I have been watching with great interest the presidential campaign of Vladimír Franz, a Czech artist and composer who is taking advantage of the fact that he’s completely tattooed to attract a great deal of media and populist youth attention — first to his inky face, but once he has their attention, to his political message as well. Vladimir holds a law degree, but after graduating chose to ignore that field and focus on the arts, while supporting himself in a variety of blue-collar jobs. These days he is a teacher in the theatre department of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and also lectures in the film department. When asked about his tattoos in an interview he said (and I do my best to translate it here — the original in Czech is on his website),
Tattoo Art has accompanied mankind since time immemorial. In addition to the its original magic and ritual, it serves an aesthetic purpose. Of course it’s true that from an aesthetic point of view, this is a decision to be made by each free individual. Tattoos are an expression of free will. The tattoos are a permanent and unchangeable expression of my decision to stand up for the graces of freedom, for better or worse. I know that people have many questions about my tattoos, and that these questions will certainly continue, but I want to add that my tattoos are the result of a long-term sophisticated concept, not a sudden whim.
I can definitely appreciate those comments, and have always agreed that body modification and personal freedoms and civil rights are inexorably linked. If these thoughts are indicative of the rest of his politics (which I admit are not easy for me to really translate), then I’d be happy to see him succeed. That said, no one should ever make the mistake of assuming that someone is defined by their tattoos.
To be realistic, Vladimir Franz is about as long-shot as you can get, and I suspect his goal is more to inject a worthwhile independent voice into the dialogue and to inspire others to do the same — and I’m happy to see that his tattoos are being leveraged to achieve that — rather than the serious campaign for the Czech presidency he purports to be running. He is not the member of any political party, nor of any behind-the-scenes interest group, nor has he profited from overpriced government contracts. He sees himself as a man sensitive to injustice, with a sense of humor and an inner relationship to nature, able to listen to others, and with a never-ending passion to learn and expand himself. These are all wonderful, but the sad reality is that they go a long way to disqualifying an individual from the corrupt, beholden, and rotten-to-the-core political process.
Visit vladimirfranz.cz for more information.
PS. I’m in no way saying that anyone should vote for a politician just because they have a tattooed face. But for me, when I see someone that looks like this, I know that we at least have some shared background and life experience, and that it’s worth taking the time to hear what they have to say. In addition, for better or worse, a tattooed face means there’s a very good chance the individual is not beholden to big business, because by and large a tattooed face is a great way — at least for now — of having those doors slammed in your face. The irony of my comment is that by supporting such politicians for that reason, we help eliminate the validity of that reason!!!