Spring is a dizzying, fecund time for the Center for Punk Arts, Visual Vitriol, and related projects. My co-written biography of Lightnin’ Hopkins, titled Mojo Hand: The Life and Music of Lightnin’ Hopkins has been released by Univ. of Texas Press. On April 20th, Record Store Day, Cactus Records in Houston, TX will be holding an in-store event, replete with music, copies of the book available for purchase, local craft beer, and me reading portions of the text. If you are in the vicinity, please join our effort to honor the dynamic musical craft and personality of Hopkins and the legacy of my co-author Tim O’Brien as well. So far the press cycle consists of interviews with KUT/NPR Austin FM radio, the Houston Chronicle, and No Depression. Those links will be featured here as they become available. The UT press page can be found here; meanwhile, the cover and book excerpts are below. To see photos of the Houston gig, book, and tattoo collectors, click here.
The book Barred for Life, chronicling the tattoo subculture (including practices and philosophies) of dedicated Black Fan fans, which I edited for PM Press (the publisher of my forthcoming book Left of the Dial), has also been released. Writer Stewart Ebersole has events planned for the East Coast, but Vinyl Edge Records on 19th St. in Houston, TX is actually hosting the premier event on April 13th. The 5 pm gig, exhibition, and documentation session (of local Black Flag tattoos and lore) will feature classic Black Flag flyers, band photography by Ben DeSoto (featured in LOTD as well), and music of Black Flag unveiled by the tribute band My War! (featuring members of No Love Less, 500 Megatons of Boogie, and The Drafted), along with the fury of lady punks Ex-Girlfriends. The PM press page can be found here.
I recently submitted a peer review article to Liminalities, a performance journal, about punk gig spaces and liminality, titled Slamdance in the No Time Zone: Punk as Repertoire for Liminality. I await their response and will submit re-writes as necessary, if they deem the article appropriate for the scope and style of their on-line journal. It also features a slideshow video containing images culled from my own photography archives, along with those of Ben DeSoto, so viewers can see frenzied gigs ranging from Circle Jerks and Black Flag to Youth Brigade and Agent Orange.
As always, I maintain a heavy gig schedule, performing with No Love Less (including regional venues in Baytown and Lufkin) and The Hates, who will be releasing their new CD (which revisits their older classic punk and hardcore material) People’s Temple at the end of April. At Walters in Houston on May 25th, I am hosting a gig that commemorates local early 1980′s venues like the Island, Agora Ballroom, and Omni. A poster for that event is forthcoming.
The Visual Vitriol collection has recently been massively featured in the superb insert of the Big Boys “Fun Fun Fun” album re-issue from 540 records in Austin, TX. It is very limited, so I suggest quick purchase. Another sizable portion is featured in the excellent promotional video for the Light in the Attic re-issue of the Big Boys first LP as well — “Industry Standard.” Look for key flyers and photographs by Ben DeSoto in the video below.
I also donated a set of visual materials to the illustrated history of the Replacements book project: as soon as I know more information, I will provide that as well.
On the academic front this Spring, a MA thesis paper and a handful of scholarly articles have featured references to Visual Vitriol or my related research. First it is used in the research of a Swedish academic writer in the work Punkestetik: Provokation, revolution eller DIY?.
Next, my research on African American contributions to punk is referenced in Jasmine Mahmoud’s “Black Love? Black Love!: All Aboard the Presence of Punk in Seattle’s NighTraiN.” Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory 22.2-3 (2012): 315-323.
My research on Hispanic punk has recently been referenced by writer Daniel Traber (the same writer that I reference in Vitriol) in “Pick It Up! Pick It Up!: The Transnational Localism of Ska.” Popular Music and Society ahead-of-print (2012): 1-18.
Meanwhile, my focus on gendered gig spaces has been referenced in Naomi Griffin’s “Gendered Performance Performing Gender in the DIY Punk and Hardcore Music Scene.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 13.2 (2013): 66-81.
