“Swiss Tattoo”, why the Swiss have tattoos in their skin – Liberation

“Swiss Tattoo”, why the Swiss have tattoos in their skin – Liberation

In a book to be published in mid-October, Clément Grandjean sets out to meet the figures of creative Swiss tattooing, whose very contemporary history he draws and questions their specificities.

Ah Switzerland… We immediately imagine its ski resorts, its cheesesits chocolate or its watchmaking tradition. The most teasing will add to this list worthy of a bad tourist guide the culture of secrecy dear to its banksconducive to tax evasion by economic elites, or its policy of neutrality against the torments of the world. On the other hand, no one thinks of tattooing, which is rather reserved, without being exhaustive, for American, Japanese, Polynesian or Russian cultures. However, a beautiful illustrated work to be published in mid-October, Swiss Tattoo. The graphics in the skin, by Clément Grandjean (who also signs the photographs), demonstrates the contrary.

How ? By retracing the history of the practice since its introduction in the 1970s, while giving the floor to around thirty Swiss tattoo artists, men and women – in a country which has a thousand tattoo artists for 8 million of inhabitants – including certain historical figures of this universe which has now emerged from the margins. These include: Dischy, the first to open a salon in Switzerland in 1974, in Rheineck, “on the shores of Lake Constance” ; Dominique Lang, the first French-speaking side; and, finally, the indescribable Leu family, in Lausanne, pillars of the world of tattooing who brought back various aesthetic traditions from their wanderings.

Can we speak of a Swiss tradition of tattooing, with its own graphic identity (high-altitude flowers such as edelweiss, for example)? “I believe that the Swiss tattoo is part of a unity of style characteristic of Western Europe. Even if the Swiss are fond of floral motifs in shades of black and gray, and this is something that I have seen very little elsewhere,” observes the Geneva tattoo artist Zalem Ishka. Or would it just be an afterthought? against a background of democratization in the Westespecially among those under 40, this ancestral craft with multiple foundations (initiation, ritual or aesthetic)? “There is something different in tattooing as it is practiced in Switzerland. But it’s about the feeling, says Yashka, another artist based on the shores of Lake Geneva. Culturally, the tattoo has very diverse meanings around the world: expression of an identity, political message… Here, it’s lighter, it’s a business like any other.

Unless the trademark is the Swiss technique implied in the formula Made in Switzerland ? “Switzerland is the culture of non-culture, which is not negative in itself, says Maxime Plescia-Büchi, graphic designer from French-speaking Switzerland at the initiative of the internationally recognized magazine Blue blood, in an interview with Clément Grandjean. This can be seen from politics to industry to art. We excel in the formal, in the technique, and it is undoubtedly a style in itself. We adopt currents that have started elsewhere and we apply our attention to detail, the professionalism that makes Switzerland the well-oiled clock that it is! What made the country famous in the 90s and 2000s in terms of tattooing was this sudden elevation of a rather summary craftsmanship hitherto in its Western form, towards a technical quality worthy of the most noble craftsmanship. » Add a strongly anchored (typo)graphic culture – as a reminder, we owe the Swiss Max Miedinger the paternity in 1957 of one of the most used Helvetica fonts – and you will have the ingredients for tattooing success in the Alpine country. Swiss Tattoois a nuanced reflection on the existence and affirmation of national tattoo traditions in a world of globalized aesthetics.

Clement Grandjean, Swiss Tattoo. The graphics in the skin,Helvetiq, 216 pp., €44.90.


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