Monday, February 16, 2015

Tattoo: the 10th art?

Panam, the old Paris. Quaie Branly Museum, Tintin, the famous Hell's Angel of the tattoo world, organized a retrospective of the tattoo arts. I put Grouch on my headphones and walk the quais. The sky is as blue as blue gets, the river Seine shines, it's morning time, the museum opens it's doors. The quain Branly Museum is home to the traditional arts, the old forgotten stuff that makes us dream of the once upon a time. In a square modern building, the sculpted bones, shamanic masks and ancient fabrics take us through a journey back in the river of time.

Upstairs, the show goes on for more than a year. Tattoo comes in the mainstream, whether you like it or not. This, for the happiness and recognition of some, and for the disgust of the nostalgics and other romantics. What tattoo artists thought of as being a form of rebellion against society, now becomes an act of fashion. But as French artist Jean Cocteau once wrote: "the good thing about fashion, is that it dies fast". After the fashion passes, the real remains, for those that have eyes, of course. This was then, this is now, welcome to now...

Human body parts exposed as arms, legs and bodies in silicone, the artist uses the skin for canvas, the human body becomes art. Decorate, decorate what will one day perish with the flesh, the artist inks along. If the art world didn't find it's 10th art, I propose tattoo. The 10th art would make a nice cycle, coming back to it's source, the human body.
Let's recap the academic classification of the arts.
1: architecture, 2: sculpture, 3: visual arts, 4: music, 5: literature, 6: scenic arts, 7: movies, 8: photography, 9: cartoons, 10: ??

The tattoo history is as old as human kind. From tribe to tribe, we tattooed, inked on flesh, tattoos kept the history of the tribe. Marriage, rites of passage, birth, death, all becomes symbols of passing time. Some tribes believed it to be naked if one didn't wear tattoos, how indecent, how savage to be naked amongst others. Others marked their women, others used the marks as medecine, but the tattoo arts have been with humans ever since they could draw on the skin. Tattoo is also a traveller stories, before photos, before paintings, we carried tattoos. If nowadays, tattoos is so many things that it has become nothing at all, the artists keep on reinventing the body. What was ones a badly drawn sketch has now become unique pieces of art.

The exhibition is well done, naviguating between the tribal arts from around the world, the circus freak shows of the turn of the century, the prisons and outlaws, up to the modern artist that come out of art schools with a photoshop for eyes and tools. The tattoo world, as any art forms, keeps on evolving and passes through it's rejection and acceptance process.
A good visit, in one of the best Paris museums. Go down the river of time, of what was once upon a time as a way to better understand the now and envision what tomorrow might be. A great trip down memory lane;)
Tattoo show up to the 15th of october 2015.

Article in french here, with more photos.

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