The research will start out by covering the main debates as to whether tattoo is and should be considered as artistic practice, and move on to the social constructs which bind both the tattoo and the cultures through which it permeates, as well as what the academy considers to be art and the ways in which tattoo meets (and fails) those tests. The question is posited as to whether indeed it matters whether tattoos are considered as “art” and how that value judgement affects practice and perception. This will be considered for both contemporary and historical tattoo practice.
What follows is then an overview of the role of music motifs in tattoo culture incorporating composer /conductor / performer portraits, images of dance, musical instruments and song lyrics as well as more abstract forms with embedded music. These motifs are explored as visual images and conductors of social message and meaning.
The final part of the research deals with specific case studies. This section of the research is of particular importance, as the evidence it presents will be taken from living tattooists and their (for the most part living) canvases.
Debra Pring has been invited to work with the FBI Gang Tattoo Unit as a research base into gang tattoos in LA, in particular in relation to their adoption among Mexican and Puerto Rican gangs in the city.