‘From Folk Artists to Integrated Professionals: The portrayal of tattoos in The Electric Michelangelo and Voodoo Pilchard’

Authors: Dix, H.

Editors: Watson, K. and Cox, K.

Publisher: Manchester University Press

Place of Publication: Manchester

ISBN: 978-1526128676

Drawing on Howard Becker’s classic sociological analysis of different art worlds, this essay analyses the portrayal of tattooing as cultural practice in Sarah Hall’s The Electric Michelangelo and Alan Kent’s Voodoo pilchard, and the portrayal of the sites in which that practice is situated both discursively and geographically. The portrayal of the tattoo in recent fiction points to a radical instability in the perceived status of tattooing as social practice. The social practice of tattooing is situated in the context of rapid commercial development on the one hand; and of the activities of a ‘criminal’ underworld on the other. The essay considers the legitimacy of tattoos as serious art in the early twentieth century and today, and the effects of this on the politically transgressive potential of the practice.

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