(Woolly Mammoths, Childhood Trauma and Tattoos)
I love animals. I always have. When I was a child I was a member of the RSPCA, RSPB and WWF: World Wildlife Fund. The latter sent me a vibrant poster illustrating animals such as the Dodo, the Tasmanian Wolf and the Saber Tooth Tiger. This beautiful poster, with its exotic and intriguing animals took pride of place above my pre-teen bed.
The focal point of the poster was the majestic Woolly Mammoth. For months I admired the poster and dreamed of visiting a zoo principally to see the Woolly Mammoth, looking vivacious and magnificent in real-life with its mountain of furry flesh. Imagine my horror when I learned what the poster’s title ‘Extinct’ meant. My childhood ended there and then.
The project ‘extInked’ was launched by Ultimate Holding Company in 2009 to mark Charles Darwin’s bicentennial birthday. It promised to be a ‘once in a lifetime participatory arts and ecology social experiment’.
This unique performance resulted in an army of permanently tattooed volunteers taking the role of ambassadors for threatened and rare birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, plants and fungi. These volunteers went on to raise funds and promote education about changing ecologies and species loss.
CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER
On reading the tattooed species list I’m transported back to my childhood:
Is the ‘Boring Millipede’ really boring? Is the ‘Hornet Robberfly’ actually a thief? Does a ‘Distinguished Jumping Spider’ wear a monocle and are Weevils relieved that ‘Weevil-hunting Wasps’ are endangered?
Come to think of it, does the choice of endangered species reveal something about the tattoo wearer?
The list also contains the ‘Erratic Ant’, the ‘Wormwood Moonshiner Beetle’, the ‘Soprano Pipistrelle’ and the ‘Arctic Mouse Ear’. With names like these I defy you to not be a little curious too.
Imagine how disappointed future generations would be to learn that their favorite furry (slimy / creepy-crawly / feathered) or funny-named animal had been wiped out and placed on an ‘Extinct’ poster because we hadn’t bothered trying to save them.
TATTOOS – Good or bad?
I’ve always argued that I could never have a tattoo. I couldn’t choose a design that I’d be happy to wear engraved into my skin for the rest of my life. The things I like today could mortify me in 10 years time: Certainly if my Uni mates and I had taken seriously the suggestion of having our University Crest tattooed on us for graduation… Urgh! I shudder to think!
However, promoting education and protecting endangered species does strike a chord with me. Due to the aforementioned potential for future self-loathing it’s probably for the best that I didn’t know about extInked at the time, otherwise I might have been swept along and volunteered myself.
I want to applaud the 100 volunteers who were courageous enough to go though with it. In their own way they are each contributing towards the possible prevention of future childhood traumas like mine.
Volunteers: I thank you!
The ‘We Are ExtInked’ exhibition is showing at the Manchester Museum from Friday 8th July to Sunday 13th November 2011, alongside the new Living Worlds collection.