TATTOO HUNTER. PROJECT LARS KRUTAK
The modern American anthropologist Lars Krutak (born in 1971) brought to life a truly unique project. As a researcher and lover of tattoos, he likened his body to canvas and managed to inflict a lot of ethnic patterns and scars on it, typical of various ethnic communities located in different parts of our planet. Its skin is decorated with “tattoos” native to Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, as well as from the Hawaiian Islands, Brazil, Ethiopia, Benin, Mozambique. In the process of implementing this project, a multi-part (9 episodes) film “Tattoo Hunter” of the Discovery Channel was shot. Despite the clearly staged nature of some of the captured scenes, they are very interesting from a cultural point of view.
The project was completed, apparently, for the banal reason that the size of the “canvas” (the body of the researcher) is still limited. Of course, in the world today there are more than nine traditional communities that still practice their unique tattoos. However, Lars Krutak, being a scientist specializing in body art, chose for his project tribes with the most famous systems of traditional tattoos. And this allows us to draw interesting conclusions based on watching a series of films from the Tattoo hunter series.
Firstly, the art of traditional body art is gradually dying due to globalization, as the practical and symbolic significance of tattoos decreases as the habitual lifestyle changes. We often refuse to make underwear for ourselves. Yes, and there is no need to apply tattoos that are characteristic of tribes living away from society, not even knowing their meaning. In one of the episodes, the conflict between the father and the tattoo artist and his son, which, hiding behind various, largely far-fetched reasons, for a long time did not want to decorate its body with habitual images (Indonesia, the Mentavai people), was very indicative. A tattooist without tattoos in the traditional culture is a phenomenon of almost the same order as a shoemaker without boots from the Russian proverb.
Secondly, some masters of ethnic pectoral drawings may be the “last of the Mohicans.” An elderly Filipino woman, a specialist in traditional tattoos, could not find students for many years. At the time of filming, a significant interest in the profession of a tattoo artist was shown by her young granddaughter (girl), but not the fact that this desire will be long-lasting and will develop into an adult choice of profession.
Thirdly, the application of “tattoos” has become more formal and less sacred. Globalization objectively works to increase the degree of openness even of traditional cultures to the outside world. Previously, ethnic patterns were not applied at all to foreigners, with the exception of members of friendly neighboring tribes or travelers who had lived in a particular community for many years. But modern tribes practicing traditional tattoos are sufficiently integrated into the outside world in order not to refuse to make a tattoo to an American scientist. Usually, the masters demanded that Lars Krutak live in their community for a couple of weeks, which, in essence, is a formal observance of decency (traditions). The misfire came out only in Mozambique.
A very old local tattoo artist refused to tattoo Lars, even though he went through a formal initiation ceremony. To make the refusal look polite, the elderly man referred to his vision problems, but it was not long before that it was he who tattooed his young fellow tribesman. Lars came out of a difficult situation by persuading a local artist to make him a pectoral drawing, although she had not done this before, and the result was successful.
From a practical point of view, the “set” of tattoos and scars on Lars Krutak’s body does not make much sense. Outside the rather limited areas of their distribution, the significance of these drawings is known only to narrow specialists – ethnographers.
However, now Lars Krutak, apparently, is the bearer on the body of the largest collection of rare tattoos from different cultures of the world. And his project became the basis for a magnificent multi-part film that captures gradually disappearing traditions, for which he thanks a lot from our part.