In addition, my work investigating queer punk is quoted at length in the Honors Thesis of S. M. Gray, titled “The Queer Sounds of Justice: Contemporary Queer Musicking and Transformative Justice in The United States” (2012) as well as another Master’s Thesis, by Stephanie Salerno, titled, “Skater, Poser, Punk: The Struggle For Space, Individuality and Authenticity Within Straight-Edge, Queercore and Skateboarding Punk Communities,” which can be read in full here.
Lastly, my research surveying the history of the Deaf Club in San Francisco has been referenced in a MA thesis by Aimee Harlib of the San Francisco Art Institute titled, “INCENDIARY IMAGES: A READING OF RADICAL AIDS ACTIVISM THROUGH PUNK AESTHETICS,SAN FRANCISCO 1979-PRESENT.”
As readers may recall, I released an App called the Indie and Punk Compedium (featuring many archives culled from Left of the Dial) last winter for BiblioBoard, which is available on iTunes and elsewhere. That project was recently covered by the tech website TechFaster here, with links to my efforts. A portion of their video interview, with selections from the App, can be viewed below.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/63526792″>The Compendium of Punk and Indie Rock – TechFaster Interview</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user12601287″>BiblioBoard</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
As always, I thank you for the support of the center’s endeavors, and I will update this page as events unfold, including progress on my short story collection entitled Where We Go to Fall Down.
As of lately, the collection, spread over a dozen blogs and digital archives (“museums without walls”), has been continuously accessed by thousands of users. Lately, I have also mined the collection to help recent exhibitions, including a San Antonio-area punk visual history display (coordinated with cohorts) for a Sex Pistols at Randy’s Rodeo anniversary show at the South Texas Popular Cultural Center, which is featured from Jan. – Feb. 2013. Next, I will be using key pieces from the archives created by notorious funk-punk and visionary DIY art hero Randy “Biscuit” Turner, including a large mixed media assemblage piece in addition to works on paper, for a retrospective of his work throughout March at the South Austin Popular Culture.
In addition, selections from the collection have also been tapped by the Austin Monthly for a future journalistic piece on Austin clubs of the 1980s and by record labels seeking to release material from Texas punk pioneers Really Red and the Big Boys in the upcoming year. Material is also regularly distributed to researchers at college and universities, including professors and students working on labor-punk links (Univ. of Oregon), the Deaf Cub (Art Institute of San Francisco), East Asian metal-punk history and theoretical evaluation (Monash, Indonesia), and punk visual culture memes (Champlain College, Vermont).
As always, I am indebted to Welly from Artcore zine, singer for the band Four Letter Word, and a keen-eyed designer, for publishing my interview with members of the Mydolls and Really Red in Issue No. 30, still available. So, buy a copy now, and enjoy Welly’s excellent taste in cutting edge new underground music and reverence for a shared punk heritage.
I recently created an App too — a compiled anthology of my zine Left of the Dial, featuring material that will not be reprinted in the Left of the Dial: Conversations with Punk Icons book to be released this spring by PM Press. This collection contains archives stretching back to my earliest involvement in punk media in the Midwest during the mid-1980s. The App can be purchased from BiblioLab on iTunes for your mobile devices, or you can enjoy the BETA version, linked and described below.
The Punk and Indie Rock Compendium: A comprehensive collection of underground and indie rock culled from Left of the Dial fanzine spanning 1988-2012!
The collection, spanning over 250 curated items, stems from the collection of writer, musician, and editor David Ensminger, who published the well-regarded, close-to-the-ground, interview-heavy Left of the Dial magazine from 2000-2005. Ensminger has produced fanzines since the mid-1980s and written for assorted academic and pop culture presses ranging from Postmodern Culture and the Journal of Popular Music Studies to Maximum RocknRoll, Trust, Houston Press, Popmatters, Artcore, and many others. This collection highlights his interviews with seminal Punk and Indie rock bands spanning four decades, including Rob Younger (Radio Birdman), Channel 3, the Adolescents, Apples in Stereo, The Clean, the Waterboys, The Hives, and other key acts. This material is culled from the raw files of Left of the Dial, deep in the archives, sometimes including even pre-production print outs, with mistakes intact. Some of the art has been revamped and re-imagined, while a handful of interviews were previously unreleased or only available for a short time on a currently defunct blog. In addition, the anthology also contains two complete fanzines from the 1980s (No Deposit No Return), original unpublished ephemera, poetic broadsides, personal letters and mailings, videos, and a smattering of album reviews as well. Lastly, rich historical photographs by Ensminger and Houston photographer Ben DeSoto provocatively capture the spirit of the genres as well. As a bonus, music tracks featuring Ensminger are also included, revealing his own spirited participation in the underground musical movements. Click for BETA version.
