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MODERN PRIMITIVES HARDBACK (no paperbacks left; sorry!) $50

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This is the Deluxe **HARDBACK** MODERN PRIMITIVES. Printed on Glossy Art Paper for Sharp Photographic Reproduction. This is the book which launched “a Revolution” and introduced the world to body piercing and full-body tattoos. Additional interview with Raelyn Gallina, plus tattoo/piercing community sponsorship pages in the back. Supersedes all previous editions offered on the Internet. Replace your old copy and upgrade as well! Get the Super-Archival RARE HARDBACK for $50.

Product Description

“As the man credited with launching the contemporary tattoo and body-modification movements almost single-handedly, UC Berkeley grad V. Vale has been called a prophet. His 1989 book MODERN PRIMITIVES inspired a generation to ink, pierce, and decoratively scar itself, not to mention branding itself with hot metal and rerouting its genitals.”—Anneli Rufus, East Bay Express

“Modern Primitives is a stunning compilation, so densely packed with strange material that all adds up to something much more than a succession of mere weirdnesses — the human body as its own extreme metaphor, or the body as an extreme metaphor of its own mind. A real terminal document.” – J.G. Ballard

“I loved the introduction in your previous book, and all the introductions to the other wonderful books you’ve made. Incidentally, your last publication, Modern Primitives, was extraordinary. That was an amazing book – that was a genuine work of modern urban anthropology. It was incredible. You could have been Margaret Mead going to Samoa – it was the equivalent of that. And it was never voyeuristic. It was an extraordinary book, beautifully conceived and researched in such depth. That’s what’s so wonderful about all your publications: the depth of them – they just go on and on. Where most books end, yours are just about beginning. I mean they really are very, very impressive. You’ve produced really amazing books; there’s no question about that.” J.G. Ballard

“Modern Primitives” is called “the Bible of the tattooing-piercing underground.” Here is a celebratory reprinting, complete with a new introduction by original editor/publisher V. Vale. Also added is a new community section, where current practitioners have been invited to have their cards displayed. “Modern Primitives” was the first book to investigate not only the “how” but also the “why” of body modification practices. It reaches far back into history to multiform cultural traditions to illuminate one of today’s most wide-spread youth culture visual signifiers. Heavily illustrated with detailed, contemporary photographs, as well as archival anthropological images and drawings of ancient tattoo traditions, “Modern Primitives” was ground-zero for today’s body-modification trends. “A whole new generation needs to be exposed to this foundational handbook and manifesto for the body modification generation.”—Tattoo Mike

Here’s a little Ed Hardy interview excerpt: “I fled the cloying environment of the fine arts to do tattooing, but I should have seen this coming: by giving tattooing its legitimization and status as a fine art, suddenly you’re getting into the same old crap!”

“One thing I like about the Asian tradition: you don’t give a shit about that notion of “originality”. There’s something great about surrendering part of your ego to a “greater” tradition or stream of expression.” — Ed Hardy to V. Vale, Modern Primitives

1 review for MODERN PRIMITIVES HARDBACK (no paperbacks left; sorry!) $50

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    All of the people interviewed are looking for something very simple: a way of fighting back at mass production consumer society that prizes standardization above all else. Through ‘primitive’ modifications, they are taking possession of the only thing that any of us will ever really own: our bodies.”

    —Whole Earth Review

    Dispassionate ethnography that lets people put their behavior in its own context.”

    —Voice Literary Supplement

    . . . celebrates diversity by chronicling–and promoting–new paths for cultural, aesthetic, and political transgression.”

    —SF Bay Guardian

    The opening interview with Fakir Musafar, by day a wealthy Silicon Valley advertising executive, in his spare moments a master of self-mutilation, provides a riveting introduction.

    Musafar, born in South Dakota, exposes a relatively tame collection of tattoos, but the photographs of what he does to himself to experience out-of-the-body states are, for the uninitiated, truly unbelievable. Musafar recounts how he always felt a misfit until, still a child, his father took him to a carnival freak show. ‘Right then I had an incurable desire to make marks on and put holes in my body.’

    Musafar’s practices, all documented with photographs, include radical corseting, nipple and penis piercing, and more exotic rituals such as Kavandi-bearing (an East Indian practice in which the celebrant carries a carapace of spears on his body) and the Sundance (the Mandan Indian puberty rite in which the initiator hangs from holes pierced in his chest).

