By Jeff Gogué
When I first agreed to attend the tattoo expo in Napoli, Italy... Honestly, I had doubts I would make it. It would be my third trip to Italy in less than a year. I, of course, am honored and grateful to be invited anywhere and would continuously be on the road if it wasn’t for my responsibilities at home. I love adventure and with an ever-present awareness of my own mortality, I want to experience as much as I can before the bell tolls. I wouldn’t call myself a thrill seeker. I hardly call myself a traveler, but I do what I can to make new friends and see new places. Napoli was a new place. Different than the places I’ve been before in so many ways...
It was like stepping into the backdrop of an independent film where the characters are endearing and generous on one hand and will rob you blind if they had to on the other, and not because they are shady, mean, or inconsiderate, simply because they would if they had to. I guess that’s how most people are at the core. Survivalists. I saw, in the streets of Napoli, people surviving, not needy, and not scary. I saw strong people who live by their own rules, which from my perspective seemed to be missing. No rules, or at the very most, subtle rules that you’d have to be brought up in to know. Things moved fast, people moved fast and if you weren’t careful, you’d get run over, and not just by the cars, by scooters, trains or personalities.
The show itself was set up by pros for sure. The booths were perfect. The floor layout flowed from aisle to aisle, into the paint room where they were working on everything from canvas to cars, even painting people to parade around the venue. The art gallery was intimidating and impressive. I wanted to participate and hang some pieces (after I went home and practiced for a year). The food and drinks were great, I didn’t get many since the people were so demanding of my time, tattoos and attention, and in the most flattering way I can say it. I couldn’t walk to the bathroom without getting stopped three or four times to be told I was “the best” or how much they loved me, or “Take a photo please?” Italians are tough for sure, they’re direct and I would say pushy at times… They cut in line, crowd the booth, and interrupt your work or conversations, but I liked it all, because it was contrasted by the most caring, generous, encouraging scene in any culture so far.
The one thing that really left an impression on me is the fact that the artists attending, and the Neapolitans especially, really gave their all. They tried to out do each other and themselves. The competitive spirit was strong, they want to make every piece they did better than the last, it was obvious, and I didn’t take it as ego at all, not in the term we generally would use. I loved seeing them encourage each other and talk about the work from the heart, not blowing smoke or stroking each other and not in any way flippantly or disingenuous. It very much came across as real. Real interaction, real critique, real love and I loved that!
I feel changed by this show. It was hot as hell; I’ve never sweated so much in my life. It was hot, humid and there was no relief, but it was so worth it. The 27 hours of travel each way, the humid, hot conditions, the crazy pace of the city... all so worth it. This was a real show with real artists, literally sweating over their work. This is how it’s supposed to be. We aren’t rock stars having people cater to us and wipe our asses. We are tattooers, we should be sweating, and getting into it with people. We should be tired and have to keep going anyway. That’s what adventure is, isn’t it? When you don’t know what’s around the corner? When you don’t know if you’re going to make it back in one piece?
If you get a chance to attend this show in the future, do it. The city is nuts, it’s a bit chaotic, but the food is unbelievable and the people are full of passion, soul, and spice! The after party boat ride to Sorrento for crazy karaoke lunch, swimming in the warm blue water with the rock cliff backdrop, the dancing, singing and sweating... all of it was amazing. Hide your money down your pants and sneak photos so your camera doesn’t get snatched by a passing moped.... but go to Naples next year if you can! You might be scared, but you won’t be sorry! Plus... where else can you compete in a beer drinking triathlon??? I didn’t see it, but I heard about it...
Much thanks to Antonio of Micromutazioni and all of his amazing staff and Alex de Pase for being awesome!
Jeff Gogué is a tattooer and contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine. Jeff can be found at: http://www.gogueart.com/.
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