Exploring the Bizarre Cult of Ink in ‘Tattoo Uprising’

Christopher Karr


Theoretically — and ideally — any subject can be made interesting on film, and perhaps even more so in a documentary. Even the thinnest subject matter can be examined in such a way that you believe an unexplored corner of the universe has been illuminated. Documentaries like Marwencol or Casting By or the obscure but undervalued Visionaries or, to speak of a recent stunning example, The Price of Everything have the ability to open your eyes up to that which you have overlooked.


After viewing Alan Govenar's new documentary, Tattoo Uprising, I’m tempted to conclude that my suspicions about the history and alleged uprising of tattoos can be confirmed: Either tattoos are for you or they are not. Tattoos are not for me. I’ve never felt the impulse to get one, and I’ve never really understood why anyone would want one. Counterintuitively, I was open to the idea that I might be the prime viewer of this documentary. I wanted the chance to explore this phenomenon from a fresh point of view. I wanted to understand what had previously eluded my knowledge about this passionate subculture.



But Tattoo Uprising doesn’t really cater to viewers who aren’t already tatted — and perhaps it shouldn’t be. I would imagine, although I can’t say for sure, that anyone with a heavy interest in tattoos will find depth and significance in this film, but for me, the spine of the narrative is inert. There’s no narrative progression or innate rhythm to the storytelling, and as a result the movie feels more like a casual exploration punctuated by historical tidbits that range from valid to questionable. Does the apostle Paul’s use of the word “mark” (stigma, in Greek) really indicate that he may have bore tattoos?


If you’re a tattoo artist or enthusiast, I would recommend giving this documentary a shot. I’m not aware of another film that falls within the same vein as Tattoo Uprising. But if your personal idea of a nightmare is listening to a dozen or so people tediously explain the meaning of the rather self-explanatory artwork on their bodies, I would then encourage you to pass this along to your heavily tatted friends. This movie may not be for you or the average viewer, but it’s a must-see for those who revel in a “tatted world.”



Author Bio:


Christopher Karr is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.


For Highbrow Magazine

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