    As the latter two instances imply, such practices in tribal cultures were used to induce hallucinatory or out-of-the-body states. Musafar and others have adopted them for the same purposes — to transcend the limitations of reason and logic mandated by the modern world.

    Although the images might seem on casual viewing to be documents from an S&M cult, Musafar expresses little sympathy for sado-masochism, the banal goal of which is orgasm, a cheap thrill when communion with the cosmos is his aim.

    RE/Search takes a sanguine view of body modification. Although acknowledging the pitfalls of romanticizing the primitive, RE/Search declares that the revival of ‘Modern Primitive’ activities is ‘the desire for, and the dream of, a more ideal society.’ They see such practices as attempts to achieve wholeness. ‘All sensual experience functions to free us from ‘normal’ social restraints, to awaken our deadened bodies to life. All such activity points toward a goal: the creation of the ‘complete’ or ‘integrated’ man and woman, and in this we are yet prisoners digging an imaginary tunnel to freedom.’”

    —David Bonetti, S.F. Examiner
    – See more at: http://www.

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Modern Primitives examines a vivid contemporary enigma: the growing revival of highly visual (and sometimes shocking) “primitive” body modification practices – tattooing, multiple piercing, and scarification. Perhaps Nietzsche has an explanation: “One of the things that may drive thinkers to despair is the recognition of the fact that the illogical is necessary for man and that out of the illogical comes much that is good. It is so firmly rooted in the passions, in language, in art, in religion and generally in everything that gives value to life, that it cannot be withdrawn without thereby injuring all these beautiful things. It is only the all-too-naive person who can believe that the nature of man can be changed into a purely logical one.”

Civilization, with its emphasis on logic, may be stifling and life-thwarting, yet a cliche-ridden illusion as to what is “primitive” provides no solution to the problem: how do we achieve an integration of the poetic and scientific imagination in our lives? There are pitfalls on both sides, and what is absolutely not intended is any romanticization of “nature” or “primitive society.” After all, advances in science and technology have eliminated much mind-numbing, repetitive labor, and inventions such as the inexpensive microcomputer have opened up unprecedented possibilities for individual creative expression.

Obviously, it is impossible to return to an authentic “primitive” society. Those such as the Tasaday in the Philippines and the Dayaks in Borneo are irrevocably contaminated. Besides having been dubiously idealized and only partially understood in the first place, under scrutiny many “primitive” societies reveal forms of repression and coercion (such as the Yanoamo, who ritually bash each other’s heads in, and African groups who practice clitoridectomy – removal of the clitoris) which would be unbearable to emancipated individuals of today. What is implied by the revival of “modern primitive” activities is the desire for, and the dream of, a more ideal society.

Amidst an almost universal feeling of powerlessness to “change the world,” individuals are changing what they do have power over: their own bodies. That shadowy zone between the physical and the psychic is being probed for whatever insight and freedoms may be reclaimed. By giving visible bodily expression to unknown desires and latent obsessions welling up from within, individuals can provoke change – however inexplicable – in the external world of the social, besides freeing up a creative part of themselves; some part of their essence.

All sensual experience functions to free us from “normal” social restraints, to awaken our deadened bodies to life. All such activity points toward a goal: the creation of the “complete” or “integrated” man and woman, and in this we are yet prisoners digging an imaginary tunnel to freedom. Our most inestimable resource, the unfettered imagination, continues to be grounded in the only truly precious possession we can ever have and know, and which is ours to do with what we will: the human body.

– V. Vale


RE/Search: Can you talk about the idea of “modern primitives”?

Fakir: The whole purpose of “modern primitive” practices is to get more and more spontaneous in the expression of pleasure with insight. Too much structuring somehow destroys any possibility of an ecstatic breakthrough in life experiences.

“Modern primitive” is a term I thought I had coined in 1967 when I met Bud “Viking” Navarro and Zapata in Los Angeles. We used the term to describe a non-tribal person who responds to primal urges and does something with the body. There is an increasing trend among certain young people now to get pierced and tattooed. Some do it as a “real” response to primal urges and some do it for “kicks”-they aren’t serious and don’t know what they’re doing. People are getting piercings in places where no one should get them! One girl got a piercing like a beauty mark above her lip, but anything she wore would get caught in her teeth. She had to give it up.

