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DEBATE: Punk is Dead. How do we treat the remains?

Lucas Galley-Greenwood: Traditional Burial

As has been highly publicised recently, Joe Corre,  the son of Punks power couple Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood has announced that he will be burning £5 million worth of Punk memorabilia from his personal collection. This will take place in Camden Town on November 26th as a grand protest largely against the events planned for Punk London, a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Punk. The date and location, both synonymous with the birth of the Punk scene with the 26th of November being the 40th anniversary of Sex Pistol’s Anarchy In The UK. Corre has invited others to join him in the burning of their own collection.

Corre’s justification behind the act seems fairly valid; he describes his anger at The Queen, as a symbol of the personification of the mainstream, giving her seal of approval for 2016 to be the Year of the Punk. The protest is also, according to his press release, an attack on the “general malaise” that has set into British culture with little show of a continued fight against everything that the Punk way of life fought against being represented in the modern day.

First of all, given the scale and drama, one cannot help but question the true necessity of the protest. Speaking bluntly, burning £5 million of cultural history for the sake of a middle-finger to “the man” and the hope of potentially starting an anarchic resurgence is both excessive and ill thought-through given the many museums, galleries and artistic institutions that would surely treasure even a mere slither of his vast collection. An issue seems that whether Corre likes it or not, Punk – while being an attitude and “a way of mind” – is also a scene that has helped form the modern cultural landscape, where it’s image has been augmented over time.

While the creation of a cultural bonfire is ‘warranted’ to an extent given his anti-Punk London attitude and his Punk routes, progression rather than regression needs to be considered. The British Punk way has moved on: the majority of punks on Camden Lock Bridge have retired their mohawks; studs and ripped denim are just a thing that people wear now and throwing the blame of a “fascist regime” (thank you, John Lydon) at a largely appreciated 89 year old woman seems far-fetched. A protest of this kind seems as archaic as the fight it is trying to maintain and while as a generation we do need to be more politically involved and maintain a punk-esque attitude, Joe Corre may need to think about whether its really necessary burning his and our past to spark up the future.

 

Marissa Field: Let It Burn

The evolution of punk over the last four decades has been controversial and, in many ways, stilted. The music has moved on, combining with other genres and exploring modern themes, and finding new generations of fans. All the while, punk’s original image has lingered in popular culture and stagnated. It has functionally reversed on itself, something that to too many fans is a kind of symbolic death; the manipulations of the ‘punk rock image’ for commericial projects, and its acceptance into mainstream culture, has made something that was created to threaten pop culture into something too familiar to have an impact. Joe Corre argues that punk has been appropriated by the masses, and while this rhetoric does sound a bit silly – appropriating something traditionally dominated by heterosexual, white men seems impossible – it is obvious that punk has been exploited.

Reducing an entire movement to the status of a ‘museum piece’ is not only disrespectful, but risks historical inaccuracy. As such, a national initiative like Year Of Punk, undoubtedly targeting tourists, which sees symbolic opponents of the punk movement recognising its legitimacy, seems more like a defeat than a victory. The idea is so absurd that it almost does not seem worth acknowledging, but that kind of apathy, Corre very rightly points out, is not a tendency to be encouraged. To try to reverse – or at least protest – the slow death of not only a movement but its potential, and how it was and is truly embodied, is a responsibility we should not avoid.

Burning memorabilia is not only the kind of response you might expect from Corre, but also the most definitive way to remove the artefacts of the punk movement from the reach of those who would misinterpret or manipulate them to create a narrative of the early years of the English punk movement that is fundamentally inauthentic and inaccurate. Burning these things is not about destruction – they are far less valuable than the ideology they stand for – but is a move to bring the false connotations and mythology surrounding punk to the reality of what it really meant, not to mention a backlash against exploitation in the name of what is ultimately a capitalist gesture.

Looking at punk Memorabilia, to someone who id not familiar with the movement, can never accurately represent what punk was and continues to be about. The objects produced by those involved in this subculture were only a small part of it, and were never the goal. Punk has always been about valuing what was important to the individual, not the society. Burn all the garbage, but keep the idea of it alive in the music that is still to come.

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