Over the course of the last decade or so tattoos have become more prevalent in today’s society, being accepted at work places as well as social gatherings; what used to be strictly oriented with gangs, thugs, and markings of tribes has become a thing of beauty and individualism. In Adams’ “The Skin We’re In”, he talks about how body modification is an exercised right that we have and that sooner or later everyone will modify themselves in some way to level out the gene pool with which we are stuck with. However, no matter how hard we try, we cannot escape certain death within our own ‘skin’. Utilizing Adams’ text, I am going to concentrate on tattoos as a body modification of your personality. Tattoos are looked at as more of an expression of self than that of a false hope to stay young and avoid death.
Today’s society is constantly telling us that we are judged based on our outward appearance; magazines showing photoshopped women to create unrealistic standards of the body shape and beauty of the ideal woman; men being tall and muscular in every tv ad you see. These are standards that create a self-conscious society which will strive and do anything they can to meet the demands. On page 56 of Adams text, he states: “One recent psychological survey proved that we make our decisions about the attractiveness of people we meet in the space of 150 milliseconds and that this perception of their beauty hardly alters after longer examination”. Such quick judgment leaves no room for a person to even smile at whom they are being judged, or give any indication as to what kind of person they are. With little room for improvement, you could assume thousands of people have been turned down in a plethora of situations before shaking the receivers hand. In order for anyone to have such an opportunity in the real world, why not modify yourself in such a way that purveys your inner self instantly to the receiver without having to even glance at them. In this sense, tattoos could act as a self-expressive way to let others know who you really are. However, because tattoos are simply body markings created for the one who wears it, the possibilities as to why they have been put on skin leads to further questioning of the subject. The idea of the tattoo could simply break away the perception created in the small time frame and lead others to seek out who you truly are by asking about them and finding more about the person within, as opposed to only looking at what is on the outside.
Utilizing tattoos as a form of characteristic traits leaves what is going to be said about yourself completely up to you, and in this sense, you can create a false impression of whom you really are. The pressures of society could also cause one to create a completely different person through their body art, leading others to think they are someone else entirely. On page 59, Adams says: “it challenges us to make our outward selves representative of the traits our culture aspires us to”. If tattoos are being put on someone’s skin in order for them to fulfill the social constructs of our current society anyone could be looked at in a completely wrong light their whole life, either benefiting or hurting themselves or others around them. Tattoos can carry a heavy burden, because this ink is permanent (unless one pays for expensive laser removal) the subject must live with their decision for the rest of their lives. Many young adults begin to cover themselves with such artwork at a young age without little remorse for what may come when they are older. Tattoos are a very dangerous knife to be playing with. I personally think that those who want to cover themselves with such ink must have a certain conviction about it before they dive right in. If there is any chance of regret for such a decision one should stop and rethink their reasoning before they move forward. Because of the permanence of this form of artwork, those who seek attention from society could make irrational decisions, which can hinder them in their later life.
Although tattoos can have a negative outcome, there are many situations where they can become a positive. Artistically creating your personality within can make you a very easy book cover to read, letting others know who you really are instantly. My take on tattoos goes directly towards that of a diary, or even something of a timeline. Tattoos may not necessarily reflect who you are for the rest of your life, but they can act as a memory to a stage in your life, allowing you to relive those happy or sad experiences. Adams’ text on page 59 highlights my thoughts exactly: “We might think of this process as a desire to make ourselves feel at home in our own skin; to make our “envelope” reflect more fully the message we feel within”. Although some tattoos create a deeper meaning within than just the artwork seen on the skin, it reveals a door for the possibility to look deeper into a person than someone normally would. Bernard Clarke is a perfect example of such a person. Bernard Clarke is a Photographer in Kingston, Ontario who recently had his exhibit shown at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Clarke’s exhibition concentrates on surreal composited portraits of tattooed subjects in landscape and architectural settings. He takes the tattooed subject and creates a background that emulates that of the persons skin. Through this unique technique of the perception of others, Clarke is using that first split second of appearance to concentrate on the persons skin and what the person is trying to purvey as opposed to only concentrating on their looks in today’s society.
For the person who is getting the tattoo the possibilities are endless. Ultimately, you can control how people begin to see you at first glance. The choice is up to you whether you want to: enhance your inner characteristics, portray that of the current social constructs, or merely express certain individualism and intrigue for those who see you. Tattoos allow us to be limitless with our skin and in turn stop the split second judgment of beauty in some way or another. What it all boils down to is you allow yourself to be judged differently than everyone else. Not only will it take longer for someone to completely understand you, this intrigue from others may be the difference between being looked into, and being ignored. Tattoos are a choice, and whether you choose to have any is completely up to you, but this form of body modification concentrates on the inner self, as opposed to simply creating false hope of staying young forever.