Englistics: David Beckham’s most recent tatoo inspires a return to the word atavistic and the cultural significance of body marking and its associated symbolism. For comparison we look at the Danish view using the word “En Blotter” – which helps create a pun – and a Jyllandsposten cartoon (no not that one!).“The wheel turns and the new water, sparkling in the light, rushes in to renew and give fresh momentum to the wheel. The old water falls away to the standing pool where it rests still dark and brooding – before finally gushing away”. How else could one begin a post that considers profound religious issues, the meaning of family and the dangers of mortal vanity and hubris on a Sunday, than with a reflective verse imbued with pastoral overtones?
What maybe harder to reconcile is the fact this construct is informed and inspired by the new David Beckham “Christ is Cross” tattoo.
In principle new replaces old and in literature more often than life. However there is one facet of modern life that regularly seems to defy natural cycles and that is personal celebrity.
The need to feed the seemingly insatiable appetite of newspapers and webpages and their publics, older celebrities are being reinvented – and some almost resurrected! Others moving toward the end of their initial careers, like David Beckham, are trying to manage the change as they become more marginal in their own fields. This change produces its own pressures and can lead to increasingly bizarre behaviour and stunts – as the new religious tatoo proves unsurprisingly reproduced by UK newspaper the Sun – and more importantly his explanation of its narrative.
Experience tells us the balancing item it all of this, and that should condition all our thoughts and those of celebrity, is that everything new is not great and everything old is not past its sell by date. In the rush to the new it’s important to understand what represents an evolutionary trend, pregnant with Zeitgeist and what is a Fad – something that sparkles for a moment then quickly goes from good to bad.
Hip Hop and Rap Music are clearly part of a longer term trend which continues to have a societal impact, but even in their comparative short shelf lives they have already inspired a whole selection of music and fashion fads. Amongst the great music and more than several bold moment defining events and statements Hip Hop and Rap has been responsible for some of the worst music ever written and most preposterous and embarrassing fashion statements that will haunt people through their lives, especially now Digital photography records every waking moment.
Two directly associated trends that have really become engrained in street fashion and polite societies psyche is “sagging” and tattooing. As regards “sagging” the signals are that it is not going anywhere soon as the sexualisation process of the male, beginning in the 1980’s, is now almost complete ( and it seems girls appear to think so to http://tiny.cc/7wflk ).
It will probably be a reasonable period before the generation “caught with their pants down” – or “Generation Y Fronts” – begins to realise the part they played in a big cultural change: historically demonstrations of masculinity have been made from the front not the back. No longer! – not meant as a reference to another male insecurity, size, but then again as it is now out there – everywhere – we should probably add it to the list!
So as art goes digital, note “Fresh Flowers” by David Hockney which was at Yves St Laurent Gallery, Paris in early 2011, allowing it to be fluid, transitory and continually evolve, the art of body marking remains static and, by definition, permanent. There maybe psychological, sociological and the odd semiotic one reasons for this but how healthy is this art form and is Tattoo’s palate about to fade?
Excessive Tattooing was beginning to start to appear passé, as the trend seemed to be reverting back toward a single
tattoo (i.e. Ronaldo as seen in style leading Armani advertisements) or and yesterday’s news, until well yesterday! The question is does David Beckham’s classical new neo-religious tattoo http://tiny.cc/0zpm7 suggest the art is alive and well and not in perennial decline?
The issue is slightly a bigger one than a simple trend. The physiological and psychological effects of tattooing will be around for quite a while and though marginally less long-term as a record than anything written on the internet – we die the internet lives on – for all intents and purposes they are indelible.
When a subject is so far entrenched in the public consciousness that it inspires humour, it has passed beyond the cutting edge and has entered the mainstream and is therefore ripe for debate. Comedy in all is forms, and satire in particular is often society’s mirror. Those experiencing “Forbrydelsen” (“The Killing” a brilliant series on BBC4) will see how many cultural similarities Denmark has with Britain – monarchy, political structures, drink culture, empowered women – and much of its humour.
This cartoon illustrates how popular Tattooing has become in Denmark. The direct translation of “En Blotter” into English is “Flasher”. The suggestion is that those individuals without tattoos are the exhibitionist’s. A total reverse of previous norms. It does throw a light on the question who is in the herd and who is the individual?
Studies undertaken at Oxford University, relayed in an earlier blog, appear to see it as Atavistic behaviour. References drawn from ancient history seem to suggest that it is anti-Christian because it involves body defilement, and is a mark associated with slavery. The link to slavery makes it strangely ironic that so many black guys, especially from the rap fraternity, choose to mark themselves in this way – or maybe this is exactly the point.
In more recent times it has been seen as the mark of the downtrodden, down-market and working class, with its status being elevated first by Heavy Rock artists and Punks and now by the fashion leaders (or in this case because of the deforming nature of tattoo’s possibly “victims?”). Both David Beckham and Daniel Agger the Dane playing for Liverpool, are celebrities, but maybe their traditional
Both of them are considered attractive by their legions of fans, however often the online discussions and bulletin
boards are punctuated by criticism from their female admirers who comment on the destruction of beauty and of, “gilding the Lilly”; Victoria (the one misspelt in Hindi on his back) is also said not to like the speed of his skin coverage. Maybe the fact there are few deprecatory comment from males implies that there could be an underlying “code” that connects tattooing with statements of masculinity – in an increasingly insecure world – and other homo erotic connections.
The initial debate may focus on whether David Beckham is having a Tom Cruise or even a David Iyke moment (the hubris caused by too much celebrity is a dangerous thing history has proved), the real debate will be about the cultural significance of Tattooing. By this I do not mean the subject matter of the tattoos – although the symbol of Beckham as the The Christ with his children waiting on him may be a bridge too far for many of a religious persuasion – but the very act of having them inked across broad swathes of your party as a normal citizen rather demigod.
So has the pendulum started to swing back and is tattooing falling out of favour? The Danes appear to be challenging the recent fashion to tattoo. What is clear the debate about excessive tattooing has just been reignited, but whatever its conclusions the impact of the current tattooing trend will be visible for a long-time to come with possible implications for those whose style of tattoo’s will date and date them.