Punk is Not Dead ... yet
June 14, 2013 9:24 AM   Subscribe

PUNK: Chaos To Couture is an exhibit running at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Reactions have been mixed.

NYTimes: Made for ‘Ugh,’ Appropriated for ‘Oooh’
The show is the ultimate confirmation that, despite attempts to be as unpalatable as possible, punk was absorbed by the culture around it, not least by blue-chip fashion designers on the prowl for new ideas. At once trashy and sexy, punk provided excellent slumming opportunities, which this exhibition shows to good effect amid wide-screens flashing images of Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten and the Clash in performance. But fashion has rarely looked as frivolous, beside the point and 1 percent-ish as here.
The Economist: The Legacy Of Punk
Yet for a movement that was largely defined by its music, it feels odd that only one gallery blares the extreme and energetic sounds of The New York Dolls, Richard Hell, The Slits, The Damned and others. This feels like a concession to the typical Met patron, and is a good example of the problem with this exhibition: the anti-establishment story of the punk movement cannot properly be told in the hallowed costume section of the Met. Visitors to this show should expect eye-catching displays, not a coherent narrative. The presentation is vivid and often fun, but anyone hoping for depth will be left with a proper punk sneer.
The Smart Set: The Death Instinct - Punk is boredom, desperation, and death. So is fashion.
It is the high-fashion aspect of the Met’s exhibit (curated by Andrew Bolton, who heads the Costume Institute at The Met) that has drawn early criticism. Even if punk began as a fashion, the criticism goes, it was fashion with a purpose. The purpose was to shake things up, to make life uncomfortable for the status quo. Punk can’t be reduced to a fashion statement or an inspiration for expensive sweaters and dresses from the ritziest fashion houses, can it? What about that t-shirt supposedly worn by Richard Hell? It was a white t-shirt with the words “please kill me” scrawled across the front. Doesn’t that t-shirt cross a line? Walking around New York City in the 1970s with that shirt on was an invitation to real danger. That dangerous side of punk was an honest confrontation with meaninglessness, nihilism, despair. Sid Vicious may have been a punk kid who hung around Westwood and McLaren’s store shoplifting and making a nuisance of himself. But he was also the punk kid who shook his fist at the world and drugged himself to an early grave. That is a genuine darkness. It would seem to have nothing to do with Versace or Helmut Lang.
Bookforum: Sew It Up And Start Again
Flipping through the imposing art book that accompanies the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s spring exhibition, which explores punk rock’s influence on fashion, is like hearing your favorite Screamers song played in a mall. First, you feel bad—it’s more proof that everything gets sold out. Then you suspect that it’s some kind of dada trick. How else to explain sentences like this: “In punk’s spirit of revolution, Moda Operandi is the first online luxury retailer to offer unprecedented access to runway collections from the world’s top designers.” In punk’s spirit of revolution, my first instinct was to set the book on fire.
The New Yorker: The Many Failures of the Met's 'Punk: Chaos To Couture"

Oh, and there was a gala too: Ranking the Met Gala Red Carpet from Most Punk to Least Punk, The problem with the Met Gala's punk red carpet
Of course, there’s much irony to the whole thing — the fashion world’s most exclusive evening with every entitled celebrity on the planet gathered in the name of punk, an anti-fashion, anti-establishment movement of working-class heroes. And Miley, Nicole and Kim trying to mimic the spirit of a DIY-based movement about subversiveness by wearing priceless designer gowns, kooky hairstyles and black eye shadow.
But let’s face it, punk was appropriated by the establishment long ago. That includes the luxury fashion industry, which has been using safety pins and slashes to sell cool for decades.
posted by the man of twists and turns (53 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
And one more from the New Yorker: Anarchy Unleashed: A curator brings punk to the Met.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:30 AM on June 14, 2013


Even if punk began as a fashion, the criticism goes, it was fashion with a purpose.

LOL.

Punk was sold out from the start, that's why it's punk. There is no purity in punk.
posted by Artw at 9:30 AM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I could have sworn I saw this same exhibit at the Met in 2006.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:33 AM on June 14, 2013


When I saw the photos of the opening night gala with captions like "Sienna Miller, punk princess!" because she was wearing a studded leather jacket that her personal designer had picked out, it was pretty clear that this exhibit was entirely missing the point. Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?
posted by oneirodynia at 9:34 AM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I could have sworn I saw this same exhibit at the Met in 2006.