Next, to read my review and see vivid pics of a stupendous and seething Youth Brigade and Adolescents show at Fitzgeralds in Houston, TX on Jan. 30th, simply click here.
Lastly, thanks much to Prof. Daniel Wojcik, my mentor at the Univ. of Oregon, for alerting me to this review of Visual Vitriol, found in this month’s Raw Vision magazine, which is dedicated to outsider and visionary art! Being mentioned alongside Japanese art brut is very exciting.
First, I would like to thank the readers that viewed this page 22,000 times throughout this busy last year. I hope each of you finds the research, interviews, conjectures, neo-philosophy, ethnography, and other materials both engaging and useful. The past six months have been very eventful and fulfilling, so here is an overview that provides (I hope) meaningful glimpses into the center’s approaches, outreach, and programs.
First, the center has sponsored an ongoing video channel on youtube that includes a program titled Start the Art, a digital art space without walls that I curate on a regular basis. Ten volumes of material have been uploaded. Two have already been posted on this site. To access the others, including the vintage punk photography of Ben DeSoto and myself covering a range of bands — Really Red, Sister Double Happiness, Big Boys, Anarchitex, Doomsday Massacre, Mydolls, and the Hates — plus other areas of interest, like punk flyers, modern art, and photography, simply click on this link. This should take you to the content page.
In the meantime, here is a sample:
I now play drums full-time for The Hates, a classic Houston punk ranging back to 1978. During December, we headed into the studio to re-cut several iconic songs by the band, including gems like “No Talk in the Eighties,” “City of Ice,” “Bored with the Boys,” and many more. We have also gigged continuously throughout the year, enjoying sites like the Jamail Skate Park, Rudyards Pub, Walters, and more in Houston as well as The Factory and Standpipe Coffee House in Lufkin, TX, where the band enjoys a loyal, fervent following (see my photos of the scene in Maximum Rocknroll‘s photo blog). I designed this poster for the skate park, where I had the pleasure of meeting the drummer of Spunk, a well-admired 1990s Houston hardcore band. I still drum and sing for No Love Less as well, who featured limber jazz-punk Bob Weber (of Really Red on fame) on drums, until his recent departure to South Korea for work initiatives. Briefly, I also served as temporary replacement drummer for Mydolls and Anarchitex too.
In November, I organized a “Island reunion party” at Walters. From 1978-1983, The Island featured a bevy of iconic 1970s-1980′s first wave Houston punk bands, so the reunion included sets by edgy, long-dormant (and often mixed-sex) bands such as Bevatron, Degenerates, The Ruse, The Broadcasters, Doomsday Massacre (with a guest appearance by half of Legionaire’s Disease and Nikki Sicki of Verbal Abuse, who also played a record release party at Vinyl Edge Records the night before!) as well as The Hates, Mydolls, and Anarchitex.
The event, attended by 250 people, was a watershed — highly spirited, even sublime, mutually supportive, and electrifying, proving that vintage punk remains potent and poetic, restless and regenerative. Famed local photographer Ben DeSoto is producing and editing a documentary film about the former club’s legacy, which should reach completion sometime in 2013. I hope this flyer, the third version I created for the one-of-a-kind event, captures some of the aesthetic and vibe:
The Hates also played a reunion for The Axiom, an equally important club in the fabric of local Houston history, in late November, organized by longtime Visual Vitriol supporter JR Delgado (Party Owls, Doomsday Massacre). See this shot below, snapped by my wife Julie Ensminger.
