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Altered Carbon - The origins of Takeshi Kovac's Ouroboros Tattoo | Spirit Manual Impact Carbon Paper


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Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, then I'm sure by now you'll be familiar with Netflix's latest hit series Altered Carbon.  The TV Show purports a reality in which digital consciousness exists, giving people the power of immortality (whether they like it or not).  The series follows Takeshi Kovacs, whose consciousness is uploaded into a new body by order of millionaire Lauren's Bancroft in order to solve his own murder case. 

You may recall the tattoo scene in episode one, where Kovac is tattooed on his  arm with an image of a dragon which appears to be eating its own tail?  The tattoo is actually a form of infinity symbol, but it's a little different to your typical infinity symbols that are gaining popularity in the tattoo world at the moment!  The symbol is called Ouroboros, which denotes from the Greek word 'Oura' (tail), and Boros (eating).  It's cyclical, and represents an infinite processs, which is of course analogous of the constant life, death, and rebirth process that takes place in Altered Carbon. 

A shot from the tattoo scene in Altered Carbon.  (I know no gloves are being worn, but this is a TV-show and quite often 'tattoo scenes' in TV-shows don't always get it right when it comes to an accurate portrayal of the tattoo process).

 Ouroboros tattoos have been around for a while, and there are some really interesting ones out there that are all unique in their own way.  These two in particular really caught my eye, as they're both so different in terms of composition and style, but their symbolism is the same.  The set on the left appear to be matching, and I really love the galaxy style that's been incorporated into this, giving it a rather amiable and soft appearance.  The black work one on the other-hand is more traditional and has a much more stark feel to it, and is much similar to Kovac's piece in Altered Carbon. 



I'm excited to see more of what Altered Carbon has to offer.  As a former Philosophy student, I'm particularly interested in the notion of digital consciousness and artificial intelligence and I think that this show portrays the idea of it brilliantly.  The protagonist of the show, Takeshi Kovac is played by the extremely talented Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman, whose wife Cleo Kinnaman is actually a tattoo artist herself, so it'd be interesting to know what her views on the tattoo scene are, and what she thinks of the Ouroboros symbol tattooed on Kovac. 

Joel & Cleo Kinnaman at the premiere of Altered Carbon


The Ouroboros symbol is a really interesting concept that's been a popular tattoo subject for a long time, and whether the infinity symbol is in the form of a snake itself, or in the form of the more popular style of infinity symbol in the shape of a Lemniscate (which looks like a sideways figure of 8), we're sure this type of tattoo is here to stay, and if Altered Carbon has anything to do with it, it may even boost the popularity of Ouroboros tattoos!  If you've tattooed an Ouroboros symbol then we'd be really interested to take a look, so please leave us a comment in the section below, and on the subject of 'Carbon', don't forget you can buy Spirit Manual Impact Carbon Paper from our online store. 


Love Toni...


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  • Antonia McLoughlin