Friday, September 28, 2012

Someday all the Adults will Die!: Punk Graphics 1971-84

'Some day all the adults will die!: punk graphics 1971-1984' is a free exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London, on until 4th November 2012.

I wonder sometimes whether anything else useful can be said about punk, feels like we have been reliving that moment endlessly for the last 30 years. Ageing collapses time in unexpected ways. At school in the late 1970s and reading about May 1968 it felt as remote to me as the First World War. Now the late 1970s feel not so far away, even if the equivalent of this exhibition in 1977 would have been a show about early 1940s style. So an exhibition like this is essentially a kind of nostalgia for some ('ooh I've got that original 7 inch of Scritti Politti's Hegemony') and ancient history for others.  

The exihibition, curated by Jon Savage and Johan Kugelberg, is less a coherent take on graphics and more a very good collection of memoribilia - zines, flyers and record sleeves. But in subtle ways it does undermine some simplistic versions of the punk story.

After Greil Marcus's Lipstick Traces, everyone knows about the parallels between Situationist attitude/style (if not always politics) and some strands of punk, but the exhibition shows this directly with some material from that milieu such as a King Mob poster from the late 1960s:

Likewise, and contrary to the notion of punk as a straightforward negation of the preceding period, the influence of the pre-punk UK counter culture (Oz magazine etc.) is acknowledged: 'design forerunners included the proto-pop mail art movement, counter-culture protest graphics and the underground press of the 1960s'.

The exhibition gives space to the American punk scene, with its parallel but distinct aesthetic. Who knew that Wayne County's backing band in 1976 was the Back Street Boys? Surely more interesting than the later outfit with the same name.

It recognises that punk in the UK was about much more than The Clash and The Sex Pistols, and gives due recognition to anarcho-punk - including Crass's graffiti stencils:

There are some interesting radical perspectives on music, including a remarkable flyer given out when The Rolling Stones played at the Hollywood Bowl in 1966 that hallucinates the band's music as some kind of radical rallying cry: 'Greetings and welcome Rolling Stones, our comrades in the desperate battle against the maniacs who hold power. The revolutionary youth of the world hears your music and is inspired to ever more deadly acts... We will play your music in rock'n'roll marching bands as we tear down the jails and free the prisoners'.

Less optimistic/tongue in cheek is an earnest critique of The Clash, put out by Art in Revolution in Holland in  the late 1970s: ''London's buying your crap... this is what is left of the '77 punx, a bunch of junkies and a bunch of drunks'

The zines on display are frustrating as they are behind plastic so you can only look at the covers when really you want to flick through them. The record sleeves are evocative, but you really want to listen to the music (though some of this is being played in the exhibition). The flyers and posters though don't hold anything back, or nothing that can be accessed now. They simply record a series of singular moments in history:. 

Manchester 1977: 'Punk rock rules!' at The Squat with The Drones, Warsaw (later Joy Division) and others - interesting discussion about this poster here

Los Angeles 1979: The Last and The Go-Go at Gazzarri's on Sunset Strip

Crass at Acklam Hall, Portobello Road, September 1979

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Party Riots in Holland and Spain

34 people were arrested in Haren, Netherlands, on Friday night (21 September 2012), after thousands of people turned up for a young woman's 16th birthday party inadvertently publicised on Facebook. The party was cancelled after media publicity and 'going viral', and hundreds of riot police were deployed in the small Dutch town. Youths clashed with police, who fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. A supermarket was looted. In the lead up to the weekend, people had begun making 'Project X - Haren' t-shirts, a reference to the American film about a teengage party that ends in chaos.

On the same night in Madrid, around 1,000 people who could not get into the MTV Beach festival rioted, clashing with police and setting up burning barricades in the streets. Plastic bullets were fired by police.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Expect Anything, Fear Nothing

Coming up on Saturday 22 September,  8:00pm - 10:00pm,  at the Mayday Rooms, St Brides Yard, outside 88 Fleet Street, London:

'An evening including interventions from Stewart Home, Peter Laugesen, Fabian Tompsett, Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen and Jakob Jakobsen to mark the UK launch of the anthology Expect Anything Fear Nothing: The Situationist Movement in Scandinavia and Elsewhere edited by Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen and Jakob Jakobsen.

This volume is the first comprehensive English-language presentation of the Scandinavian Situationists and their role in the Situationist movement. The Situationist movement was an international movement of artists, writers and thinkers that in the 1950s and 1960s that strived to revolutionize the world through rejecting bourgeois art and the post-World War Two capitalist consumer society.