Last year also remained a year of field work summary and presentation. I attended the American Folklore Society’s annual conference on October 24-27 at the historic Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I presented a paper (the abstract has been filed in this blog’s archive) on the inter-connectivity of punk and Deaf communities, titled Abandoning the City of the Ear: Punk and Deaf Convergences, which was heard by an appreciative roomful. I decided to publish that material in the popular press, rather than an academic journal, so a wider audience could enjoy the history, theory, and arguments. Visit Popmatters here, where you can read the first portion, and be sure to scroll down and see my other topics for last year’s Folk Nation column, including my examination of The Beats, Vic Bondi of Articles of Faith, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Henry James, and more literary, music, film, and other pop culture luminaries.
In other publication-related news, I edited a book on the transgenerational culture of Black Flag tattoos, titled Barred for Life, written by longtime scenester and photographer Dean Ebersole. Visit his project website here and look for it to be arriving in stores within the next few months from PM Press.
PM Press will also be releasing my own anthology of punk history culled from Left of the Dial (my own zine that ran from 2000-2005), subtitled Conversations with Punk Icons. It features a “who’s who” list — pioneers from bands like Dead Kennedys, the Dicks, Minor Threat, Beefeater, Black Flag, The Nerves, and many more. Although it was initially due to arrive in Dec. it has been delayed and will likely be available in April, 2013, but you can pre-order at PM Press and Amazon.
Also, interviews with me concerning my book Visual Vitriol (Univ of Mississippi Press, 2011) appeared in two major outlets this Fall as well, each by the noted punk writer Alex Ogg. First, Alex was keen enough to stop by my exhibition of punk flyers, co-curated by Paul Cooper, at Rough Trade East in London in Aug. 2011, where he was impressed by the selection. That material, donated to Ogg, now appears in the fine art book, The Art of Punk, an incredible hands-on collection of punk visual history. I am also indebted to Ogg for featuring a one-page interview with me in the volume, plus using my own archives throughout the book, including one of my favorite items, an old Flipside video cassette cover, and many 45 records as well. Be sure to at least check out Amazon’s featured page on the book here.
Next Ogg also interviewed me for the second volume of the new but esteemed academic journal Punk and Post-Punk, a really tremendous achievement in the often staid, bureaucratic, and dry world of academia. The interview runs for twenty pages and most importantly includes a wide array of punk flyer art as well, each chosen to reflect certain topics of interest, like horror punk tropes and visionary/outsider folk art tendencies. Please visit the publisher’s website to view information about purchasing the journal and contributing to it as well. I just finished reading a vivid, well-articulated, and savvy article on steampunk in volume one and highly recommend the whole body of work that the journal pursues. Thanks again to Alex for being so utterly supportive and exhaustive in his own research as well. Visit his author’s page on Amazon here.
Also, my co-written (with historian Tim O’brien) biography of Lightnin’ Hopkins will also be arriving in April 2013 (perhaps as early as March) , thanks to the Univ. of Texas Press. Tim passed away due to cancer in Spring 2011, we miss and love him much, and this book is a testament to his concerns with the history of the blues, social justice, and Southern culture. See our book page here.
Lastly, I did curate two Visual Vitriol punk flyer shows this Fall as well, including a focus on international gig posters at Lee College in Baytown, TX during Nov. Peter Case, seminal punk figure and folk troubadour, played in front of the flyers during a student session attended by 55, prior to a set of gigs we played together as E. Rex in Lufkin and San Antonio, where Peter spoke on local radio and blazed at The Mix later that night. I documented him visiting Hog Wild Records, one of the last great indie records shops alive and well in America, below. See our co-written book Epistolary Rex here.
Lastly, I curated a specialized look at the gig flyers of The Island in Houston, TX at Vinyl Edge Records on 19th St. in Houston, TX, which has remained on the walls since November as well. You can see the flyers posted on the wall of the record store in this show below, which I snapped during the Doomsday Massacre record release party.
On the last day of 2012, the Houston Press ran my review of the Youth Brigade and Adolescents gig in Houston the previous night, a real buzzing, voracious, and stunning performance by each band. To see the full text and photos I snapped, click here.
I look forward to more frequent updates in the next year, and I apologize for all the details crammed into this one undertaking — a real reflection on a mere six months — and I do thank you for visiting the blog, focusing on punk issues, and supporting the center’s endeavors. To contact me, please simply email: email@example.com
Be well, stay stronger … David Ensminger
Interview with Marc H. Miller, co-curator of the infamous Punk Art Show with Bettie Ringma and co-editor of ABC No Rio Dinero: The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery with Alan Moore.
