Since being launched in 2007, the annual Schoenherr roadmap has highlighted significant legal developments in our markets, presenting them in a special context created in partnership with a different artist each year. The concept for this year’s roadmap is prejudice.
Simply put, prejudices are opinions not based on reason. The word prejudice presupposes a judgment which is premature. This year we look at tattoos as an art form, and at the prejudices some people hold in respect of the bearers of tattoos despite tattoos having become more popular. In a legal context, and very generally speaking, prejudice is linked to bias, or a lack of impartiality on the part of a judge or presiding officer when deciding on a matter in a legal forum. The principle of justice requires that legal decisions are based on objective criteria, and not on the basis of prejudice.
Broadly speaking, debunking prejudices requires looking at the facts, gaining insight into other peoples’ preferences, being open to exploring differences between oneself and others, and being as impartial as possible when considering these contrasts (including the choice whether to have body art or not). In an attempt to examine the prejudices surrounding tattoos, we consider the question of whether tattoos can be considered works of art. If one considers a tattoo to be a work of art, one may agree that the exceptional thing about the work of a tattoo artist is the nature and ephemerality of the art – for the canvas is the human skin. Each pigment that is inked under the skin becomes a living, life-long part of the wearer. Yet, with the death of the wearer, the tattoo “dies” as well – the artwork has a natural
expiration date. Roadmap17 artist Marian Merl, is of the view that the difference between tattoos as art objects, or as pure service to clients, lies in the distinction between the approach and methods of the tattoo artist. Merl chooses which client concepts to carry out, and his motifs are the culmination of a creative process in which he lets his own ideas and interpretations flow into his work.
Art or not, and societal prejudice aside, tattoos transcend the continuum of time and culture, and are a means of communication that show a part of an individual’s identity. What matters is the personal significance tattoos hold for the bearer.