Bollocks To Big Stadium Art: Time For A DIY Punk Revolution




Millions of refugees are homeless, tens of thousands have been killed, Syria’s pile of rubble, Detroit’s a wasteland, poverty’s rife, unemployment’s rising, kids now earn less than their parents did… 

But what the hell, apart from Ai Weiwei, Banksy, Jimmy Cauty and a few others, the now generation of big-name artists don’t give a flying fuck. They’re so friggin’ rich, out-of-touch and bourgeois, that they have nothing of any importance or interest to say, so they make gigantic, showy and meaningless art.

No one epitomises this more than Jeff Koons. The late, legendary art critic, Robert Hughes said of him, “…his work is such an extreme and self-satisfied manifestation of the sanctimony that attaches to big bucks. Koons really does think he’s Michelangelo and is not shy to say so. The significant thing is that there are collectors, especially in America, who believe it. He has the slimy assurance, the gross patter about transcendence through art, of a blow-dried Baptist selling swamp acres in Florida…”

Although he proved that he, personally has bollocks with his vulgar and opportunistic “Made in Heaven” series of paintings, photographs and glass sculptures, his Balloon Dogs have none. They’re sterile, but reassuringly expensive, 58 million dollar baubles. 

The situation in art now is similar to that of the mid-70s in music. The scene was dominated by highly successful, “big stadium” Progressive rock bands such as the Moody Blues, Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Jethro Tull..   

The arrangements were complex and often incorporated self-indulgent guitar solos and pretentious, bombastic lyrics.

 

According to Tommy Ramone the late drummer for the Ramones, “In its initial form, a lot of (the 1960s) stuff was innovative and exciting. Unfortunately, what happens is that people who could not hold a candle to the likes of Hendrix started noodling away. Soon you had endless solos that went nowhere. By 1973, I knew that what was needed was some pure, stripped down, no bullshit rock ‘n’ roll.” 

While these millionaire musicians were “noodling away”, to huge audiences, the new generation was suffering the consequences of a severe recession throughout the Western world. The UK suffered from the oil crisis, the three-day week, high unemployment and double-digit inflation. 

In the UK, punk rock arose because mainstream bands were seen as corporate, distant, pretentious, self-indulgent and totally unaware of the issues facing young, ordinary people. 

Quite simply, mainstream music then, like art now, wasn’t expressing the mood or concerns of the time. It was smug and superficial, not rebellious.

 Musically, it was complex and slow, overly-long, not simple, raunchy, short, aggressive like that first expressed in the 50s by the giants like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley and the later in the mid-60s by the Velvet Underground and later protopunk bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Who and the Kinks.

Authenticity was important in punk subculture. That’s why many features of punk were developed in direct opposition to mainstream music. So, they typically used shorter songs, with fewer chords, simple melodies and singing styles and anti-establishment, or political lyrics.

Unlike Big Stadium bands, many punk bands were physically close to their audiences and physically interacted with them through insults and spitting. When recording, the typical objective was to aim for an “un-manipulated and real” sound, reflecting the commitment to and “authenticity” of live performance.

So much for punk rock. How can this be applied to art today? For a start, many people know intuitively that something is wrong. Perhaps we can look again at what Tommy Ramone wrote, “By 1973, I knew that what was needed was some pure, stripped down, no bullshit rock ‘n’ roll.”

What we need now is some “pure, stripped down, no bullshit” art. 

One word keeps cropping up: authenticity. Yes, it’s been used and abused, particularly with the fortunate demise of postmodernism, however, I don’t wish to get into semantics. Let’s take it to mean: real, genuine, not counterfeit, pure, honest, with integrity and truth.

Of course, it won’t destroy “Big Stadium” art, and it probably won’t last, but like punk rock, it may shake things up and introduce many new talented, subversive and anti-establishment art and artists to the world.  The time is right for some NBAs (New British Artists) to challenge all those outrageously revolutionary OBAs with their establishment MBEs, OBEs and even CBEs.

Words/ Top Photo Iain Maclean © Artlyst 2016  Middle: Jeff Koons Made In Heaven Series Photo P C Robinson Photo3: Banksy Morons 2007 Bottom: Jimmy Cauty 2015

 


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