> Punkulture - Images From A Music Revolution
The Punkulture Exhibition was produced by Exhibit-A, London and brought to Australia and New Zealand by Write Angle.
The Australian Museum, Sydney
Film & Sound Archive, Canberra
The Mayfair Theatre,
Te Papa Tongarewa - New Zealand National Museum
Punkulture: Images from a Music Revolution, is an exhibition that chronicles one of the most original cultural revolutions of our time. The images of Adrian Boot coupled with words by Chris Salewicz and video footage by Don Letts bring to life the music, the personalities and the issues that were Punk.
The Punkulture exhibition is a tribute to a genuine artistic and cultural revolution that had consequences of extraordinary profundity for the twentieth century. The images have been selected by Adrian Boot who holds the most comprehensive catalogue of Punk in existence today. Many of these images have never been seen before and have been originated digitally to produce an unsurpassed depth and quality to the exhibition. Although the initial reaction to British Punks in the USA was one of sheer astonishment, The Sex Pistols' Never Mind The Bollocks album finally went gold two years ago in America; The Clash's last album, Combat Rock, sold five million records there, and Rolling Stone voted their London Calling LP, Album Of The Decade, at the end of the 1980s.
The connection will be made between Punk and Grunge, epitomised by such huge-selling acts as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Courtney Love's Hole. And it will examine the colossal, present success of such second generation US Punk acts as Green Day and Offspring, who have sold over six million albums on their own independent label in the USA.
When The Sex Pistols' TV interview with the journalist Bill Grundy broke up in a barrage of four-letter words in November, 1976, the incident and its aftermath filled the front pages of Britain's tabloid press for an entire week. And it wasn't only media madness. An Essex lorry-driver was so infuriated with the group's attitude that he kicked in the screen of his television set. This brought joy to the hearts of those who understood that what was underway was a crucial and hilariously satirical cultural sea-change - and that beyond that lay a metaphysical shift in the consciousness plates of humanity. For the events of 1977 marked a watershed not only in popular music or culture, but in attitudes and sensibility; in this overturning of the past, a new, more egalitarian world emerged: from now on, for example, rock stars were not expected to behave with the dinosaur-like arrogance of erased consciousness that most had paraded since the 1960s. We really were leaving the twentieth century and entering a new time. Nothing would ever be the same again.
Punk was a new music, a new social critique, but most of all it was a new kind of free speech. For a time it did seem like Anarchy In The UK. When The Clash toured Britain, their audiences would express their enthusiasm with a constant spray of spit. This Punk paradox of appreciative "gobbing" was just one example of the contradictions that formed the glue of Punk: on one hand this new tribal grouping was a complete joke in which nothing was taken seriously; whilst at precisely the same moment it was a genuine revolutionary movement of heartfelt, passionate sincerity. We don't care, screamed Johnny Rotten, whilst actually caring with the very deepest of feelings. Often branded as a negative, destructive force, Punk was in fact the most stridently positive street level artistic statement of the twentieth century, far outweighing the impact of dada or surrealism. As Jung said, all great truths must end in paradox.
More than twenty years on it is hard to imagine the extraordinary effect that Punk had on British and then world culture. By an intriguing synchronicity the movement coincided almost exactly with the cod patriotism fanatically afforded the Jubilee celebrations of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II; amongst the many conspiracy theories that bound together Punk culture, a dominant theme was how the pop charts had been fixed to prevent God Save The Queen by The Sex Pistols being the number one record during Jubilee week. (Other conspiracies: the deaths of first Nancy Spungen and then Sid Vicious...the CIA following and filming the Pistols on their US tour...CBS's attempts at "Complete Control" of The Clash...)No wonder the Establishment was confused and nervous. It seemed to them as though something else - beyond outlaws, beyond outsiders - had taken over the streets. In the summer of 1977 multi-zippered, self-mutilating mutants paraded the streets of London, like bit-players in a science-fiction fantasy. Which perhaps it was...
Whilst DJing and dealing at the Roxy Club, the Rastafarian Don Letts ran out of Punk records and began intermingling them with reggae, so giving birth to the Punk/reggae fusion celebrated in Bob Marley's Punky Reggae Party. Another reggae anthem of the time, Two Sevens Clash by the appropriately named Culture, announced the numerological significance of the year 1977, a harbinger of colossal change. The Clash stated it more simply: No Elvis, Beatles, or Rolling Stones/In 1977...And in August of that year Elvis Presley, the king - the inventor, some would claim - of rock'n'roll, died on his Memphis toilet seat...WHAT ON EARTH HAD BEEN UNLEASHED? The world became divided into those who understood and those who didn't.
The debt of Malcolm Maclaren, who from his shop Sex acted the part of Punk don, to such Paris-based efforts to 'epater la bourgeoisie', cannot be underestimated: obsessed, in that rigorously French manner, with the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, and The Doors, Parisian groovers by 1973 were wearing the kind of black biker leather jackets and tight pants that would emerge as part of the uniform of McLaren's shocktroops. And all McLaren really wanted to do was to capture the power he had first glimpsed in Jerry Lee Lewis.
The exhibition includes audio visual material including footage from film director Don Letts, the original DJ at the punk Roxy Club. Excerpts from his celebrated Punk Rock Movie, shot during the hundred days that the Roxy Club was Britain's high temple of punk will be featured.
Punkulture is produced
by Exhibit-A, the team that produced the highly successful, and critically
acclaimed Bob Marley: Songs Of Freedom Exhibition, and Jimi Hendrix: The
Ultimate Experience Exhibition.
ADRIAN BOOT Curator and Art Director of the Jimi Hendrix Exhibition and the Bob Marley Songs Of Freedom Exhibition, Adrian Boot graduated from Surrey University before moving to Jamaica to teach physics in the early 1970's, returning to Britain to freelance for the NME, Melody Maker, The Times and Guardian. By the mid-1970's he had become staff photogapher for Melody Maker. Moving on, he has been: chief photographer for Live Aid; for Nelson Mandela: Freedom at 70; for Roger Waters' The Wall in Berlin; for Greenpeace in the former Soviet Union. He has also worked with ORBIS, the flying eye hospital, in Africa; the British Council in Iraq and Jordan; and for the Grateful Dead in Egypt; as well as for Island Records in Jamaica, Colombia and many other parts of the world. Since building his own computer in 1976, Boot has been increasingly at the blunt end of computer technology. The founder of Exhibit-A, Adrian Boot works in a variety of formats and mental states.
CHRIS SALEWICZ has documented world popular culture for over two decades, both in print and on television. His writing, on subjects from film to foreign affairs, has appeared in publications worldwide. As a senior features writer for NME from 1975 to 1981 he saw service at the frontlines of glam rock, punk rock, and reggae music. In 1978 he was assistant director of DOA, the definitive US film about punk rock. A founder member of MTV Europe, he presented Kino, a weekly 60 minute pan-European film magazine programme from 1987-1989. His books include McCartney, the Definitive Biography, published by St Martin's in 1986; Midnights in Moscow with Billy Bragg and Bob Marley, Songs of Freedom.
Exhibition Tour highlights
Punkulture New Zealand Exhibition Tour highlights
contact Write Angle if you want to know more about any of the exhibitions
detailed in these pages, or if you have an exhibition project that may be
of interest to Australian museums, galleries or festivals.
Please contact Write Angle on: