool now. Guns are bad. Tattoos are good. Moms can get tattoos, even moms who aren't hookers. Buy spirituality! Whee! Tattoos are you celebrating your individuality by joining the tribe of modern primitivism. The only thing primitive here is the stupidity involved. If getting a tattoo is part of your initiation into a tribe, make sure you aren't paying for it. Get the tribal tattooist to do it for you, not Johnny Joe Joe at "Trance End Ant Tattoo" for $300. Also, why do so many tattoo slingers look like the Verizon network guy? It's wrong!

MODERN PRIMITIVES = JUST AS GULLIBLE AS THE ORIGINAL SAVAGES
During the 90s, this idea of modern primitivism got going really strong, largely promoted by a RE/SEARCH book. I'm not sure what it means to these people, but to me it means ravers who get millions of piercings & tattoos, pretend to be Maori or Eskimos or whatever, do tons of drugs, eat health food & recycle. As with all Hippies, they figured out a way to sell their stupid half-baked ideas to the general public which makes stupid ideas even stupider & then the pool of stupidity spreads from there. Pretty soon, the whole dream-catcher & wolf t-shirt crowd is on it as well & from there the furries take it. It's just wrong. I will never deny that the desire for some kind of tribal spirituality or initiatory ceremony is very strong, but within a modern capitalist framework, it's just a load of bollocks. These sorts of things should be passed down & maintained by traditional & highly repressive cultural structures which the whole Modern Primitive types would NEVER conform to. You wouldn't be able to just sell these services to whoever wanted them either, they are exclusive by nature, the exclusivity gives value to the experience because not just any schmuck with $100 can suddenly "join the tribe". Here's the bottom line, you can't buy spirituality or tribal identity, it takes personal sacrifice & devotion to something outside of yourself. The tribal identity thing requires for a tribe to accept your ass first as well, you most likely shouldn't even be allowed into one if you aren't born & raised in the fucker.

SUGGESTED NAMES
There are some tattoo shops with alright names here though. Black Lotus manages to use a lotus in their name, but adds the word black, making it work for me. They also have spider webs in their window. Parlour says it straight-forwardly, it's a tattoo parlour, simple, straight-forward, honest! But where's the "the", in Parlour? & not to just be a sour grape, here are some constructively critical names to use instead of stupid spiritual ones. SKULL & BONES TATTOOS. CHEAP LIFE TATTOOS. IN THE ARMY NOW TATTOOS. ALMOST A HOOKER TATTOOS. EDGE OF THE KNIFE TATTOOS. SKIN DEEP TATTOOS. NICE N' SLEAZY TATTOOS. GRAVEN IMAGE TATTOOS. YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE TATTOOS. LOVE & HATE TATTOOS. TATTOOS BY THE WIZARD. etc etc.

REAL TATTOO CULTURE IS...

16 comments:

Noah Berlatsky said...

This is really entertaining. Sneering at new age spirituality always raises my spirits (so to speak.) I don't know that I agree that substituting a mythos of danger for a mythos of spirituality really gets you anywhere, though.....

Goblinko said...

It's true that substituting these things doesn't get you anywhere, because it is the REALITY of the things that is what counts. If danger & the cheapness of life is part of your life, then you can have tattoos of dangerous & sleazy things.

Noah Berlatsky said...

But your tatoos don't need to be of dangerous or sleazy things, do they? And even if they are, there's no law saying you have to be dangerous or sleazy yourself to have them. As you point out in the essay, it's purchaseable, like the rest of our cultural output. You don't have to be a thug to listen to gangsta rap; you don't have to be dangerous to get a tattoo. I have a feeling that we're talking at cross purposes, though....

Goblinko said...

Actually, the law has just been written, & i wrote it. It's about cultural honesty & the destruction of passe, voyeuristic culture.

Noah Berlatsky said...

Have you read Tom Frank's "Commodify Your Dissent," or his magazine, The Baffler? He basically argues that if you want to rebel, you should do so through political means, not through purchaseable culture. That's basically where I'm coming from, I guess.... Though I like lots of art, of course.

Goblinko said...