The book contains articles, conversations and statements by former members of the Situationists’ organisations as well as contemporary artists, activists, scholars and writers. While previous publications about the Situationist movement almost exclusively have focused on the contribution of the French section and in particular on the role of the Guy Debord this book aims to shed light on the activities of the Situationists active in places like Denmark, Sweden and Holland. The themes and stories chronicled include: The anarchist undertakings of the Drakabygget movement led by the rebel artists Jørgen Nash, Hardy Strid and Jens Jørgen Thorsen, the exhibition by the Situationist International “Destruction of RSG-6” in 1963 in Odense organised by the painter J.V. Martin in collaboration with Guy Debord, the journal The Situationist Times edited by Jacqueline de Jong, Asger Jorn's political critique of natural science and the films of the Drakabygget movement.

Contributors: Peter Laugesen, Carl Nørrested, Fabian Tompsett, Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen, Jacqueline de Jong, Gordon Fazakerley, Hardy Strid, Karen Kurczynski, Stewart Home, Jakob Jakobsen'


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Revolution as resonance

Following on from Negri and Hardt's recent reference to 'low frequency' communication between struggles, here's another example of bass as radical metaphor:

'Revolutionary movements do not spread by contamination but by resonance. Something that is constituted here resonates with the shock wave emitted by something constituted over there. A body that resonates does so according to its own mode. A insurrection is not like a plague or a forest fire – a linear process which spreads from place to place after an initial spark. It rather takes the shape of a music, whose focal points, though dispersed in time and space, succeed in imposing the rhythm of their ownvibrations, always taking on more density' (The Invisible Committee, The Coming Insurrection, 2007)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Low Frequency Struggles

'Early in 2011, in the depths of social and economic crises characterized by radical inequality, common sense seemed to dictate that we trust the decisions and guidance of the ruling powers, lest even greater disasters befall us. The financial and governmental rulers may be tyrants, and they may have been primarily responsible for creating the crises, but we had no choice. During the course of 2011, however, a series of social struggles shattered that common sense and began to construct a new one. Occupy Wall Street was the most visible but was only one moment in a cycle of struggles that shifted the terrain of political debate and opened new possibilities for political action over the course of the year...

Each of these struggles is singular and oriented toward specific local conditions. The first thing to notice, though, is that they did, in fact, speak to one another. The Egyptians, of course, clearly moved down paths traveled by the Tunisians and adopted their slogans, but the occupiers of Puerta del Sol also thought of their struggle as carrying on the experiences of those at Tahrir. In turn, the eyes of those in Athens and Tel Aviv were focused on the experiences of Madrid and Cairo. The Wall Street occupiers had them all in view, translating, for instance, the struggle against the tyrant into a struggle against the tyranny of finance. You may think that they were just deluded and forgot or ignored the differences in their situations and demands. We believe, however, that they have a clearer vision than those outside the struggle, and they can hold together without contradiction their singular conditions and local battles with the common global struggle.

Ralph Ellison’s invisible man, after an arduous journey through a racist society,developed the ability to communicate with others in struggle. “Who knows,” Ellison’s narrator concludes, “but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?” Today, too, those in struggle communicate on the lower frequencies, but, unlike in Ellison’s time, no one speaks for them. The lower frequencies are open airwaves for all. And some messages can be heard only by those in struggle'.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

London Drum Riot for Pussy Riot

Global Day of Action in support of Pussy Riot next Saturday September 15 - London action is 11 am - 2 pm opposite Russian Consulate, Bayswater Road. Facebook details here.

There's also a Free Pussy Riot benefit gig tomorrow night (Sunday 9 September) at the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen with PEGGY SUE, GAGGLE, NEUROTIC MASS MOVEMENT and SKINNY GIRL DIET.

Translations of Pussy Riot letters and documents at this site. Here's a letter from Maria Alyokhina (20 Aug. 2012), one of three members of the collective jailed in Russia last month for two years for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after an anti-Government punk performance in a Moscow cathedral:

'Right after the reading of the verdict, we were taken to the cells, accompanied by guards with dogs. After a few minutes my guard asked for an excerpt from the verdict. A few minutes after that, a special forces cop burst into my cell and started swearing at me, telling me to get my things together. Evidently I wasn't fast enough, and he started twisting my arms. This was very strange, because in the past we were generally treated less roughly. So there must have been special instructions. The rest of the procedure went like this: we were loaded onboard a bus full of these special forces types and then, accompanied by numerous police vehicles, including two other buses full of armed police, were driven halfway across Moscow in a "corridor" specially cleared through the dense traffic. What is the meaning of all this? Even terrorists and heavy criminals aren't given this kind of special convoy treatment. Doing so for three girls is a clear sign of FEAR. The depth of this fear came as a surprise. It would be nice to think that it will all end happily, but these events would seem to indicate otherwise'.