Friday, April 3, 2009
Ink on the dot
The process of tattooing. Why does our modern day generation take part in this practice? What compels us to have ink permanently put into our skin. It begs the question, is it vanity, is it art, or is it simply both? Certainly, tattoos can reflect different periods of a persons life. Their total dedication to a culture; Their hopes, their dreams, their personalities or their memories can all be translated into tattoos. But why? Why would someone wish to take something that resides within them and place it upon their flesh? Perhaps its a way to make the incorporeal into the material. A bookmark in ones life to remind the self what one has gained and what one has lost. A story in a life's journey.
Tattoos have burst into the mainstream with a yell and a stomp within the last 40 years. Its not just the uncivilized that tend to get work done these days, its the lawyers, the doctors, the engineers, and the nanny's that help contribute to the growing numbers. At some point in time, it became acceptable for a “normal person” who contributed to society, to have a tattoo. They were no longer shunned or dismissed, but instead praised on the quality of the work. Tattoos suddenly were started to be appreciated more as pieces of moving art rather than a symbol of non-conformity.
What caused this shift? This increased surge of individuals who wanted to reclaim their body? Could it be nothing more than a “trend” which has yet to see its end? Perhaps. But let me offer another explanation.
It was the start of the sixties. A time of mass political and social upheaval in the western world. People were starting to refuse to accept the norm and questions were being asked. Suburban, intelligent teenagers had begun to experiment, both with drugs as well as a different streams of thought. It was the age of the true rebel.
For most of the flower power generation, it was an age of great growth, both socially as well as individually. There however needed to be a fitting form of recording such triumphant acts. Tattooing seemed to be the answer. It served as an automatic segregation from the class structure which most were fighting against and at the same time created a unique shared experience. Although every tattoo and story were different, the symbol of laying down permanent ink on your body was enough to distinguish an individual as not “one of them”. Thus, no longer was the tattoo the flag of the outcast and misunderstood. Now, it became a strong representative for the pissed off mass.
It slowly evolved from there to what we see here today. Now a days, cultural talk does not see tattoos as a means of segregation from established society, but simply as evolved pieces of art.
What, you ask, can possibly be the motivation then? Vanity is a possible explanation. It, as with most things, drives a person towards what they think helps them look better. As with the past, tattoos today are used for decorative, spiritual, identification, and cosmetic reasons.
However, if we were to dig a little deeper we would realize that a tattoo does have a certain type of aura surrounding it, especially in today's world. Not to say that the individuals with the tattoos are seen as miscreants and low lives (although, at one time this was true), but they are simply now subject to a completely different form of analyzation.
The hidden mystic of a tattoo is something powerful and hungry. This perception of unbridled intensity which lies just underneath the surface can be a powerful magnet to some. This radiates off most good tattoos and can be a very powerful enticement to get inked.
Many don't understand tattoos. They find them neither fascinating or attractive. In fact, some would go as far to say that they clutter up an already perfect piece of art. I can in some sense understand this point of view, but fail to see its merits. A tattoo is simply an extension of what and who you are. It is a declaration to the rest of the world without you having to say a single word.
Posted by Husain Vahanvaty aka Keebler at 10:21 PM