The first in a series of ‘Trendsetter Interviews’ with leading arbiters of cool in Australian culture. I caught up with one of the coolest cats in Sydney – Stephen Farrelly, Editor of new tattoo culture lifestyle magazine ‘Post Modern Ink‘. He’s supremely savvy when it comes to youth culture in Australia and so I through a few q’s at him and here’s what he had to say. Thanks Stephen.
What’s your main goal with Post Modern Ink?
We have an ethos of coverage that involves: Tattoos, Art, Lifestyle and Culture. To the naked eye, these things could be perceived as part of the same entity (especially when talking about tattoos).However, the world of tattoos really is just the root of a tree with numerous branches. Our goal then is to climb the tree, and remind each of the branches where they come from, and express what the other branches are doing.
We ultimately want to be a platform informing, educating and entertaining the all-encompassing culture of tattoos. It’s a big task, because the higher you climb the aforementioned tree, the more diverse the various offshoot branches become. But there really is nothing else like this out there, so it’s equally our goal to maintain this early level of exposure and authority. If you want to know about underground, art culture, we want you to come to us first.
Who does Post Modern Ink appeal to?
We’re aiming at a majority youth market (but we’ve managed to nab a lot of older people as well). Basically it’s for people with tattoos, people considering tattoos, people aspiring to get tattoos (ie younger than 18) and people just interested in tattoos as an art form. But as we grow as a brand, we want to be known more as a youth/underground art magazine with “our finger on the pulse”, to use a buzz phrase.
Do young people today get tattoos for ‘collectivism/belonging to a group’ or ‘individualism’?
I think it’s a little of both. But ultimately, tattoos have hit the mainstream. You see young people working in retail with tattoos, young professionals working in the corporate world with tattoos and so on. I think it was only a matter of time before this happened. From the advent of the punk rock explosion in 1994 with the likes of Green Day and the Offspring, this underground world of individualism was exactly what the mainstream world was looking for – something unique, new and marketable.
Now you see bands like Good Charlotte, Avenged Sevenfold, AFI and so on… selling out arenas everywhere, and the youth are mimicking this because these are the new youth heroes. Equally, the popularity of tattoo celebrities like Kat Von D, encourage young people to be individual and mark themselves. I think the interest and enthusiasm is sound, but I really want to use our magazine as a platform for educating the easily influenced into understanding the finality of tattoos in hope they might wait and make the decision when they’re a bit older.
What’s the psychology behind getting bodyart?
It’s fashion. Plain and simple. At least the mainstream element of it is. At the moment, a tattoo is no different to wearing your favourite band t-shirt, or having your hair a certain way, which makes the above desire from us even more poignant.
How does body art help young people express themselves?
It helps them feel like they belong to the modern day. It helps them feel they’re ahead of the curve, even though the curve itself – at the moment – is a stationary form of fashion. I don’t think tattoos are going to go away, but I do hope the ‘fashion’ push of the art is dumbed a little.
Which celebrities do you find are most influential to young Australians in terms of body art?
I mentioned bands and Kat Von D, but there are also sports stars such as David Beckham, or a lot of our own rugby/afl players who sport ink.
Do you think we’re seeing a ‘creative renaissance’ in Australia at the moment, with the growth in body art?
Absolutely. And it’s not just tattoos, it’s piercing, body mods (scarring, branding, etc), hair style, fashion and more. The explosion might be quite big (and slightly scary), but it’s great to see Australia embracing outlandish individualism (or ideas of individualism) so completely.
How would you describe youth culture in Australia today?
That’s a pretty broad question with an equally broad answer. I would describe youth today as ‘savvy and in control’. Youth take ownership of their own image today, with spaces like Facebook and MySpace offering them their own “movie poster” so to speak. You can just check someone’s MySpace or Facebook and you have an immediate idea about them. It’s also reflective of how deeply ingrained advertising has become in our lives. Years ago, advertising yourself like this would have been seen as self-indulgent but now it’s commonplace. And it’s instant. Youth today know what they want, and they want to share their desires with immediacy to their peers.
Are we seeing gaming and body art come together at all? Inspiring each other if you will?
To a degree. It’s cool to like videogames now. Even clothing stores like JayJay’s sell Mario t-shirts that look like they were printed in the 80s. It’s cool to be kitsch and old-school (ironically), so many people get videogame tattoos. It’s no different to people generations ago branding themselves with images of Bettie Page – she represented something then, and now, kids and young adults have grown up with videogames; different heroes. So yeah, the cultures do converge, though not as completely yet as I expect them to in say, the next 10 years.