Inked AU/NZ – Authentink Article – January 2013
by Kian ‘Horisumi’ Forreal
A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us. – Anon
And nothing could be truer in the tattoo world. So many years ago when tattoo artists were spread thin across the world and we were a few and far between breed it was refreshing and almost therapeutic to meet another one of our kind that understood us and our life and everything that went along with living like a pirate as an outsider to society. I miss those days… but alas one cannot can dwell too much in the past or be too nostalgic lest life pass them by. Now I think we need to come to terms with reality; we can’t all be friends. Some tattooers really are jack asses and need to be called out, in the days gone by you might give someone a pass for being a jerk; due to sheer numbers you couldn’t afford to lose connections to the tattoo world. Not a problem anymore.. hell, if anything the tattoo world needs an industrial grade culling. Entire genres of tattooing will be a distant memory in a decade… like fat lined ‘new school’ of the 90’s is now.
The tattoo bubble is awesome in so many ways and has really brought the artwork to a new level and tattoo acceptance to the mainstream in some great ways… but every cloud 9 also has a dark shitty lining.. and that is that the upstarts, the biters, the young wannabes and to some degree the undeserving that seem to be taking over tattooing in social media and public perception.
Maybe its just me… who knows… and really I am just thinking out loud here so don’t hold me too much to what I am saying but from my perspective it looks to me like tattooing has been somewhat hijacked by the people with the least connection to tattoo tradition, history or ethics for that matter. And when I say hijacked I mean just that… the pillars of the tattoo world, the quiet ones that work hard, put in the long hours and have been at it since the get go, these guys don’t need the fanfare and the hype and the sponsorships and all that jazz, they’re just busy making great tattoos and trying to keep the true spirit alive while staying true to the game. The new comers are the ones that have zero idea on what’s what, no connection, didn’t do an apprenticeship, never worked with a mentor, these guys and girls that are running amok… they’re in their own camp now, they’re busy tattooing the young set, they’re on magazine covers, tv shows, ads for tattoo products.. when they post a picture of a tattoo they’ve done they this list what machine, what ink, what needles they used… all that stuff up to 5 years ago was a major no-no and for a good reason that can be summed up by the following:
There are two rules to success:
and now all the cool kids are doing it, telling anyone who will listen how they did this or that tattoo, what the best machines and ink are… that’s nice to share with your close friends in private, help each other out.. I do it, we all do it. But long facebook posts that are open to the public… this encourages the eBay generation to buy that kit… I don’t know wtf happened.. well I do.. as I was saying… they hijacked this shit because the rest of are too busy working and doing our own shit that no one was paying attention when they took over. I don’t have 10, 20 or 30,000 instagram followers.. but some of these young tattooers do and that’s awesome for them… very successful marketing and good on them. Its what they do with the success that is worrisome. Young tattooers aren’t so much looking up to tattoo legends like Paul Braniff or Trevor Mcstay or Filip Leu or Henning Jorgensen as much as they are to the younger more accessible crowd, the facebook/insta crowd, the crowd that shares and reveals everything… and it really is no wonder now that I actually put into words what I have been thinking… they are going where the information is. It used to be that to learn you actually went to the where the information was, you got off your ass and arranged to work with your idol or at least get tattooed by him.. and to be dead fair some of these young talented guys do just that.. and those aren’t the ones I am talking about. I guess you’re probably wondering what my actual point is… and that’s a good question, I have had all this stuff brewing in my head over the holidays and I have been trying to figure out what it is that is bothering me… almost like a sliver in my brain that I can’t get out, after rereading here what I have written I guess what the problem is is this: The tattoers that care need to look back to the rules of the game and heed them.. they are there for a reason. And the ones that don’t care for rules or keeping it real.. well they can get fucked because they are part of the problem. That about sums it up.
Which bring me to my next issue which I am sure is somehow related to the first issue; I recently went out for dinner and drinks with a couple friends in Darling Harbour on a Sunday afternoon, it was a hot day, I was wearing a collared polo shirt, new dark jeans and immaculate shoes, my friend was wearing a polo shirt as well and dressed clean and proper, the lady that was with us was in a sun dress and heels. I was the only one with visible tattoos, both my arms to the wrist, no hand or neck tattoos and nothing gang or racist or otherwise offensive.
