In tattooing no one style of design can be held to be inherently superior. From old School sailor tattoos to modern Chinese Watercolor the skill to perform, irrespective of your field and technique, is the underlying factor that necessitates respect. Additionally, personal inclination towards any one style is too beyond reproach. Preference should not be graded. the issue is that quality can be. And with this there are two distinct types of tattoos. the first are prefabricated or minimally altered designs applied by a tattooist. the second are unique commissions individually recognizable as works of art applied by artists. the former is a tattoo. the latter is tattoo art. the three following situations offer a rationale behind the prevalence of the commonly touted tattoo:
1) Digital Socialization: the first days of widespread internet access, personal e-mail accounts and online pornography spawned a phenomenon referred to here as novel ethical maneuvering. the constant trumping in obtainable levels of vulgarity, debasement or shocking images through a volley of e-mails became a widespread practice. the humorous Godwin’s Law states that as any online argument escalates in severity the probability of one participant comparing their other to a Nazi approaches 1 (or 100%). the aforementioned phenomenon of ‘novel ethical maneuvering’ is much the same as Godwin’s Law – only without a finite point of potential termination. the ability and method by which to invoke a reaction has no baseline or ceiling. it is not moving towards a probability of 1 but rather simply branching out in alternate, limitless directions. Today social media sites offer an almost global reach at the cost of traditional human interaction. this digital socialization has two distinct repercussions; decreased importance placed on personal conformation to social appearance norms and the ‘novel ethical maneuvering’ of interactions in order to gain or hold attention. Comparatively impersonal interactions allow for a looser set of physical or ‘off-line’ standards. a near incomprehensible range of interaction choices dictate increasingly striking ‘attention grabbing’ tactics. this effect is then amplified through the user’s ability to join online niche groups (such as ‘tattoo enthusiasts’ or ‘lovers of body art’), a set of actions and shared ideologies ordinarily referred to as sub-culture association. these niche groups then reinforce the aforementioned repercussions of digital socialization. Tattoos have been adopted due to the ‘novel ethical maneuvering’ of personal appearance. In short, digital socialization has allowed for many bad tattooists of varying fame and repute to make quick money.
2) the Health Food Correlation: Or more specifically, why junk is still in demand. Today most any piece of information known to mankind is readily available. For any individual living in a developed country the excuse that one does not understand the basics of nutrition or the physical results of a fast food diet has no ground. Completely separate from any suicidal tendencies (in which smoking and extreme sports are also classed), the rationale most commonly used for fast food consumption is the preservation of time. Many state that the demands of modern life limit attention once devoted to healthy, home cooked meals. Ironically, a goal of body maintenance through balanced nutrition would be increased productivity. using the same convoluted logic, junk tattoos have become prevalent. They are easy to apply and the people applying them have no waiting list. As with junk food the end goal is instant obtainment irrespective of any long term, detrimental effects. the stomach is empty and needs to be filled, a simple equation should standards of quality be lacking. a section of skin is empty and needs to be covered, with what and by who is of minimal importance should the standards of quality be lacking. Short term results outweigh the long term negative effects and immediacy takes precedence.
3) Post-Modernly-Scrooged: Post Modernism has been defined as the flattening of culture. the once meaning rich image of Che Guevara is now placed on children’s notebooks. Mobile telephone ringtones have been turned into popular songs and classical concertos into ringtones. Salvidor Dali’s surrealist paintings have been used by countless individuals for their online avatars and the morality kneaded into commercials more often reside in the popular consciousness than does religious scripture (although this last example might actually be considered progress). Since the introduction of the electric tattoo machine and the standard ‘tattoo studio’ the cultural value or potency of tattoo images for many has also been flattened. As such the concept of a discerning tattoo collector is somewhat abstract in the popular zeitgeist. with comparative standardization of the cultural currency of tattoo images their price of application has too become generally homogeneous. the standardized cost and meaning has allowed for somewhat of an unbiased adoption by mainstream Western society. the goal for many is to simply carry ink rather than a form of cultural currency. Instead of commissioning an artist for a unique creation many simply adhere to the mega-store, mass produced economies of scale. if the end user cannot discern between the varying levels of potency then price and speed of attainment trump all other factors. a finger painting from a kindergartner and a Picasso will seem comparable if presented on a level platform to one who does not understand the criteria by which to judge them.
The value of an artist should not only be derived from their portfolio but more importantly, from their attitude towards the creation of the unique. these aforementioned trends and influences, although perhaps initially bleak, no more heralds the end of tattoo art than television meant the end of cinema. the mass consumption of rapid fire images compared to the depth of a true cinematic experience holds. As the television standards of common tattoos have been on the rise there are still those that will always value the artistry found in unique commissions. the mass tattoo consumption is undeniably a trend yet the evidence of this style-du-jour remains indelible. the definition of true art is something that inspires and transcends, demand nothing less from body art.