Snip von Designboom:
in russian prisons, tattoos serve as a unique language of symbols and the rules for reading them are passed on by oral tradition. the permanent ink on a convict’s body depicts their personal history— resembling his official documents, his ‘award records’. in the criminal world, a man with no tattoos is a man with no status. thus tattoos confer a criminal’s identity; they are a seal of their social position and contribute to collective memory. the motifs depicted in valeria monis‘ work –ranging from violence and pornography to politics and alcohol– represent the uncensored lives of the criminal classes.
the illustrations criminals wear on their skin thus tells the story of their closed society, with its own hierarchy and social structure.
1960s: The cat evokes a successful thief and the tattoo forms a connection with the criminal world forever.
Thieves’ crosses, churches, mother of God and virgin mary are reserved for high-ranking body parts: chest + back.
Omsk Corrective Labour Colony, (1959-1962)
„I’m a petersburg woman! they call us whore priestesses of sex, but we give men joys with our bodies, the supreme pleasure is orgasm!“ (202 ligovsky prospect, 1979)
Humorous hooligan tattoo, typical in corrective labour camps in the north, common name: „misha the accordion player“ (Vologda transit Prison, 1950s)
„I call to you, i wait for you, i will drink you drop by drop, my love“ on hip, stomach and occasionally other body parts.
„Winged Russia is the queen of planet earth!“, Isolation cell block, 7 arsenal embankment, St.Petersburg.
„No sooner said than done“, Vladivostok prison, 1950, chest.
Tattoo popular among men and women with different interpretations.
Men: „if I were to sleep with a woman, then it’ll only be a queen. If I were to steal, then it’ll be no less than a million“.
Women: „To live and love like a queen“.