1989. Re/Search: Modern Primitives

I was invited to be a part of this issue & I was excited about it because at that time, in the late 1980s, very few people had tattoos & they were mostly signs of subcultural membership such as "Semper Fi" on Marine arms. I sent them the following photo:

photo: John Berndt

This was of me getting my 3D brain tattoo. I liked this photo, even though it was at the very beginning of the process. A color photo of the finished tattoo would've beeen better but I might've been specifically asked for a black & white picture so this is what they got. Black & white of the finished tattoo would've been inadequate because the red & green (& other colors) of it were what made it "3D". I was even congratulated on being in the book when I was in San Francisco in early 1989.

Then, I saw the book shortly after it came out in NYC & leafed through it & was very disappointed that my picture wasn't in it. I never received an explanation. Since the tattoo was in progress & the lines were drawn on for the tattooist to follow it's possible that they thought they were being pranked. OR they might've felt that the tattoo was in a different category than "Modern Primitive", which it is. My friend Trevor Blake nailed it when he wrote in his article entitled "Co-Remoting with the Thunderous":

"Re/Search magazine requested a photograph of tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's tattoos for their 'Modern Primitive' issue, but the photographs were not used. tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE does not fit the profile for a modern primitive. tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE has not modified tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's body to attach it more firmly to a tribal past ­ tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE has propelled it forward to a sixth-finger future."

In fact, after reading through the publication, which I've never finished, I realized just how much I didn't fit. These Modern Primitives form a subculture & I'm, more-or-less, a subculture of one. That doesn't mean that I'm more 'extreme' than these folks, I'm not. It means that I've done what I've done for different reasons.

It wasn't long before "Modern Primitives" became a huge trend-setter. Re/Search in general had probably always been a trend-setter but I didn't really become aware of it until this issue. Tattoos went from being something that very few people had outside of specific subcultures to being something that became 'socially acceptable' for just about everyone.

Hoards of pseudo-rebellious people started getting sleeve tattoos & 'tribal' markings like Celtic knots. There were still people getting more interesting tattoos for more personal reasons but for the most part tattoos became adopted by conformist non-conformist subcultures. I continued to get tattoos but I lost interest somewhat.

Even though my picture didn't make it into the issue, I was quoted in the back. The editor went to the trouble to get the quote right so I appreciated that. It had become garbled in newspaper requoting.








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