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Postmodernism refers to an architecture, philosophy or cultural practice that arose in reaction to or after modernism. Proponents of postmodernism have a critical view of art and cultural practices that formed the reality in the modern times. Postmodernism is a notion that is intertwined with popular art and architecture. Popular signs and art have dominated our sense of reality and the way we define ourselves and the world around us. The mass media for instance, has long been thought to be a reflection of social reality in the society, but it seem like the media has subsumed the society.

Postmodern architecture

Postmodernism emerged in the 1960’s and 1970’s as a result of the interaction between politics and culture. At that point in time Vietnam was considered to be an organizing referent. Today, postmodern architecture is multisided citationally and combines both neopragmatism and

Technotriumphalism. Our cultural practices are influenced to some extent by postmodernism ideologies and beliefs. Postmodern architects rediscovered the symbolic and expressive value of architectural forms that evolved over the centuries. Large scale examples of postmodern architecture include the Oregon Sony building in the city of New York. This form of architecture borrows a lot from earlier abandoned buildings. This has been evident in terms of color and form. Postmodernism has also been cited in body art and beautification as depicted by the tattooing practice that has dominated the western culture.

Analysis of tattooing practice

Tattooing is an art that has become very common in the post modern society. The art involves making permanent decorative marks on part of the human body. In this art indelible ink is inserted into the dermal layers to change the pigmentation of the skin. White people with tattoos have black or red pigmentation after tattooing. Explorers in the eighteenth century discovered tattoos to have been widespread amongst the Polynesians and other tribes in different continents of the world. The art of tattooing dates back to far as 3000BC in Egypt. Historians and Archeologists claim that the marks that appeared on the mummies of Egyptians and Nubians were actually tattoos. For centuries, tattooing has become a very significant cultural practice that has attracted the attention of artists and anthropologists. Tattoos vary in size and design and have different meanings depending on individual beliefs and ideologies (Poisson, 2010).

Proponents of postmodernism argue that the media has taken over the reality. In these cases the society perceives its reality from what is observed in the media. The manner in which the media brings out the culture of tattooing has an impact on what the society perceives to be the reality about the art. Tattoos have been highlighted in popular media culture through cinema and television. The images of modern television and cinema heroes like Michael Scofield in Prison break have an impact on the consumption of tattoos as a cultural element. So many people made tattoos on their bodies because they perceive it to be a good form of expression. The significance of tattoos in expressing hidden meaning is well articulated in the media.

Consumerism can also be noticed in postmodern culture. In this regard, the middle class in the society has been portrayed to be playing a very significant role in manipulating popular culture to promote consumerism. There has been an emergence of different occupations that are significant in the promotion of popular culture. The work of individuals in these professions helps a lot in the construction of postmodern culture. These groups of people are also responsible for the creation and development of postmodern culture. However they may be unaware of their important role in the process of constructing popular culture within the context of postmodernism (Watson, 1998).

The middle class is an occupational group that manipulates the various cultural symbols and images just to encourage consumerism. This has been the case with the use of tattoos by this occupational group. Occupations like design, marketing, advertising, production and many others have been associated with the sale of notions of personal psychological fulfillment. This has been achieved with the way they treat the tattoos in the course of their day to day activities. These people are involved in the use and consumption of tattoos as a popular culture in the postmodern world. Their use of this art and culture influences their expression of popular culture as well as the decisions and beliefs of other people they interact with (Jordan, 2010).

Postmodernists claim that there is a breakdown in distinction between art and popular culture. This is in light of the ideologies and practices of various occupational groups. This is quite important for the social groups and their role in constructing and spreading popular culture. The ideologies and practices done by teachers, social workers, designers, advertisers and other groups are critical in the consumption of tattoos as a popular culture. For instance, if a teacher believes that tattoos constitute the culture of criminal gangs, this could impact on the students and even parents. There perception of reality with regard to the use of tattoos is affected by the ideology of the teacher. The same thing applies to doctors and dermatologists whose profession can be to some extent interact with people using tattoos (Kosut, 2006).

The theory of symbolic creativity, advanced by Paul Willis is very significant in the discussion of tattoos in postmodernism. The theory postulates that tattoos were a form of expression through symbols that conveyed a particular theme.Tattooing has been used in some cultures for identity purposes. This has been evident in the Aboringial and Japanese cultures. Tattoos have been used just like the clothes and hairstyles we wear to identify and decorate our bodies (Hancock, 2005).

