Evolution of the Clipping.

Having just read Lorraine Daston’s “Things That Talk” (an interdisciplinary perspective of objects that “speak” to us), and with a live streaming Twitter feed in my head, I was pleasantly surprised to find the two in cahoots. Specifically, Anke te Heesen’s chapter on newspaper clippings in and around the 1920s.

Now, before you throw on your zoot suit and swing your way away for a gin and tonic, pull up a chair and listen to what I have to say….or else it’s curtains for ya. Compiling newspaper clippings was a huge deal then. There were actual jobs where people tracked particular names, subjects or topics throughout various newspapers and then marked them. Another person cut and pasted them, assembling an archive of sorts. This really happened, for various reasons. Bureaus were set up in major cities with the intent of pursuing this information. If I understand correctly, the forefront of this was the artist or celebrity who, as “publicity sensitive creatures” (p. 303) were very interested in their media coverage. These clipping services helped them to build upon their own success. It’s no different from now, where people “Google” themselves, or put their plaques, awards, diplomas, certificates, local news write-up, or letter to the editor on their wall. We’re attention starved creatures and we writers (most of us, I believe) absorb attention like dry sponges dropped in a full bathtub.

Eventually these clipping services began to serve a broader appeal. Mechanics interested in the workings of a certain component could request all clippings related to it. Companies began to request clippings to pursue trends. It was a way of viewing the moving world. Then it occurred to me, that this was the predecessor of some of our data addicted practices today. We #hashtag search in twitter for “clipping topics” we want to follow. We find people we are interested in and we @follow them. We subscribe to their blogs or join web circles or forums of like-minded individuals. These are merely evolved forms of the early clipping service. Only now, instead of an office filled with women searching and boys clipping (Daston, p. 304) we have computers doing all of the work.

What was of even greater significance to me, was the clipping as a source of cultural history. The collected material began to be realized as a “picture of time” (Daston, p. 315). In the first few weeks of our Research Methods for Writers class we discussed Twitter and the historical significance of moments like the political upheaval in Egypt. As things were happening there, people were “tweeting” about their experiences, using the hash tag #Jan25. Theoretically, a historian could collect and archive all of these #Jan25 tweets to examine the events of Egypt’s move toward democracy. It’s staggering if you think about it, the trends and events that can be examined from a multitude of various sources, all disparate in their cultural, social, geographical, religious and political beliefs, but recorded for history’s sake in their assessment and experience of one event. Wow.

Everything we publish online, every comment, blog, tweet, post, status update, text, email and send is or can be recorded for compounding and understanding our own history and world dynamic.

So, if you are reading this some time long from now, after my bones are dust in the ground, know that I was a great emperor. The leader of the mightiest nation on Earth. I ruled for thousands of years, with my lightsaber, “Excalibur”. Once, I stopped a mighty asteroid from striking our world and another time I fought a giant gorilla atop the Empire States Building. I grew tired of this world and built a “Death Star”, zooming off to sail the seas of space with my friend Captain Jack Sparrow and Magnum P.I.

Hmmm….someone better examine these data clippings pretty closely. Preferably a Dadaist, I think I’d have more luck with my “interpretation.”

Pre-interview Prep for Brad Kingett, Risen Industries

My peer and friend, Alexa Mantell, was kind enough to point me in Brad’s direction. Brad is the owner of Risen Industries,

Risen Industries

a film and photography company that encompasses quite a spectrum of projects. Brad is filming a project for television that revolves around the tattoo industry and incorporates accepted “applicants” for on-air tattoos. Now, I have to profess that I am not aware of many of the project’s details. This past weekend was the first “shoot” and much of the talk has been kept under wraps for now. I hope to remedy that situation tomorrow night.

I will be meeting Brad at the Barnes & Noble cafe’ in Glassboro, Monday, March 14th at 6:30 p.m. Brad is from the area and also has an art gallery in downtown Glassboro. I think that Brad will be an excellent resource for me for two reasons. His film project is obviously of great interest, especially in the wake of those major shows that have come before (LA Ink, Miami Ink, etc). The opportunity to discuss the project, the direction of it and intended goals will be important in illustrating society’s  continued trends and interest in the art of tattooing. There are also thoughts that the industry has veered wildly off course from the intentions of the “fore fathers” of tattooing. There are those who feel that this change is to be embraced as it has catapulted the tattoo industry into an accepted part of mainstream society. These are some of the thoughts I’d like to discuss with Brad as we sit down over our triple, double mocha half-calf, iced double grande lattes (kidding, I’ll probably skip the ice).