How did you first become aware of the vivid nature of punk visual arts?
In the mid-1970s, New York was a mecca for artists, musicians, and other assorted creative types. Everyone lived in Lower East Side tenements and downtown lofts, which created a very fluid social scene where all the arts intermixed. It was a time of generational shift, the baby boomers were coming in and trying to find their place. Everyone — whether they were artists, musicians or whatever — confronted the same situation. Art galleries and record labels were booked solid with artists from the 60s. New arrivals were shut out and had to create their own scene and opportunities. The musicians got there first with CBGB, and this inspired the visual artists. Some attached themselves to the music scene while others paralleled the trends. There was an all-encompassing DIY spirit in downtown New York that spawned a deluge of artist run venues — galleries, magazines, clubs etc. For a brief moment in the early 1980s, it all coalesced into a flourishing East Village scene that rivaled in size and intensity the legendary EV of 20 years before.
What we now call punk visual art was a part of this. But it was an amorphous aesthetic that could never be easily defined and over time continually evolved. I track part of the story on my website 98bowery.com, which is named after the address where I lived from 1969 – 89. The site basically tells my story, but since the place and time was right, it’s also a lens on the broader tale. One can trace the evolution of punk visual art in three publications that I’ve posted on the site: the catalogue for the “Lives” show at the Fine Arts Building (1975); the catalogue for the exhibit “Punk Art” in Washington DC (1978), and the book ABC No Rio Dinero, The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery (1985).
“Lives” marked the curatorial debut of Jeffrey Deitch, who last year mounted the controversial exhibition “Art in the Streets” in Los Angeles. In some ways, “Lives” had a conventional take on art featuring work by conceptual artists looking for careers in galleries. What made the show unique was that the artists selected by Jeffrey involved themselves via performance, photography, and expressionistic drawings with real life issues like sexuality and politics. It fit in perfectly with the Fine Arts Building, which in the mid-1970s was a hot bed of experimental activity. In terms of music the building was an incubator for No Wave, and the site of the famous series of concerts that led to the No New York album produced by Brian Eno.
The ABC No Rio book that I co-edited with Alan Moore tells the story of the first five years of an alternative gallery that was founded when a group of artists illegally seized a boarded up city-owned building and mounted a show about real estate. A few months later the same group of artists were also involved with the notorious Time Square Show that took place in a former massage parlor. No Rio was the home of theme exhibitions like “Murder, Suicide, Junk.” It was originally a visual arts venue. The book ends in 1985 shortly before No Rio began hosting the punk music concerts that it’s famous for today.
Readers of Visual Vitriol might be most interested in the Punk Art Show that Bettie Ringma and I organized in 1978 for the Washington Projects for the Arts. We called it “the world’s first punk art show” and if this claim is interpreted to refer simply to first using the term “punk art” in a mainstream art context, it might be accurate. The title was deliberately exploitative. Punk music was just getting noticed in the media and we figured why not take the hype and run with it. A lot of artists thought it was too blatant but it worked. The show got coverage all over the world and the phrase “punk art” has been in continuous use ever since. Hundreds of people now view the catalogue every day at 98bowery.com. Although it seemed very ad hoc at the time, the show provides a good cross-section of the punk visual aesthetic just as it was beginning in the US. We could not include everybody but the artists in the show were all major players in the scene and almost all are still active today.
Since your documentation began so early in the movement, how did you develop a curatorial sensibility for the work — did you base it on earlier experience with other art movements?
Almost everyone in the Punk Art exhibition was a regular at CBGB, which was still a small place with a very limited core group. Bettie and I were active in the art scene in Soho and Tribeca and saw right away that many of the people at CBGB were also visual artists. Those were the people we put in the show. It was almost a pre-selected exhibition. We just needed to refine things, which is what I think you mean when you ask about our “curatorial sensibility.” We tried not to be too narrow. There was a great deal of variety in the music that was being called Punk at the time and that was even truer about Punk visual art. We needed however to make sure that the show looked “Punk” for both the insiders and the outsiders. Definitely no “Pattern and Decoration” painters or “Greenbergian formalists” even if they were in a great band. What we ended up with was a mix rooted in subject matter, attitude, and social connections. It was different from most art movements, which were based around a single style or look. About the only real parallel was “Feminist Art,” which also coalesced around content and viewpoint. Ironically, when we mounted the Punk Art show in Amsterdam, a feminist art writer criticized it as macho art.