I haven't read Frank's book, but i've heard interviews with him & features on the idea on the radio a bunch of times. He wrote "What's the Matter With Kansas?" right? He seems to be coming from a similar line as me, working-class populism with a little individualism thrown in. Anyhow, for me, my critique of present day tattoo culture isn't as a form of rebellion, tattoos aren't rebellious unless you're in the wrong social class & getting them, which i suppose is the case for most of the people getting tattoos these days. It's more that i think there is an ideal form of tattoo culture, & while it is indeed tied to a time & place (Pacific Theatre during WWII & connected areas), that is the place to draw from. But yes, it is painfully obvious that purchasing rebellion or purchasing anything is just buying stuff to have. Trinketism. I had a large conflict with an arts group i was working with in Oakland over this very issue. While i am interested in overthrowing the status quo, the program i was working on seemed more about selling t-shirts. Oh well!

Luke P. said...

Very good post. It's funny, but all the tattoo shops around here sell this watered-down, backward baseball cap and a muscle car type rebellion. It's the Mountain Dew revolution!
every shop here is like REBEL INK or something. It's an improvement on the false spiritualism you talk about, but it's still cave man stuff. There is no pretense of any deep meaning, but there is no meaning at all, beyond looking cool.
I've never been into tattoos myself. I like them, but it just isn't me. It doesn't have any meaning to me at all.
I'm not sure about any form of tribalism not being retrograde, or atavistic ( in a bad way). I think a culture that is informed by racial conciousness would be an improvement, but "tribe" kind of freaks me out. The idea of being bound to a small group that has its own 'law' could be disasterous.

Modified Mind said...

"Tattoos are for the dregs of society, people living on the edge of a knife, not for wanna-be aesthetic buddhas."

Please spare me from your unenlightened bullshit. Your pseudo 'world weary' attitude is so phony.

The problem with the world is that it is populated with people like you who not only have a very limited consciousness but pretend to know it all.

You might be right about some of the new age crap that pretends to be a modern equivalent of ancients spiritual beliefs but why not just say this and move on instead of making completely uneducated comments about people with tattoos or those who run tattoo businesses.

Why are so many closed minds equipped with loud open mouths?

aeron said...

I can't get any tattoos because I'd get sick of it and want something different within a week.

Goblinko said...

Yeah Luke, the other side of stupid tattoos is the Taz tattoo. I forgot about that, because i'm in more of a Buddhist boomerang & bong town, instead of a Taz, tits & nu metal rap town. & i mean, i've got the most generic tattoo known to man, a Popeye anchor on my forearm. I wanted it my entire life & i got it & it rules. I've also got my gang tattoo 2/10 & a star on my ring finger & some occult symbols on my right arm for protection & luck. I've personally done half of my tattoos though.

Luke P. said...

I wass thinking about getting a really old drawing of an owl tattooed on my forearm, but I'm just so worried about getting it done well that it might never happen. All these guys around here either do a faux-graffiti inspired thing or they ape traditional tattoos ( which can be cool). I want greg Irons to doo mine..

Luke P. said...

Sounds like "modified" got her tit-clamp twisted. "Unenlightened"? Please.. Go light some sage for the goddess..

Goblinko said...

Whoah! How did i miss that comment from Modified Mind! Let's get this straight, just because you disagree with me doesn't mean i'm "unenlightened". I know the tattoo world & tattoo people & i know what it's about. Just because i said something you're into is bullshit doesn't give you clearance for me being the problem with the world! Thanks but no thanks for your opinions. You're most likely another hyper-liberal, totally relativistic trendoid who if left to their own devices, would let everything fall to pieces. Tattoos are for the dregs of society, that's what it is about in the West. Maybe you're a Maori warrior & it's part of your tribal history, but i'm speaking as a man of the west & that's it.

Goblinko said...

If i may add, having thought a bit more about this, that i consider myself to be a rehabilitated dreg of society, & my tattoos do reflect on my place in society. It's one of the reasons i got them in the first place. My attitude towards tattoos is conservative, not because i think they are wrong, but because i have a complex understanding of our society. I understand that the upper classes love to dip their pocket-books into dangerous places & liberate the symbolism from the reality of the situation. It's like gangster rap music & white kids in the suburbs listening to it as a voyeuristic trip into the lands of danger. It's ultimately cowardly bull-shit & a disgustingly priveleged attitutude towards the world. So that said, fuck off! Thanks again.

Luke P. said...

Right on Goblin

Anonymous said...

Yes, you obviously have such a keen grasp on what REAL TATTOO CULTURE is..... Old School Tattoo Culture. And you forgot to bash Tattoo by Design's name while you were at it.

And how about this great non-spiritual name: I AM A DUMBASS TATTOOS.