Tortoise Festival of ThinkIns – Tattoos: an InkIn

Saturday 29 June 2019

Duration: 12:15PM - 1:15PM

16-19 Eastcastle Street, London, W1W 8DY

Status: Completed

Tattoos: an InkIn. Something deep is happening on our skin: an old taboo about body art has been broken in the space of just a few years. Tattoos used to be a sign of seafaring life at best and criminality at worst. Now they’re commonplace. What should we read into this new form of expression? What does it say about the way we mark ourselves out as individuals; and could the cultural norms which have shifted to decide that tattoos are OK shift back to create a generation of unhappily inked- up individuals?

Our special guests for this ThinkIn included:

Alex Binnie owner of 1770 Tattoo in Brighton.

Dominique Holmes, tattoo artist and activist.

Matt Lodder, senior lecturer in Art History at the University of Essex.

The Readout 

I’ll be honest, I was worried that this InkIn might end up being a vanity contest; a chance to show off body art and argue about where the most painful place is to get inked.

It didn’t turn out that way. It made me think differently about my own addiction to tattoos, and it gave me a deeper understanding of why we like sitting through hours of pain (or pleasure).

Tattoos are a rebellion, a form of expression, a way of dealing with something traumatic or, as one audience member said, a way of marking oneself with life’s big moments. Are they also a form of self-harm? 

Dom Holmes, a tattooist and activist, asked us to consider how tattoos for women and men are completely different experiences in terms of expression and acceptance in the industry. The room was shocked. How can the act of tattooing be so liberal yet the industry itself be so conservative? And how are female tattoo artists treated in the industry? 

We turned to the history of tattooing. Through his research, Matt Lodder found that throughout history, there have been more photos of women with tattoos than men. And for 140 years, we in the media have colluded in the idea that tattooing is a hot new trend when in fact it is eternal.

What next?