Video of the London Tattoo Convention. Great glimpse at a fantastic convention.

Check out this fantastic, short video produced by Alice Snape of the London Tattoo Convention for Zeitgeist Magazine. Click on link posted to watch the video.
It’s one in a series, so check back frequently for updates on their site.
Great work, Alice!


It seems very pretty, but it’s rather hard to understand.

Beware the Jabberwoch, my son

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!’

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

‘It seems very pretty,’ she said when she had finished it, ‘but its rather hard to understand!’ (You see she didn’t like to confess, ever to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.) ‘Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas — only I don’t exactly know what they are!
‘Looking-Glass House’, Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

I’ve read this poem easily a million times, it’s a personal favourite (Carroll’s work is a favourite of mine, period) but this time something resonated in my head about it. Maybe it’s the research and reading I’ve been doing lately for a project with Matt Lodder or maybe it was something in my tea. I had this moment of realization that Alice’s reaction to the Jabberwocky verses, a nonsense poem that seems to almost make sense while reading it, is remarkably similar to reactions non-tattooed people have to inked individuals. Sometimes you hear it, and sometimes you just see it … that look (whether they be puzzled, in awe, or offended, etc). It’s not entirely their fault, but the choice not to be inked has consequences. Even that contextual moment described of Alice trying to figure out the poem and realizing that it should make sense but it doesn’t, that her mind is full of ideas that are confused. I’ve seen this before; you catch someone looking at your ink, trying to figure out what is peeking out from under your shirt, what the image is, what it means, what it says about you, why you got it, etc. and ending up with lots of ideas and no clear answers.

Alice is an outsider to Wonderland, and complete understanding of the people who reside there and their customs never is fully in her grasp. In fact, she could take that phrase and apply it to Wonderland – pretty place, but rather hard to understand. She tries so hard to figure it out, but not being a native of Wonderland limits her. Like Alice, those who are not tattooed, observers or witnesses to ink, never fully understand the tattooed person even though, by all proper sense, they should be able to. Like Alice, they struggle to fully grasp the reasons why a person gets tattooed or why someone chose specific things to ink on their body. They can never understand fully the effect that tattooing has, or the process of getting it has, or what it fully means to the bearer since conveying full personal meaning is rather difficult and, to boot, the tattoo will never exhaust meaning – it’s meaning will renew, refresh, and reshape. Non-inked individuals can empathize, and while that is a valiant effort and honourable in every way (and often much appreciated), there is still a gap in understanding. Even when a tattooed person explains their choices of body art, it’s often something only they can understand – so, in a way It’s sensible nonsense to the listener. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances or prior personal history, tattooed people can struggle to fully understand the reasons of their inked brothers and sisters. All that ink is very pretty, but it’s rather hard to understand.

This project with Lodder has me thinking a lot, not only introspectively but generally. Today, I was thinking about reasons why people get tattooed; I could name at least 20 reasons or so, some of course were my own, and I felt that was barely scratching the surface. The reasons could be so varied, and so fucking complex at times, that trying to encapsulate them neatly seems impossible. It seems like nonsense to do it too. Actually, it would be nonsense to try to apply a schema to something in constant flux, to something so varied that it naturally escapes theory and boundary. It seems nonsense to capture something that will evolve and change over time. A tattoo is a powerful thing, sometimes I think more than we often realize. To try to capture neatly why people get tattooed is applying sense to nonsense (or, rather, something that escapes conventional sense), and we saw how well that worked for Alice. Can anything about tattooing be encapsulated or fully described. No, not really. As much as we can talk about content (i.e., images to be inked), something new will come along – a new style, a new figure, a new writing, a new idea, etc. Tattooing itself always evolves; it is in a state of constant flux. The ‘how’ might be easier, one could probably name all the techniques for tattooing present today, but not future. That could all very well change. Tattooing is a fluid art that will never be static, and that’s part of its charm and it’s nonsense. However, all this being said, we can never stop trying to figure out everything to do with the art of tattooing since it is an important part of our culture, it’s beautiful and it’s a meaningful art in itself. Meaningful nonsense. Beautiful and artful nonsense.

I bring this up because, being a philosopher, my life really is about making nonsense make sense … or rather making sense of things that others (students, family, friends) see as complete nonsense. And sometimes I do agree, some shit is complete dribbling nonsense … I won’t name names but someone who’s name rhymes with Smeidegger I could mention. But, no matter how difficult the topic or large the gap of understanding is, we have to try to build the bridge to understanding. Even knowing the odds of true understanding are small (in some cases the will to understand is small, making things rather difficult), we have to try. Tattoos demarcate one person from another, but they should never be elitist or closed-off.

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” I do see Alice, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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