Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Amanda Fucking Palmer Down Under- the tattoo....

yes. i did it. and as it was the topic of such heated debate...i thought i'd share some stuff.

somewhat frequently... over the course of tour, amanda and i would discuss the human desire for familiarity. and the need for symbols of that familiarity. the need for a relate-able visual stimuli. even if it's just the sign for one's favorite cafe on some corner in some city of the world. symbols are comforting.

and it's not that we are godless generation. though the popularity of mainstream religion amongst the young might be in slight decline- we still cling to the symbols, the rites, the familiarity of a new spirituality. the marriage might be an act of socio-religio-political commitment. but it's the wedding party (and maybe the rings) that seals the deal. for the community. the actual rite. the symbol of that union.

my tattoos....per john irving...i'm a collector. each of the tattoos i've acquired over the years- they represent a time and a place and an event or passion that registered deeply at the time. the road map of my adventures. the celebration of the life i'm living.

yes. jack terricloth said it best, "you'd do better living more...and commemorating less...those tattoos are gonna fade." and he's absolutely right. but even better, he said "because i can. 'cause no one can stop me. 'cause it makes up for things i lost. 'cause i'm addicted to bad ideas. and all the beauty in this world."

a glass raised to you jack....but...

upon my first trip to australia and new zealand, on tour in 2008, i knew i'd stumbled on something special. a place i'd return to often.

and having been raised on boats and possessing a healthy nautical fetish...the southern cross became the perfect symbol. an astral asymmetric storytelling device for australia's aboriginal peoples, and then later appropriated for oceanic navigation by traders and explorers and wayward pirates.

appropriation...

here's where it get's trickier. especially in regards to how we adopt and adapt our symbols for personal use.

in the wrong hands...symbols become dangerous. prior to hitler and the third reich...the swastika was and still is a powerful representation of luck and auspiciousness to all manner of indus valley peoples and religions. central to hinduism and buddhism and jainism. you see it all over india everywhere. and it's beautiful...

i'm fuzzy on this one...but at one point...the "peace sign" made by the two uplifted fingers of the right hand was originally a gesture used by american troops in wwii (or wwi?) to mean "victory". the counterculture of the american fifties and sixties re-appropriated it to mean "peace". not so bad this time. but what about when the circular peace sign of the sixties was then re-interpreted as a fashion staple of the 1980's? and it was everywhere. suddenly void of it's intended meaning. re-imagined as a symbol for wealth and excess for a culture redefining itself with outward decadence.

and on a similar note. one could easily make the argument that malcolm mclaren et al. over-stepped the line when adopting the mohawk as the iconic punk haircut de rigueur. i think in college i told my mother that i was re-appropriating the mohawk to take a stand. to re-affirm my stance and brotherhood with the mohican nations of old...in a "lest we forget" kinda manner. i thought coming from rural maine with a strong native american population...this sounded good. but she felt otherwise. and rightfully so...that said...i still sport the mohawk now and then...we have to make the the definitions on our own...

...but those definitions and decisions must be well-informed as well.

so the southern cross...i wanted to get it tattooed on that very first journey to oz/nz in 2008....

turns out the symbol itself is more controversial than i ever imagined. for the last two months i approached aussies everywhere, of all different walks and creeds and skin tones, with my questions. and the answers were varied. some were pro. some were con. others indifferent. but most opinionated.

yes, the southern cross appears distinctly on australia's flag. there's also a strong political movement to redesign australia's flag. the aborigines themselves have their own flag, sans cross.

but in recent years the flag itself and the southern cross in particular have taken on nationalist and racist connotations. similar to kids in alabama getting dixie tattooed on their shoulders...please read this article about the cronulla riots of 2005.

surfers and bogans told me the idea was great. the concerned literatti at shows and on twitter begged me not to, and pointed me towards this little ditty by waiting for guinness:



but in the end...my heart was set and the decision was made. m at iv in sydney was concerned, but agreed to do it. and it's beautiful. and it's everything i wanted. and honestly... 70% of aussies interviewed in the last 7 days don't even recognize it.

i'm not a racist or nationalist. just a short kid in love with your hemisphere. taking pride elsewhere...:

the axes are straight...and bonds makes me an official citizen, right? photo by jim batt, 03.07.11

11 comments:

KaH said...

well the bonds would have made you an official aussie about 2 years ago, not they to are controversial seeing as though they don't make them here anymore and that meant massive loss of jobs!

I LOVE the tattoo as I said when I first saw it. It's beautiful! I love that you love Australia as well!

Come back soon!

KaH said...

that should have said NOW they to are controversial....

Bobbysox said...

Oh sir, I was dreading that you were talking about the 'bogan stamp' style that is copied and old and stale. Your tattoo is a rethink. A roundabout and fresh way to see one of our symbols that makes it the same and perfectly different.

Plus it's very aesthetically pleasing.

Well done.

Anonymous said...

But ... you can't see it! Not unless you lift up your arm and pull on your skin and go around in circles trying to see your own back ...

Chicken said...

that's a great one. and good reasons. it fits you so much. these days i've been trying to write something about mine. will post it on my -forgotten for month - blog as soon as i'm happy with what i wrote down.

well done E, loved this post.

- another sailor -

Dave said...

beautiful redesign, totally unbogan, thank you for being a better australian than most of us can manage to be

Jebus said...

It looks totally perfect, and the reasons for getting it are probably much more personal and profound than many Aussies.

I have no problem with people getting the SC tattoo, I have a mate with one on his back, but I do subscribe to the position that a tattoo like this should have personal meaning other than national pride and implied boganism.

If I were to get a SC tat it would represent my love of my country, my fellow citizens - of every race, colour, religion, creed and ilk - and I would wear it with pride knowing I come from a country that is (mostly) filled with decent human beings.

You're welcome back any time E, you're one of us now!

southships said...

Anonymous- i can totally see it. it's on my rib cage, not the back.

thank you everyone for your kind words! will miss you all so much.
-e

Ryan said...

I was so worried when we were talking about it in the van but it turned out great. The general bogan tatt is the straight solid stars or just the outline if short on cash.

Tattoos are so symbolic of who we are, where we've been and, sadly, sometimes who we're trying to be.

Try and steer clear of neck tattoos though...

Peace brother.

dean said...

I was so scared when you said you were getting the southern cross. It means many things to many people, but you chose a version that doesn't have the meanings of uprising (with a hint of racism), racism or pure boganism.

Also love that you reference the Cronulla Riots.

Great work all round.pond

punksocks said...

interesting!

another one on the peace/victory sign, my canadian boyfriend uses it both ways - front and back - to say hi/peace/g'day, buuut in australia when you do it with your knuckles out it's the equivalent of giving the bird.

your tat is great. and the symbolism of the southern cross is beautiful. it's good to challenge, reinvent and explore - and the way you describe the tattoo and how you decided on it sound complementary and self-referential - the best kind!