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Forever 18

Religious, aesthetic and psychological nature of Tattoo

Our body can be a wonderful canvas, even if subject to a deterioration that no makeover can bring back to a new life — despite desperate and sometimes grotesque attempts. This might be the only matter of an afterthought, except for a kind of boredom or frustrating habit. Anyway, no one seems to really fall victim to a feeling like that, or at least intends to show it in public, as if it could turn out to be a sort of religious betrayal of the cause. No one will probably ever tell you that this could be a reason why they’d like to be forever 18.

According to the Harris Institute of Research it was revealed that those who are choosing to decorate their skin seem to be on the whole happy with the result with 86 per cent of those questioned have “never regretted” their tattoos. The research further revealed that for the first time in recorded history, women are slightly more likely to have them than men — and twice as likely to later have them removed.

But we’re not here just to talk about tattoos that “grow old”, because sometimes the reason for a repentance can also be found in the experience of a person, or in having refined their taste — and perhaps in having realized the hasty and careless way in which a step all in all so important was done.

One of the most known change of heart is certainly that of Kimberley Vlaminck from Kortrijk, Belgium, who made headlines around the world in 2009 after she emerged from a tattoo parlor with an entire constellation inked on the left side of her face. She had initially lied to her parents and the media, claiming that she asked tattooist Rouslan Toumaniantz for only three stars near her eyes, but he kept adding more and more after she fell asleep during the tattoo session. Kimberley later confessed that she specifically requested Rouslan to etch all 56 stars onto her face. Apparently, she came up with the story once her father became aware of her tattoos. She needed three long years and nine painful laser treatments to finally look like herself again.

Besides families or people’s moral judgments, love seems to be the first cause of brazen and reckless tattoos, for better or worse. Many people choose this way to show one’s love, sometimes unfortunately through a first-time friend, or to get over a shock, as Amanda Brignall who covered herself in tattoos after she divorced from her husband. Sometimes body ink may be useful “to fight the mental takeover of an ever-present ad industry,” as in the case of the art collective Adbusters and their Brand Baby, sometimes to compensate a rare birth defect as the Poland Syndrome — which causes undeveloped or absent muscles on one side of the body — as in the case of Matt Gone, and sometimes the reasons can have pretty infernal implications, as in the case of Maria Jose Cristerna or Fernando Franco de Oliveira.

Preserved tattoos on ancient mummified human remains — as Ötzi, dated to 3250 BCE, or the two mummies from Egypt, between 3351 and 3017 BCE — reveal that tattooing has been practiced throughout the world for many centuries. It is commonly held that the modern popularity of tattooing stems from Captain James Cook‘s three voyages to the South Pacific in the late 18th century. As most tattoos in the U.S. were done by Polynesian and Japanese amateurs, tattoo artists were in great demand in port cities all over the world, especially by European and American sailors. The first recorded professional tattoo artist in the United States was a German immigrant, Martin Hildebrandt. He opened a shop in New York City in 1846 and quickly became popular during the American Civil War among soldiers and sailors of both Union and Confederate militaries.

The reasons may be of religious, aesthetic or psychological nature, but, as suggested by our friend Loïc Xoïl Lavenu on the occasion of our Skin Painter special, we’re dealing with a very old heritage: “We really don’t know about it. It’s like sex, we know that is a chemical reaction, but living it, day by day, is different.” We’re in the dark to the point of challenging the will and taste of God, because when you cover your body with a stylistically questionable written like “Only God Will Juge Me,” despite you’re only 18, you can only hope that the Almighty won’t consider tattoos or grammar too seriously, when the judgement day will come.

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  1. Forever 18 — Dioniso Punk – Evaporata

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