In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • ClashPunk's Influence on Contemporary Art
  • Kristine Somerville

Click for larger view
View full resolution

Jamie Reid, God Save the Queen, 1977

courtesy of John Marchant Gallery, London

[End Page 133]


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Jamie Reid, Damn Them All, newsprint collage and gouache on paper, 1993

courtesy of John Marchant Gallery, London

Punk rock isn't something you grow out of. Punk rock is an attitude, and the essence of that attitude is "give us some truth."

—Joe Strummer, the Clash [End Page 134]

Click for larger view
View full resolution

Gilbert & George: Life, 1984


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Gilbert & George: Death, 1984, © mp; George

courtesy Jay Jopling/White Cube, London.


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Gilbert & George: Chaplet, 2005, © mp; George

courtesy White Cube, London

[End Page 135]


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Gee Vaucher International Anthem No. 2, Domestic Violence, collage, 1979


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Gee Vaucher Oh America, gouache on card, 1989. © Gee Vaucher

The punk movement burned bright for four years beginning with Television's performance at CBGB in the Bowery in 1974 and then flaming out in 1978 with ex–Sex Pistol Sid Vicious's murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen and his overdose four months later. During that brief period, there were iconic albums by the Clash and the Sex Pistols in London and the Ramones, Patti Smith, and Suicide in New York. There was also the slashed, shredded, and zippered fashion of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, who crystallized and commercialized punk fashion at their boutique SEX at King's Road.

"No future" was punks' battle cry, and while they were referring to a lack of opportunity and a sense of failure felt at the time on both sides of the Atlantic, they also assumed that their movement would be "yesterday's trash," replaced by something even more outrageous and authentic. Their pessimism proved wrong. The movement's spirit of anarchist mischief has survived, offering youth of succeeding generations an outlet for their rebelliousness against the cultural mainstream, a doit-yourself ethos, and an untutored approach to the arts.

Punk was in part a response to the torpid state of '70s rock, which had become bloated and mindless. The movement wanted to strip away the baroque, artificial sounds of disco, glam, and hippie psychedelic in favor of something louder and less melodic. "If it can't be [End Page 136]


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Gee Vaucher, Penis Envy, collage, 1981, © Gee Vaucher

said in three minutes, it is not worth saying," they said. With their fast, rude, three-chord anthems and confrontational onstage presence, they took over the underground rock scene in both New York City and London. Their rebelliousness was perfectly suited to cities where the evidence of urban decay was everywhere. The fabric of British society [End Page 137] was ripping apart. Troubles in Northern Ireland, high unemployment, nuclear threat, and crumbling trade unions dominated the news, while cities were nearly bankrupt with boarded-up shops, trash piled high, and electricity rationing. New York City wasn't faring much better. It, too, was a place of garbage strikes, crumbling infrastructure, and predatory drug dealers.


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Linder, Untitled, photomontage, 1981, © Linder

courtesy of the artist, Arts Council Collection, London, and Modern Art, London; Post-mortem: Irina (ii), photomontage, 2016, © Linder courtesy of the artist and Modern Art, London

Out of what they described as a "postapocalyptic world" grew the conviction that anything could happen. In both creative centers, space was cheap, and the youth were largely unsupervised, allowing them the freedom to find their own way. While both groups shared dissatisfaction with mainstream culture, American punk was a middle-class, artistic rebellion. In England, punk had serious sociopolitical implications, as it took on the oppressive rule of a far-right government and lingering Victorian values.

The mainstream press found the music to be little more than the tantrums of an overindulged youth culture. They described punk's attack [End Page 138]


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Linder, Untitled, photomontage, 1976/7, © Linder

courtesy of the...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 133-149
Launched on MUSE
2021-04-26
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.