We got knocked back from the first 3 places we tried to get into because of my visible tattoos, sometimes politely and sometimes not so much. I was told by the doormen I couldn’t come in unless I covered them.. its like 30 degrees outside… so not an option. BUT.. the place that wins the award for being the biggest douchebags.. and yes I will name names.. is PONTOON Bar in Darling Harbour. One of the ‘tough’ doormen himself, a caucasian, and I not making this up, he was fully sleeved to the wrist with ‘tribal’ tattoos and the sleeves of his skin tight security shirt were rolled up as high as they could possibly go, and he was fronting up to me telling me I couldn’t come in with my tattoos. I honestly thought he was joking and so my mate and I started laughing and tried to walk in.. now this is 5pm on a sunday, I am dead sober… and this heavily tattooed guy is barring my entrance to get dinner.. we were starving, for something he himself is ‘guilty’ of… when I pointed out the irony/hypocrisy of it all it made him even more pissed off… which made us laugh even more. The other doorman who was an Islander and most likely tattooed himself with traditional tattoos had his sleeves rolled down and was very polite and I could see he was somewhat embarrassed by the situation.. Because really, it was fucking ridiculous. I asked to speak to the manager, and was refused that courtesy as well.. now I was getting annoyed, remember I said I was hungry… I get grumpy when I don’t eat.. so things got a bit heated with tribal guy and we decided best to leave than the other option… my mate and I weren’t up to the task of taking on a small army of doormen just to get a feed.
So I asked myself.. is this discrimination? And I have decided that yes it is… discrimination based solely on physical appearance, which CAN be against the law. I know that New South Wales at the moment does allow this form of discrimination to be a grey area, while Victoria does not. In fact not that long ago a similar situation happened to a young man in Victoria and his case was brought to the Human Rights Commission and they sided with the young bar patron that he should not be excluded from service solely because of his tattoos, and that bars and venues that deny entry for this reason only could in fact be breaking the law!
From the Ballarat Courier:
“The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission told The Courier that banning nightclub patrons because of exposed tattoos could be a breach of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, unless the tattoos were offensive. “
So it seems that Victoria is leading the way in tattoo rights, while Queensland, WA and New South Wales are still in the dark ages in relation to discrimination based on tattoos.
To be fair to the venues I understand to a certain degree that there are some segments of society that they would want to exclude from their venues to keep the atmosphere and tranquility for other patrons. And this should be done on a case-by-case basis that is irrespective of ones tattoos, or at the very least it could be one factor in assessing a person that would include dress, behavior and attitude to staff. I worked door for nearly 10 years when I was young…and there is a lot more to read in a person than only their tattoos.
So in Sydney a licensed venue may refuse right of entry or service as long as they are not discriminating… who decides what it is to discriminate? If you refuse entry to two men or two women holding hands is that discriminating? Or to a person in a wheelchair? To someone with an outrageous haircut? A birthmark or a disfigurement? Missing teeth? Nice colorful tattoos on their arms? Crappy black and Grey tattoos on the neck? Who draws this line? I could not track down an exact estimate of what percentage of Australians as a whole were tattooed but I found a few statistics. Around 20-25% of Australians between 18-40 have at least one tattoo. That’s a big fucking number. WE have a voice here and we should not let these do-gooder puritans run our city. These aren’t fancy cocktail bars and 5 star restaurants that are banning us, I regularly eat at fine dining establishments and have never had a problem getting service. These are pubs and night clubs and dinner spots, places we go everyday that are trying to stop us being us. In the words of Andrew Stanway of Bar and Restaurant ‘Mrs Sippy’ in Double Bay, “We don’t want the riff-raff, we don’t want the crap..” Really… so 25% of hardworking Australians with an interest in tattooing are riff raff?? Gotta pick your words better mate. This is what we’re up against… people with that attitude. And this is why I am constantly harping on the tattoo community to keep its game tight.. do the right thing, stop acting like these people think we are. I want tattooing to be popular and awesome as it benefits us all… but it also needs to be respectful to itself.. and true to the game, what’s the point of being mainstream if you can’t even get a beer and a drink!