Physical difference frightens people in our culture more than anything else. You can be aberrant as hell mentally, politically, socially, but do one little thing physical-put a bone in your nose-and boy, you’re in trouble! They’ll let you do almost anything as long as it isn’t physical.

Most other cultures revere androgynous characters and people who are different-fools, midgets, nuts-as “god-like.” In this culture these people could only find a place in a carnival. but then that faded out of vogue. Now you can’t have a ten-in-one show anymore because all the freaks are in institutions or they’ve been patched up with plastic surgery or something-made more normal. Since 1945 it’s been impossible to have a freak show-I know some people who tried to find enough freaks to have one, and they couldn’t find any! It’s a helluva world: you can’t even find freaks anymore! Everyone “has” to look the same.


RE/Search: How did you become a tattoo artist? prim_back

HP: I was a photographer for a long time for a magazine here in Holland. I did a couple of features on tattooing and became more and more interested in it and started collecting anything I could lay my hands on-business cards, photos, books, and I started correspondence with all these people. All of a sudden I had this tattoo machine in my collection, and another old tattoo machine, and then I had to do this big article on the Dutch Hells Angels for the magazine. And they knew me, they said, “Yeah, you the tattoo guy?” I said, “Yeah, yeah.”

R/S: You’d already been tattooing?

prim_hand_smHP: I wasn’t tattooing then, but they went, “Well, why don’t you make a tattoo on us?” So I put my first tattoo on a Hells Angel-that’s one of the best ways to start, because you’ve got a critical client. You don’t want to f*** up with him!

R/S: So what percentage of your clientele want New Tribal designs?

prim_headHP: I don’t know. I do a lot of them. Especially because of a couple of books that showed it, like Tattootime. And it was actually something new going on in tattooing. In Western-style tattooing, for years people were making the same old s**t: eagles, anchors, and all of a sudden all these punk kids wanted all this tribal stuff. So many books in the last ten years have been published on tattooing; ten years ago to find a book on tattooing was—well, you would find one or two books a year from 1859, 1920, 1950. It was very hard to find anything on it. Now there’s a book coming out every year—five or six a year, maybe. And of course all these books were covering the new tribalism, the new thing. So all these kids are seeing the new thing and that’s what they want. The Borneo scorpion is probably the equivalent of the Black Panther of ten years ago-that’s the design you’re making all the time now!



RE/Search: How long has tattooing been around?

Lyle Tuttle: Some of the earliest heavily tattooed people were the Picts, a migratory people who roamed throughout Europe a few thousand years ago. On this continent various American Indian tribes tattooed themselves as well as body-painted themselves, particularly before going to war. If you came from a race that wasn’t tattooed, and all of a sudden some guy jumped out of the bushes who was tattooed all over, you might be scared!

Tattooing has always been associated with warriors; it’s possible that early man figured out that men who were tattooed had a better survival rate from wounds, because a tattoo is a wound-maybe it develops the antibody system…maybe tattoo wounds prepare the warrior for battle wounds. Tattooing: the first inoculation!

In Burma there’s a legend about a king who lost his favorite concubine. Night after night girls were brought to him, and none of them pleased him. One night a beautiful young transvestite was brought to him, and the king, being drunk, was fooled. When he discovered the deception, he cut off the head of the procurer and proclaimed an edict that from now on all men had to be tattooed with “pants”!

I went to Samoa to get a tattoo because every Samoan I’d met-man, woman, or child-was enthralled with tattooing, had an ultra-respect for it. Tattooing was a way of deification, in a way. You can be born to a Chief’s family, but if you don’t have that tattoo, you can’t even go into the Chief’s chambers and mix kava, and your word means nothing.

– 20th Anniversary Introduction
– Introduction
– Fakir Musafar
– Tattoo Mike
– ManWoman
– Don Ed Hardy
– Captain Don
– Jane Handel
– Wes Christensen–Mayan Culture
– Anton LaVey
– Leo Zulueta
– Raelyn Gallina
– Bill Salmon
– Sheree Rose
– Lyle Tuttle
– Vaughn
– Vyvyn Lazonga
– Monte Cazazza
– Dan Thome
– Hanky Panky
– Chralie Cartwright
– Greg Kulz
– Heather McDonald
– David Levi Strauss
– Jim Ward
– Genesis & Paula P-Orridge
– Miscellaneous
– Quotations
– Sources
– Raelyn Gallina, 2009
– Index