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Your Flesh:

At What Cost?

by AdamSkyArtist

April 29, 2005

Everyday our lives and personal space is encroached by advertising. It's almost impossible to glance anywhere on any surface deemed public space without some sort of corporate brand glaring back at you, drilling your brain with carefully fabricated suggestions to consume. Advertising has become the white noise or a gentle hum, so ever-present that if it weren't to exist, how long would it take for us to notice?

I first broke into tattooing in the early 90's. It was a Renaissance period for tattooing at that time; lots of new artists were landing on the scene and creating a new style of tattooing that was heavily artistic and subsequently tattooing got better and more accessible to lots of new found devotees. It was truly the beginning of the big tattoo boom that heralded in a new era in tattooing and as tattooing artistically and technically progressed, more people got tattooed and suddenly tattooing was a world wide sensation - completely reinvented and ready for mass consumption. I was very lucky to open my first tattoo shop when the wave was first starting to peak.

To promote my new shop I got a batch of tattoo shop t-shirts printed up. I was at the silk screener's print studio one afternoon talking with the owner; an older gentlemen who had been in the t-shirt printing business since 'the beginning'. Laughing, he asked me if I felt that tattooing was "here to stay". "Oh yeah," I said. "Tattooing has been a part of our culture for a long time. It's only now that it's really hit the big time." The screen printer told me that back in the late 50's, screen printed t-shirts first came from France and when it hit America, everyone thought screen printed clothes was going to be a passing fancy. "No one wants to wear a logo on their clothes" was the common consensus of that day. I think the old timer was drawing parallels between printed clothing and printed bodies.

Companies have figured out ways to make our bodies walking advertisements. Our shoes are splashed with sports logos; our t-shirts identify us as consumers of music; we are indoctrinating ourselves into franchised sports tribes and boasting our allegiance with one-size-fits-all headgear. We create our own outward identities by latching on to an ideal of self, manufactured in a corporate boardroom.

Branding our skin with corporate logos is certainly nothing new. Steadfast have been the staples of tattoo imagery like the Harley-Davidson Motorcycles logo or Warner Bros' Tazmanian Devil. And in recent times tattoo customers have proclaimed their brand allegiance via the tattoo with the Nike swoosh and the Macintosh partially consumed apple. This is every corporation's wet dream: A customer so loyal to his or her fascination with a product that they would identify their existence with a product by permanently emblazing their hide with a corporate identity.

A company doesn't create a brand to identify their product; a company creates a brand that identifies the lifestyle that accompanies their product. For instance, Harley-Davidson Motorcycles isn't selling simple two wheeled transportation with their wings and shield logo, they're selling the notion of brotherhood and freedom. By purchasing a Harley-Davidson, you're pronouncing to the world that you connect with the branded lifestyle created by the Harley-Davidson marketing team. The same goes for Harley-

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