I assume the choices you made for the catalog and shows were governed by many factors. Could you walk us through the process of making some of those choices – why particular artists and pieces were chosen?
We couldn’t have done the exhibition without the cooperation of John Holmstrom, Legs McNeil and Punk Magazine. They were the ones who originally linked the word “punk” to music and in our mind they owned the word. Punk was a visual publication filled with John’s cartoons and photo stories directed by Legs along with photographer Roberta Bayley. Compared to our Soho art crowd, the artists at Punk were much more comfortable with the commercial side of art. They brought into the exhibition artists who worked directly with the music groups, most notably Arturo Vega, the art director for the Ramones.
Another lynchpin was Alan Vega (aka Alan Suicide) the lead singer of the group Suicide. In addition to making music, Alan was an exhibiting artist. His “junk” sculpture made out of malfunctioning electronic circuitry was the visual equivalent of Suicide’s aggressive electronic music. Here was a pure punk visual aesthetic without any overt references to the punk scene.
Probably our most difficult curatorial decision concerned Tom Otterness’s “Dog Shot” film. Tom was part of the artist group COLAB represented in the exhibition primarily through X Magazine. COLAB was later largely responsible for both ABC No Rio and the Times Square Show (where Tom was a principal organizer). The “Dog Shot” film is a major blot on Tom’s otherwise successful career as a public sculptor. It was a youthful misstep encouraged by the punk milieu of the times that he now wishes never happened. Essentially it’s a film loop showing him shooting a dog. A lot of punk at the time aimed to be provocative and there were many provocative pieces in the exhibition. Tom’s film was the most real and the most extreme. It definitely crossed a line. It’s in the catalogue, but after much arguing we didn’t include it in the show. I’m ready to defend it as art, but ultimately we couldn’t subject the Washington Project for the Arts to the intensely negative reaction that the film unleashes. Just doing a Punk Art show in 1978 was outrageous. I have an angry letter from Alice Denney, the director of the WPA, listing all the funding sources they lost because of the show.
To view Marc’s on-line archive, see here.
JUNE 2012 UPDATE — Be Sure to read David Ensminger’s Top Twenty All-Girl Punk Bands list, found in the June 23rd edition of Popmatters.
Spring and Summer of 2012 will be very eventful. In July, folklorist Nathan Moore will be joining David Ensminger in co-curating a punk flyer exhibit at the worker-run, vegan, counterculture Red and Black Cafe in Portland. The opening night events are to be scheduled soon. Visual Vitriol recently had reviews (thank you, writers!) featured in Trust, Dagger, and the excellent Roctober.
Ensminger’s interview with The Faith and Agent Orange can be found in the spring edition of Artcore, while an interview with Ensminger, by Osa Atoe, can be found in June 2012 edition of Maximum RocknRoll. A vivid, savvy, and elastic overview/review of Visual Vitriol was just published on-line by the keen Scanner zine too in mid-May.
David Ensminger’s latest book, Left of the Dial, featuring interviews with punk legends from The Dils, Minutemen, Black Flag, Dicks, Articles of Faith, Dead Kennedys, and many more will be published in Dec. 2012 from PM Press.
The season starts, though, with a gig in Baytown on May 12, when writer David Ensminger will be debuting the new version of his band No Love Less to the “chemical alley” crowds. Drummer Bob Weber, formerly of Texas icons Really Red, will be joining the band on stage for upcoming, and as always, Trish Herrera and Diana Ray of the Mydolls will be providing the art-punk ruckus. A flyer of the Mydolls from 1983, made by Herrera, can be found reproduced in beautiful full-size color in the March issue of Art in Print, in a history of Xerox art written by Ensminger. The show be at Cornerstone, 701 W Sterling St. Baytown, TX 77520. NLL will hit the stage at 9:00 PM.