In postmodernism there seems to be more emphasis on the style of tattooing rather than the content in the art. Tattoos in America are used by young men to express their fashion or post modern way of life. They have their own styles of doing the tattoos unlike what was witnessed earlier own in the Aboringial and Japanese cultures. Back in the 1930s and 1940s, many people who were involved in tattooing chose to do it in honor of their loved ones by displaying their names. They also expressed their religious believes despite what the scriptures say and demonstrated their patriotism. However, with post modernism, the themes have changed and tattoos have become personal. In the American culture exposure to the media has really influenced the expression of this symbolic art. Some people can design a tattoo of a famous movie character on their bodies. In this sense, such an expression is not in honor of a loved one or an expression of patriotism or religious belief. Such a tattoo is an expression of a customized personal preference (Frucci, 2005).

Postmodernism has been regarded by modernist architects as vulgar blunt and soulless. This can be closely linked to the post modern tattooing particularly when it was done within the context of incarceration. Tattoos were used to identify convicts. In this regard, a convict’s body could be stipulated with tattoos and they were used to differentiate between an inmate and a convict. The coverage of the body with tattoos was a reflection of acceptance of the lifestyle of the convict and the marginalization that followed (DeMello,1995). Essentially, prison tattoos were different from the professional tattoos that have developed with postmodernism. Prison tattoos were associated with pain and lacked the aspect of color in the art. The professional tattoos done in parlors and shops use makeshift technology that is less painful and uses the color that was not available in the prison tattoos. Considering the aspect of vulgarness, tattoos have formed the basis for exposing body parts especially amongst women in the postmodern times. This illustrates how the culture has influenced their morality (Beeler, 2009).

Postmodernism has seen the tattooing culture overcome the gender biases that were associated with art and architecture. In modernist perspective, tattoos were mainly associated with men because of the pain that was involved in their production and the stereotyped imagery that was elucidated. However, postmodernism has seen the resistance towards the common ideals of the beauty in women. The choice of images for women tattoos seems to be different from what has been embraced by men in the past. Women are known to choose objects such as flowers and more personal images. The tattoos are also put in the lower back of the body, completely different from what the males did (Yamada, 2009).

Postmodernism has been linked to consumerism and media saturation in the modern industrial capitalist societies. This can be accounted for in terms of the shift in capitalism’s economic needs from production to consumption. Before the beginning of the 20th century, the needs of the capitalist societies were to establish their conditions of production. Their attention was mainly on the factors of production such as their machines and factories for producing goods. This meant that consumption was sacrificed for the sake of producing the various types of goods. At this point, the media became very important as a tool for mass communication. The proliferation of popular culture was achieved through the role of the media. The art of tattooing is a typical example of popular culture that has proliferated because of the media. The culture has spread to different part of the world because people see the tattoos in the media and seek to have their own (Kingston, 2008).

The interpretation of personal and collective identity has been controversial in postmodernism debates. This cannot be said to be a decline in the identities. However, the former coherent identities have begun to fragment into diverse simple competing identities. Essentially, the decline of collective identities has led to the fragmentation of the personal identities. A tattoo in the ancient Aboringeal and Japanese culture was a symbol of collective identity. For groups like the monks, the culture of tattooing collectively meant a common purpose. However, with postmodernism, this collective identity is no longer there. People do tattoos for their personal reasons and they keep competing against other people. This illustrates a fragmentation in the personal identities.

Still on the issue of identity, a tattoo marks a distinction and a link between the body and the culture. A tattoo in the postmodern world signifies an affiliation to a social order or a manifestation of the interface between an individual and the society. To read a tattoo means to inscribe the culture or society on the body (Watson, 1998).

Claims by postmodernists on space and time can also be linked to the popular culture of tattooing. Postmodernists claim that advancements in technology and communication have led to an increased speed with which information spreads from one place to another. Consequently, the sense of people on time and space has really changed. The view of time and space with regard to tattooing has also changed. In the past, people perceived the art of tattooing to be time consuming and painful. However, with the coming of professionals and technology, this view is bound to change (Strinati, 1993).

The sense of self has also been linked to postmodernism. Tattoos are about marking identity such that they emphasize more on private and subjective aspects of identity. People make tattoos just as a larger part of their self exploration. Tattoos act as means to objectify some intuitive and private self. This self is thought to have existed even before the tattoo but the tattoo can be considered to be the means of staying in touch with the self. Marking the skin is therefore an act of claiming the self (Pritchard, 2000).


Tattoos are a manifestation of postmodernism. The evidence from different sources reveals that tattoos are part of popular culture that has been influenced by postmodernism. Tattoos carry different meanings in the context of postmodernism as represented by the media. The reality behind tattoos can be understood within the contexts of consumerism and self identity. The postmodernist ideologists perceive tattoos to be significant symbolic images of popular culture.


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The nature of beauty: the theory and development behind cosmetic surgeries