Vanishing Tattoo takes us on a worldwide journey that
begins in Thomas Lockhart's Westcoast Tattoo studio. It's here that we begin to understand why
more than forty five million
North Americans -- and countless millions more worldwide-- have submitted to this type of self mutilation. We'll
see that the proudly tattooed consider body ink not only beautiful but
strangely (and often suddenly) necessary. They may not know that
early American Indians believed war paint protected them in battle. Or
that 19th century merchant sailors wore tattoos as a talisman against
the ever-present possibility of drowning at sea. Or that many
Burmese believe, even today, that a tattoo over the heart can stop bullets.
But when an otherwise rational individual sets down hard-earned cash on
the counter and tells Lockhart to fire up the tattoo machine,
primal is calling the shots.
For everyone it's personal
Lockhart doesn't wave his psychology degree around and won't answer
for everyone. But he's inked over thirty thousand clients and has listened
to their stories. "For everyone it's personal," he
says. "Though the tattoo may be only skin
deep, its significance can run as deep as the soul."
The high school student who asks for a butterfly on
her left breast -- is this a good luck charm? The political science
graduate who submits to the needle for a Celtic cross at the base of his
spine -- is protection what he's looking for?
Tattoo as amulet,
tattoo as talisman, tattoo as protection
-- if it's not our thesis, it's at least our starting point --
Tattoo Graffiti for the Soul
two months Lockhart will lead us on an odyssey that supports the
notion that tattoos are graffiti for the soul. For Lockhart,
there will be opportunities to pick up new techniques and to study
traditional designs in Japan, Samoa, even Russia. He'll pursue his
interest in gender differences in tattoo philosophy, probing as deeply
as possible the reasons why we tattoo. But his journey
is more than that. It's an anthropological expedition with its
sights set on the oldest examples and the most authentic and original
practitioners of tattoo art.
For Tom Lockhart this is a very
personal and potentially dangerous journey. He'll head for the dark
heart of deepest Borneo, up the Rejang River, and even into the Valley of
the Headhunters, if that's what it takes -- to acquire one last
precious and authentic tattoo.
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