The next week, on May 19, No Love Less will be appearing at Super Happy Funland in Houston, TX, 3801 Polk Street. Houston TX 77003 (713)880-2100, with a variety of punk bands from the region, including many female rockers (Zipperneck, The Shadow, Lazer Cuntzz).
To kick-start 2012 and chase away the winter blues, Visual Vitriol author David Ensminger is hosting a South Punk explosion, with bands zooming in from San Antonio (Say Revenge!), Dallas (Here Holy Spain), Missouri (Molotov Latte), and New Orleans (Opposable Thumbs and Sparrowhawk), who will be sharing the stage with zealous locals like the Biscuit Bombs (featuring guest members from Really Red, Anarchitex, London Girl, and more), No Love Less (half of the Mydolls), Busy Kids, The Drafted, Vivian Pikkles, Jealous Creatures, and maybe others! The Friday night proceeds will benefit the legacy of Esme Barrera, our ally in Austin, who was killed recently. One extinguished light dims us all. We will not forget her: walk together, rock together, and defend the night together! No justice, no peace. The events will likely start at 7:00 and cost approx $10.00! Super Happy Funland, 3801 Polk Street Houston, TX 77003-4837, 713 – 880-2100.
Leon Neyfakh, a vivid writer for the Boston Globe, recently tracked me down to discuss “punkademia” and the irony of studying a slippery group of rebellious people who often distrust academic aims, institutions, and language. I was deeply intrigued by the concept, and I think he navigated the issues wisely, starting out with his own perspective and experience discovering a punk rock graduate student in his midst during his keen school years. In the piece, which can be read here, he highlights new and old punk academic texts and speaks to a few key people working to explore the complex discourse and cultural history of punk, like the eminent writer Alex Ogg. Below, I am offering up meaningful portions of my emails with Neyfakh, for I think my own blurbs warrant further context. I offer no complaints. He dealt with my insight in a quite balanced and fair form.
For those Visual Vitriol readers who might also wonder about the topic too, I simply wanted to add clarity and depth. In the pursuit of transparency and a sense of immediacy, I tried to present my text below in a format akin to the actual email transcripts. Also, this does not employ straight argumentative aims – my logic is circular, de-centered, and conversational. This is the ‘way of the blog.’
There’s Gonna Be a Blackout in the Academy Tonight!
Visual Vitriol and the Center for Punk Arts is proud to sponsor a photography show that will be projected on a large screen in the outdoor covered patio of Domy Books in Houston, Texas starting at 7:30 pm. Featured work by Ben DeSoto will highlight his documentation of punk in Austin and Houston during the 1980s and early 1990s, including avid shots of Suicidal Tendencies, the Swans, Big Boys, Butthole Surfers, Circle Jerks, and many more. David Ensminger will present a decade of Montrose street life documentation, focusing on contested spaces and street art, homemade signs, urban landscapes, and the ever-mutating skin of the neighborhood. The flash art event is free, open to the public, and each photographer will be on-hand to discuss the work. Ensminger’s continuously updated catalog can be viewed on-line here, plus his folklore blog featuring similar material can be found here.
Space is not a neutral and passive geometry. Space is produced and reproduced and this represents a site of struggle.
Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 1991
The Second Skin of Cities: David Ensminger
Graffiti, stencils, stickers, and flyers invoke often-unseen communities creating public spectacles that distress and fray official boundaries of civic space. Each art site becomes a micro-world, a confluence of personal meaning and identity that occurs in the fissures of the local terrain. The pieces become nomadic signs negotiating their own legitimacy while juxtaposed next to nearby domestic, commercial, and municipal space. As such, they subvert the semiotic signs of civil society — street signs, bus depots, railways, utility boxes, and housing. Inundated with vernacular street art, the sites mutate, displaying a rough vernacular environment, like a spontaneous democracy misbehaving. The contested space – the skin of the city, a topography tingling with meanings and counter-meanings — is an ever-changing recombination of signs and captures the algorithms mapping each generation. Each piece of street art becomes ideological shorthand. For my full-length article on the topic published in Popmatters during Spring 2011 , click here.