The other side of the coin, is that I’d like to talk to Brad as an artist. Not a tattoo artist, but a graphic/fine artist. He works with many different media and it is interesting to me (especially in light of Lorraine Daston’s “Things That Talk”) what his thoughts are on tattoos as an art form. I’d like to know how he perceives the evolution of the craft and if/how tattoos can “speak” to us.

As far as Gubrium and Holstein’s “Postmodern Interviewing” is concerned, I believe that my interview with Brad will be an active interview, with a “developing plot” (p. 75). The parameters of the topic are so loosely connected that I cannot be entirely sure which path our conversation will take us. There is also the consideration that I am not entirely informed as to the breadth of the tattoo film project and/or Brad’s experiences with it. By conducting the interview in a fluid and dynamic fashion, it will ensure that we are both able to enjoy and contribute to the conversation.

I am looking forward to my interview with Brad tomorrow and very pleased with how receptive he was to sitting down with me.

State of My (Tattoo Research) Union Address

The findings of my research so far (and let me tell you, I still believe myself to be only ankle-deep in research) has been richly rewarding. The sociocultural connections that I have discovered to date provide enough material to fuel several stories. And let’s not be fooled, my direction has been fully plotted for a rich story of darker magical realism. “The History of Tattooing” (Dover Publications, 2009) is rife with incredible real world examples of tattoo history that could easily find itself in the pages of a Stephen King, Clive Barker, or Joseph McGee novel. Yes, I did just put myself in the same company, lol…my blog, my rules.

For instance, there were several early beliefs ( as written in Sinclair’s “American Anthropologist”, vol. X and XI) that the soul was regarded as a tangible object. Upon physical death, the soul, or spirit, assumed an “exact replica of the earthly body”, to include any tattoos or marks. These tattoos served as rites of passage through the afterlife. Take the Sioux Indians for example. They believed that tattoos received in life would allow for their passage to the “Many Lodges” in the afterlife. It was Sioux belief that the spirit, mounted on his spirit horse, would be stopped in his ghostly passage by an old woman. It was her duty to inspect the dead warrior for his marks, or tattoos (often on his forehead or wrists, and sometimes on his chin). If he was discovered without, he was thrown from the cliff, or cloud, to wander aimlessly and melancholy through the mortal world.

Page Notes from "The History of Tattooing"

The Northern Tangkhuls (India) believed that tattoos linked husband and wife in the afterlife. The Abor tribes (Himalayan) considered the tattoo the “poor man’s identification mark in heaven.”  Those of wealth were adorned with possessions befitting their station. Those without were inked up.

These are only a few of the examples that I have begun to unearth in my research. These are the kinds of details that make for great storytelling. These are the kinds of facts that, when tweaked by an overactive imagination, become stories.

As I prepare to move into the interview phase of my research, I have lined up the following potential resources:

I will be conducting two face to face interviews for the story, both with practicing tattoo artists. Erin Kane is an artist at Infamous Arts Gallery in Plymouth, PA.

Tattoo by Erin Kane

Brian DiCola is an artist at Loyalty Ink, in Kenvil, NJ and at Eddies Tattoo, in Philadelphia, PA.

Tattoo by Brian DiCola

Both have agreed to chat with me about themes, concepts and ideas that I have mentioned in my previous blog about the direction my story was going. I am awaiting an answer on speculative times and dates.

I have also requested two of my recent online (Twitter) contacts to interview with me. Christine Murphy

Christine Murphy

(@ChrisMeanStreet), an apprentice artist at Mean Street Tattoo,College Point, NY, has agreed to interview with me. Due to the busy and irregular schedule of their work, we are trying to set up a time for a slower night of the week. Chris is more than willing to help me out and we have been in email communication to establish a firm time. I am waiting to hear from Brandee Gordon

Tattoo by Brandee Gordon

(@nativeinktattoo), of Native Ink Tattoo, Central Indiana. I mentioned Ms. Gordon and her studio in my previous blog.

And, perhaps reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson, as the research begins to develop and I get deeper into this world of ink, I find myself with appointments and invites from the artists I have been in contact with. I have tentative appointments with Erin and Christine. I fancy the thought of one day flying out to Indiana to get work done by Brandee, and Brian is right across the bridge, inking away. In fact, the more I grow to learn about and appreciate the deeper implications of the craft, the art, and the people who do it, the more I find myself intrigued by the idea of traveling to new artists for different pieces.

It seems that this adds another dimension to the piece, in which it is no longer JUST a piece of who you are, it is a tale of where you’ve been and who you’ve met and in this instant (and for every instant after) that inkwork on your skin tells a tale of a person and place with whom you will forever be connected. It is, in this sense, a “talkative thing” (as described by Lorraine Daston in her introduction to “Things That Talk” (Zone Books, 2008)).