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FANTASY FIGURES Becoming tattooed, rather than having tattoos, is an inappreciable process. Like a lazy vine creeping over the family home, it grows little by little…

Pam Van-Damned

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teadily, gradually, languorously - we only really notice its spread when we can no longer see out of the windows. As the inks sweep across our skins, transforming us, leaving behind who we were, in order to instead prove who we are, our attitudes and outlooks change. To be tattooed is to bring about a new mien - it’s not just our outsides that are altered forever. As I start to (finally) discover that the surface area of my body is finite, finding myself with less and less space to author, my sense of completion, of comfort and acceptance with myself and my physicality continues to grow. I no

I SAT FOR MY FIRST TATTOO ALMOST 17 YEARS AGO, BUT THE FEELING OR STATE OF BEING TATTOOED IS A FAR MORE RECENT REALISATION longer feel as though I am truly naked. I am never exposed, my flesh is still present, but it is no longer recognisable - it’s now at the edge of visibility, concealed under patterns, pictures and colours. These choices reveal far more about me, of course, than plain skin ever could. My last few gaps are awkward, fleshy, intimate, and (dare I say it?) private. My forearms and calves have long been covered, what is left to inscribe is under my dress, not outside of it. I recently had the left side of my ribs tattooed, waist to armpit (my armpits already sport a rose, and a horse, respectively) and

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FANTASY FIGURES AN EYE IS UPON YOU

my newest piece has united my existing torso tattoos sufficiently to allude to clothing itself. Sited here on the body, my tattoos are almost a protective shell, armour for the ego, a shield for my heart. To be tattooed in such areas is not without practical concerns, shirts stick, bras rub, gym-sweat pools and stings - I recently leapt off my spinning bike at the end of class, turned to the mirrored wall and yanked up my top to examine my uncomfortably salty, fresh ink - only after several minutes of careful, reflected examination did I realise that I had pulled my top up so far as to be standing, left breast exposed, in front of 30 people. My relaxed attitude to my body, to nudity and to privacy - the triple pathway to my accidentalgym-flashing incident - has been constructed by the confidence that is a side effect of my body’s transformation - I sat for my first tattoo almost 17 years ago, but the feeling or state of being tattooed is a far more recent realisation, and my contentment with my appearance is at odds with what much of popular culture is demanding of us all. Intellectually, we all understand that beauty and desirability are concepts and as such, are not fixed to a set of standards but are instead able to change and adapt, ebb and flow. Yet culture, media and society do not reflect this understanding and those that are presented to us as attractive, worthwhile or sexy are increasingly homogenous. This reduction in the breadth (and emotional depth) of our aesthetic, cerebral and visceral experience is further compounded

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by the enormous growth of internet pornography. Now, images of naked people are nothing new, much like tattoos, dirty pictures have been around as long as humans have and our technology, from scratching into cave walls with primitive tools, to early bellows cameras, to smartphones and the internet, has always been employed in the making of risqué material, but it’s somehow different now. The proliferation of images tells us not just what we should desire, but how we should behave, and how we must look. A friend of mine, a college worker, describes the young women students on his campus as, ‘pornificated’, big hair, bigger heels, fake tan and tiny skirts. Is this really a fantasy worth living? Being tattooed offers an alternative, a way to exist, and to understand ourselves and to be read outside of the limits imposed upon us by advertising, and our increasingly hyper-sexualised culture. Advertising works by exploiting our weaknesses and immediately offering a solution - one that we can oh-so-conveniently purchase, right here, right now. It creates a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Pornography works by separating us from our bodies and our shared physical experience, and by immediately offering an alternative that allows us to deny, or even relish that separation. To be tattooed is to always be with one’s physicality, to know it, to experience it at its limit, and to respect it. Maybe I should be embarrassed about my accidental gym exposure - but how can I be ashamed of my body? It’s a work of art, not a work of fiction.

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Tattoo july 2014  

Skin Shots International is a sister title to Skin Deep, which is meant as a reference magazine featuring top quality tattoo work from aroun...

Tattoo july 2014  

Skin Shots International is a sister title to Skin Deep, which is meant as a reference magazine featuring top quality tattoo work from aroun...