Tattooing’s Biggest Trend Is Spooky, Sensual Cybersigilism

Tattoos mark the body with a unique pattern—but tattoos, just like anything else, are subject to trends. Currently, a design category defined by long, spearlike lines, symmetrical, tribal-like patterns and cyberpunk precision is flooding the social media feeds of permanent ink enthusiasts. Some of these tattoos look like armor, or veins, or a lattice of tributaries flowing into a river. The effect is simultaneously alien, natural and futuristic. It’s also undeniably hard to describe.

“Someone please name that popular style of tattooing that everyone does now which has all the ornate, medieval, spiky, fine-line detailing and unconnected lines,” Jackson Johnson tweeted last week.

Noel Garcia, a Brooklyn-based tattoo artist who goes by on Instagram, calls the style Cybersigilism; sigil, a word derived from Latin, refers to a sign or symbol thought to hold occult or magical power.

When reached by The Daily Beast, Garcia was looking forward to a tattoo appointment they’d scheduled for themselves later in the day. “I’m actually tattooing my face,” Garcia said. “It’s going to be wings in white pink coming down onto the cheekbone area. You know how Mike Tyson has a tribal tattoo on the side? It’s going to be kind of like that, but much more subtle and feminine.”

When Tyson, already infamous for his six-year stint in prison for a rape conviction and for biting a chunk out of fellow heavyweight boxer Evander Holyfield’s ear during a match, showed up to a fight with a brand-new tribal face tattoo in 2003, it instantly became celebrity legend, sealing his reputation as a fearsome and intimidating presence.

With the revival of 2000s trends like tiny Y2K sunglasses, baguette bags and cargo pants currently raging, it stands to reason that tattoos, too, are reflecting the flavors of a not-so-bygone era, filtered through a contemporary and distinctly dystopian lens.

They almost act like jewelry adornments that flow with the body.

Noel Garcia

Traditional American tattoos tend to be characterized by thick lines of ink, bright colors and a narrow series of imagistic reference points (ships, maidens, “I Love Mom”) but abstracted Cybersigilist designs, Garcia said, are harder to pin down.

“People always want a strong meaning behind their tattoos, and I think with these tattoos, you usually find the meaning after getting them tattooed,” Garcia said. “They just become a part of the person’s body, and that person becomes their own video game character or fashion character or warrior, or whatever you want to call it. They almost act like jewelry adornments that flow with the body.”

Photos Courtesy of Noel Garcia

In January of 2022, Garcia tattooed pop star and former Elon Musk paramour Grimes, who deftly weaves futurist and Anime-informed themes through her art. Garcia ended up tattooing her sternum with a Cybercigilist design in white ink.

“She said she’d had bad luck with creating concepts or finding artists that could realize a vision for her, so she said she just wanted to pick out the cooler artists and have them take control and tell her what looks best on her body,” Garcia said.

After the Grimes stamp of approval, Garcia got a ton more clients looking to replicate their tattoo style.

Garcia said that while they were one of the first tattoo artists to really push this style, they were introduced to it via artists in Mexico City: “I feel like the Mexican side of tattooing is a little bit more spooky and punk.”

Ernesto Ramirez, a Mexico City-based tattoo artist fluent in Cybersigilist designs who goes by @neto_rabia on Instagram, told The Daily Beast that he’d seen requests for the style really start to pick up in the last six months.

“But when I started to do it maybe four years ago, a lot of people were asking me about how I make the tattoos and what kind of tools I used to do it,” Ramirez said. He’s happy to share his techniques with anyone who asks.

“One of the things I want to do is spread this kind of feeling—I don’t know if in my fantasy it’s like a disease or a kind of poison,” Ramirez said. “In the way that I do it, I try to feel something like horror or a dark side, and I want to make the world turn into more of this kind of feeling.”

“Most popular things are very soft, like the movies,” Ramirez said. “I feel that popular movies are very naive, and I want to introduce more violence, or something hard.”

Artist Aingel, whose Instagram handle is @cybersigilism, has been tattoing for the last six years and splits her time between Atlanta and New York. “After about three years of really trying to push this style, I started to do some bigger pieces and haven’t really turned back since,” she told The Daily Beast.

“For me, the sigils kind of started as something that just helped me get through a really dark time, and at first I really wasn’t able to tattoo them,” Aingel said. “It was more of a side thing and they were just for me and helped me feel better. After a while, I started being able to offer that to other people. At the end of the day, as long as the people that I’m giving tattoos are walking out happy and feeling good about their body, that’s the most important meaning.”

People often dedicate tattoos to outside influences—loved ones or songs or works of art that carry deep significance. Cybercigilism, with its exaggerated, techno-biological grace, feels more like a radical acceptance of the sensual, wordless, often-dark, extremely complex self.

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