Anarchy in the Met:
The new show, explained Bolton, is a prequel to the Met’s 2006 Anglomania and will examine punk as an aesthetic, rather than an attitude. “Punk smashed every convention,” he said. “It prized originality, authenticity, and individualism.” While counterintuitive, these qualities, he said, put punk on the same, or at least a very similar, plane as couture.
Daily Beast: Never Mind the Bollocks, or the Clothes
Two images care of the punk couture show that previewed today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – and that I just panned on TheDailyBeast.com. In that cranky review, however, I didn't have room to mention that, among the talentless couturier copycats of punk who dominate the show, there are also a few designers, such as Rei Kawakubo and Martin Margiela, who are genuine artistic geniuses. The thing is, I think that by including them the curators are guilty of that heinous sin that art historians call pseudomorphism: Imagining that because two artworks look the same, they also mean the same thing and play the same role in our culture.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:38 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


There have been SO MANY "punk" retrospective art exhibitions, I am pretty sure that staging one at the MET of all places will be the final one, having finally, fully, robbed the idea of any relevancy.
posted by Theta States at 9:38 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just bring the fucking Bowie exhibit over from the V&A.
posted by GuyZero at 9:39 AM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm actually upset by the people who came to the Gala in boring, red carpet ready looks? The Met Gala is a A) A big deal B) Heavily photographed and C) Is currently giving you an excuse to wear themed costumes for the biggest, fanciest dress party ever. This is one of the few times it is perfectly expected for you dress completely and utterly bonkers and you can't even give us that.

SIGH.
posted by The Whelk at 9:39 AM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


That "in punk's spirit of revolution" quote is pretty lol, though.
posted by subdee at 9:39 AM on June 14, 2013


Thanks, the man of twists and turns.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:40 AM on June 14, 2013


This is one of the few times it is perfectly expected for you dress completely and utterly bonkers and you can't even give us that.

At the same time some of the press commentary on those same photos was basically confusion as to why people were dressed like that. The press is not always very bright.
posted by GuyZero at 9:41 AM on June 14, 2013


Thomas Frank in the newest Harper's:

"The exhibition kicked off with a gala party attended by a jolly parade of CEOs, movie directors, and fashion bosses. Givenchy's creative director appeared on video to explain what "punk" was. And then, dressed up like members of the social class Margaret Thatcher ruined, the winners of the market order marched in a smiling processional past adoring members of the press and public, who paid tribute with a storm of camera flashes meant to illuminate our latter-day gods, the only ones still capable of changing the world."
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:44 AM on June 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Punks not dead" (undead undead)
posted by The Whelk at 9:44 AM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Economist: The Legacy Of Punk

I'm going to pretend this is a product of madlibs
posted by Hoopo at 9:49 AM on June 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is one of the few times it is perfectly expected for you dress completely and utterly bonkers and you can't even give us that.

The only person I saw that I liked was January Jones, who did a credible impression of a New Waver from the 80's (and was soundly criticized on many blogs for looking like an unattractive weirdo). She actually looked like she chose her own clothes and did her own makeup. I've never cared for her but a have a bit more respect for her just for not looking entirely conventionally pretty at the Fake Punk Show.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:50 AM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jadedpunk weighs in on the gala, is jaded.

"Lena Dunham, star of Two Broke Girls or whatever" heh.

Obligatory
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:51 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dear God, TheWhiteSkull. That Jadedpunk link.

“Favorite punk song? Um, it’s kind of hard on the spot. Is Goo Goo Dolls considered punk?”
posted by Hoopo at 10:00 AM on June 14, 2013


. . . it just smells that way.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:09 AM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]



Dear God, TheWhiteSkull. That Jadedpunk link.

Well, somebody's honest anyway ...

“I don’t think I fully understood the theme.”
—Kate Upton,

posted by philip-random at 10:13 AM on June 14, 2013


"Punks not dead"

Punk's dead you're next.
posted by dersins at 10:24 AM on June 14, 2013


Punk isn't dead. It is just a zombie that is hungry for your wallet.
posted by vorpal bunny at 10:28 AM on June 14, 2013


Pretty Vacant at The Met: Howie Pyro on Met Punk
As we approached, my eyes hit the massive banner attached to the front of this magnificent building again proclaiming “PUNK”, silver on black, in a Disco-esque font that-- in any decade-- would have never made it below 23rd street.
posted by monospace at 10:35 AM on June 14, 2013


Can someone explain to me the connection between a gala and an exhibit? I guess I'm from some backwards town where we have art exhibits sometimes but I don't think I've ever been to a gala.

I like to imagine all these people in their costumes staring thoughtfully at a facsimile of the CBGB bathroom but I don't know what fraction of their time they spend looking at the exhibit.
posted by RobotHero at 10:44 AM on June 14, 2013


The last embers of punk spirit in my aging body want to go in there and vomit all over the whole thing.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 10:46 AM on June 14, 2013


Just bring the fucking Bowie exhibit over from the V&A.

Toronto, dude.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:46 AM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I recently saw a punk show (I think it was 4 bands for $7) in a small room above a Mexican restaurant. There's "real" punk still out there, whatever that means, if you know how to find it.
posted by JoanArkham at 10:49 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The omission of all the major punk designers aside from Westwood (and almost anything pre-1980 ) seems really, really strange. Especially when you consider how iconic and fashion-changing so much of it was.

Like maybe the Met started out with the idea of doing a Westwood retrospective and then it got mutated?
posted by The Whelk at 10:53 AM on June 14, 2013


Richard Hell was not impressed, either.

I've seen the show, and I didn't like it. I have been telling my friends not to go.

