Tattoo artists say a tattoo lasts a lifetime and six months. But numerous collections of tattooed skin around the world might prove otherwise. Since tattoo art became mainstream, more and more people are eager to preserve their tattoos. Companies offer to take tattooed skin off relatives’ bodies and frame it and celebrities and artists try to leave their tattoos for posterity. Is this about breaking a taboo or a plausible need for the owners?
What do the 105 large-scaled tattooed skins hidden in Tokyo University’s Fukushi Collection tell us about Japanese tattoo culture? What about other historical collections – how and why did these collections come into being? What is it exactly that makes people want to pass on their tattoos?
To get the answers to these questions, I will meet my Japanese friend and tattooist Hide to find out about his motivation to inherit the tattooed skin of his deceased father, a former Yakuza member. Eventually, I myself will get tattooed for the first time as part of my deal with Hide: If I allow him to tattoo me and find a place which would preserve my tattooed skin after my death, he will give me access to the Yakuza mafia. Through this personal experience I will get the chance to find out more about the Japanese tradition of preserving tattooed skin. In the meantime I will join Hanky Panky – a legendary tattooist icon – on his quest to find a possibility to pass on his tattooed hand to his daughter. Together we will travel the world, visiting collections and museums and looking for a place where each of us could donate his tattooed skin.
For a non-tattooed person, the desire to pass on tattooed skin to a relative is hard to comprehend. Why does it seem to be different for tattooed people? Will my own ambivalent attitude towards the preservation of removed skin change after I’ve seen the collections and got tattooed myself?
FATHER’S SKIN is a subjective journey into the world of subcultures, myths, hype and the art of tattoos. An edgy cultural history that deals with the themes of collection and preservation, and which invites us to contemplate such relevant topics as the right to your own body and the way we deal with human remains.