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(EN) In between: man + ink

Everyone has their own reason to do a tattoo. Whether it’s a fashion statement or a sentimental reason - all reasons are good because of the concept of reasoning itself. Having a tattoo can be an expression of who you are. Or what you believe in. Or something you cherish. Or just something you think is fun.

Text: Indrė Kundrotaitė

Whatever the reason, there is something magical about it. A needle and ink – two simple tools that empower our bodies to connect with other people, to travel through time, to encapsulate our experience, to remind us of our desires, and to express feelings.

Matt (London, United Kingdom) – millennial, American football coach, personal fitness trainer, an extremely strong body, spirit and soul – got his first tattoo when he was 17. The eight digits on his left back shoulder stand for his mother’s birth date. For Matt, the tattoo represents his strong relationship with his mother and how important she is to him.

‘A tattoo is a way to explain the feeling that you want to remind to yourself by using art, but the art that is permanent. Not so many things are permanent in this life’ – Matt

But a tattoo is more than just an indelible ink display of unconditional love for a person you care about. Inked symbols, graphic shapes, historical iconography and occult can be extremely mesmerising. It can even empower two absolute strangers to connect to each other.

Artist Scott Cambell (New York, United States) introduced a tattoo mentorship program for young underprivileged New Yorkers who lack confidence and personal support. The collaboration between the kids and the volunteers, who have tattooed the kids’ names on their bodies, has actually created an everlasting ‘karmic mentorship’.

Inked ‘karmic mentorship’ is not a recent phenomenon. Humans started to use ink on themselves ages ago in order to interconnect and communicate with the world. During the bronze age, it was common among tribes to use ink to create a sense of belonging or membership.

Victor (Ponferrada, Spain) – another strong soul and spirit, a global citizen now residing in Cork, Ireland – got a tattoo of a sacred sound and spiritual icon ‘Om’ or ‘Aum’ (in Sanskrit ) when he was 18. In Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism the sound of Om is repeated three times like a mantra to call the God’s name to prayer. For Victor, who lives thousands of kilometers away from his family, Om is a call to his family members.

‘<…> my father and sister did the full mantra and I wanted to have something just to be in conjunction’ – Victor

A tattoo is a tie exposing belonging to the same tribe, the same family, witnessing the same values and the same style of living. It has no visible ties but it holds all the members together. Although they might physically be apart from each other, a tattoo can make them feel closer to each other.

By the time Matt was 17, he had six more tattoos done. The most recent one is a composition of separate symbols – statues and structures – covering his shoulder and almost the entire right hand. The statue of Achilles, the statue of Liberty, the Coliseum and an angel lifting a man into the clouds are all original pieces that reflect strength, liberation from the past, perpetuity, a mankind’s weak spot, or Achilles Heel.

‘Tattoo is the form of art, but the art that is permanent. I like that it is permanent, I like that there is a commitment element to it’ – Matt

An eternal form of art, which requires a commitment to one’s body. A strong belief in the statement inked on the skin that makes statements so special. A constant reminder to yourself of your own core beliefs and values so you can live up to these.

I have to agree with ‘Fetishism In Fashion’ author Lidewij Edelkoort that nowadays ‘We don’t need a tattoo to show the hostile native tribe next door who we are. We don’t need a painful initiation ritual to step into the adult world. We don’t need it in our afterlife or to ward off bad spirits. The only thing we need a tattoo for is to communicate: to tell the world what we think, to give a clear message of love or hate, lust or fear.’

It means that the tattoo is an ongoing interaction between a man’s body and ink instigated by certain reasons. The reasons communicated as an inked message to yourself, to the ones you love, to the ones you don’t even know but you want to encourage, to the ones that are very far away or very close.

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