And just like the the Schiaparelli/Prada show last year, the media set up is confusing, and totally non-illuminating; one gets the feeling that they put in some "multimedia" because that's the buzzword in exhibitions these days. The clothes are hoisted above the viewer in such a way that one can't feel any connection to the work.

The regular Met ladies-who-lunch types hate the show, and I think part of it is that they don't come away with any understanding of what punk really was about, ergo no context of how in its way, it was as much a legitimate (if not as 'high-class') type of artistic expression as, say, Chanel, or how it was appropriated and what it was that drew designers to try and recreate the aesthetic.
posted by droplet at 10:54 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait, is the gala the thing where I eat a bunch of free cheese?
posted by RobotHero at 10:56 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is punk art.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 10:57 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


A "gala" is any event where it would make total sense for the The Joker and Or Riddler to attack at any moment.
posted by The Whelk at 10:58 AM on June 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


Can someone explain to me the connection between a gala and an exhibit?

Galas associated with exhibits aren't uncommon, but this particular one is really the fancypants gala event: the Met Ball. Which, yeah, this year, really a waste of a red carpet. (Except for Vivienne Westwood and her date Lily Cole.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:00 AM on June 14, 2013


Who is this... "Gatsby"?
posted by Artw at 11:15 AM on June 14, 2013


There is no way this exhibition could be my life.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:17 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


That Richard Hell link is awesome, droplet! Thanks for that.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:42 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who is this... "Gatsby"?

You'll like him, he's great.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:27 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is modern punk.
posted by basicchannel at 1:20 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, note in my link how they were dressed in that season's latest Parisian couture.
posted by basicchannel at 1:22 PM on June 14, 2013


Pussy Riot: A Punk Rock Prayer
posted by homunculus at 3:13 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


GuyZero: Just bring the fucking Bowie exhibit over from the V&A.
Bowie ---------------- (most of the rest of the world) -----------punk
posted by IAmBroom at 3:40 PM on June 14, 2013


jetlagaddict: (Except for Vivienne Westwood and her date Lily Cole.)
LOVE that phrasing! Well done, sir, well done.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:48 PM on June 14, 2013


That Richard Hell link is awesome, droplet! Thanks for that.

Funny, Richard Hell wrote an essay for the show. He felt conflicted about contributing to the institutionalization of the counterculture, but he said (paraphrase) "I like the art gallery". His punk band had a swell jazzy twist to it.
posted by ovvl at 6:51 PM on June 14, 2013


Punk is dead. If you insist that you've seen actual punk shows recently by young disaffected rabble-rousers, then I say good for them. If they're real then they're fighting an uphill battle going against the flow (fuck you, I'll mix my goddamned metaphors if I want) et fucking cetera. Punk can't exist as part of the main stream, that's just pop music. Nothing wrong with pop music, but it ain't punk. Fashion was something to be laughed at. Seems to me it still is.
Oh man, I got no problem with selling out (eating's a good thing) Just ain't no one involved in this shit that COULD sell out. They never had values TO sell out. So the rich and famous hop on a long abandoned band wagon hoping to have some last vestige of punk street cred rub off on them, or perhaps make fun of the hapless losers like me that once took that pose seriously. Hell I saw Tank Girl at the movies, I know how this shit works.
posted by evilDoug at 7:11 PM on June 14, 2013


Who cares if punk is dead or not; it's whatever you need it to be.
The Met show however, that's a pretty big type nail right there it is.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 9:09 PM on June 14, 2013


Punk was dead as of the Sex Pistols final gig, January 1978 (Johnny R even said, "Good night." But like any good zombie, you can't keep it in the ground. Long die punk!
posted by philip-random at 9:15 AM on June 15, 2013


Obligatory
posted by whir at 10:56 AM on June 15, 2013


Hell I saw Tank Girl at the movies, I know how this shit works.

If you've got $1500 burning a hole in your pocket, you can buy a Tank Girl costume.
posted by RobotHero at 11:16 AM on June 15, 2013


Tank Girl cosplay
posted by homunculus at 11:26 AM on June 15, 2013


Yes, there are probably cheaper ways to dress as Tank Girl. Buying and wearing a $1500 movie prop just seems like an apropos combination of punk and ridiculous extravagance.
posted by RobotHero at 11:55 AM on June 15, 2013


Real Tank Girl would steal the costume and wear it.

Then fuck a kangaroo while listening to obscure mid-90s indie.
posted by Artw at 12:10 PM on June 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


W.W.R.T.G.D.?

That's a philosophy I always try to live by.
posted by RobotHero at 12:17 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I recently saw a punk show (I think it was 4 bands for $7) in a small room above a Mexican restaurant. There's "real" punk still out there, whatever that means, if you know how to find it.

It's way easier to pretend that punk was only real in the brief time it was a fad and that the last thirty years never happened.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:36 AM on June 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pussy Riot: "People fear us because we're feminists". Laurie Penny meets the Russian punk-protest group.
posted by homunculus at 3:23 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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