Please note: The increasing corona numbers force us with a heavy heart to postpone the opening of the first exhibition part of REINVENTING GRASSI.SKD on 2 December 2021. The exhibitions will remain closed for the time being.

(un)explored - Europe

[Translate to English:] text 1

Tattoo art already had a long history in Europe but was given new impulses by the advent of the word "tatau." Even the Ötzi mummies from the Neolithic period bore 61 marks on the skin, while the Pikten (Scots at the time of the Roman Empire) were tattooed, and the ancient Greeks and Romans used the skin stiches to mark and punish slaves and criminals. The fact that tattoos also played a role in the Middle Ages are confirmed by church prohibitions and court records. The penalty gave the tattoo something heinous.

In the 18th century, the images on the skin were seen as something "foreign." Tattooed people showed themselves in carnivals and in theaters to satisfy the curiosity of the audience lusting for the exotic. Telling an adventurous abduction story, the tattooed person became the figure who triggered both terror and fascination at the same time.

In 1925, anthropologist Wilfrid D. Hambly (1886 - 1962) publishes a map in his book "The History of Tattooing and its Significance", attempting to display worldwide distribution of body paintings, tattoos and scarifications.

[Translate to English:] text 2

But tattoos were also present in everyday life. In the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, they became fashionable: historical estimates assumed that about 20 percent of the population in Europe were tattooed. The social medicine practitioner Rudolph Virchow (1821-1902) spoke of a regular "tattooing rage," especially among workers.

At the same time, criminological studies tried to emphasize the alleged link between tattoos and crime. The Italian physician and psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) claimed for example that tattoos were a sign of an unfinished human development and often an indication of delinquency. These assertions were driven by the Austrian architect Adolf Loos (1870-1933) with the thesis that a tattooed man who had committed no murder had died too soon. In various political systems, tattoos were attributed to complex meanings and functions, sometimes even prohibited. Nevertheless, the skin piercing, often worn in secret, remained popular. Today, so many people in Germany are tattooed like never before - almost every fourth person of people between the ages of 16 and 29 bears one or more tattoos.

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