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Wednesday, June 19, 2013 Artsy Fartsy: The Art of Punk

 I found the art and fashion of punk before I discovered the music. When I was 13, I dyed my hair, wore ripped up clothes, and started hanging out with the weird kids. Even though it was the late ’90s, and punk was “dead,” my best friends and I loved classic “’77″ punk music thanks to our trusty neighborhood record clerk. I covered my bedroom walls with flyers from local punk shows and the art of Gee Vaucher, Dave King, Raymond Pettibon, Winston Smith and others. I was inspired by the rad women in the scene. They taught me to be fearless.

In the latest installment of The Art of Punk, a documentary series commissioned by MoCAtv about the visual culture of punk, filmmakers Bryan Ray Turcotte and Bo Bushnell delve into art of Crass, who happen to have been my favorite band. Their loud, fast, anarcho-punk lyrics and absolute conviction to the DIY spirit won my young heart. I spoke with the filmmakers about punk music, the Met gala and their favorite punk ladies, and Bryan even dug into his extensive collection of ephemera to highlight my heroes.—Martine Syms

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“My two fav Avengers flyers. The one with Penelope in the target [below] is perfection and the hand-colored one [above] is epic. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken them to color each flyer.” — Bryan Ray Turcotte

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Tell me about the process of making the film. When did you start making it?

Bryan: We started about a year ago. The original deadline was somewhere around October 2012. But we kept meeting more people and getting more interviews, so we’d be like “We have good news and bad news…” We literally tracked down Penny and Gee for the Crass film. We heard they were going to be at the anarchist book festival in San Francisco so we rented a room for five days determined to find them. They had no idea we were working on the film. We cornered them on the first night and stayed up until 3 a.m. doing the interview.

Bo: We were in touch with Darren Romanelli and the people from OH WOW gallery when we heard the story about Scott Campbell getting kicked out of the house for wearing a Crass shirt. Then we knew we had to interview younger artists to show how the art surrounding the bands impacted and inspired a younger generation.

"Debbie Harry from an old magazine tear-out that Howie Pyro gave me...i think he hung it on his wall when he was a kid or something." —BRT

“Debbie Harry from an old magazine tear-out that Howie Pyro gave me. I think he hung it on his wall when he was a kid or something.” —BRT

When did you first become conscious of punk music and the idea of doing it yourself?

Bryan: My older cousin Michelle was a punk. She gave me a Dead Kennedys record and sent me off. Then I learned more from the older punk kids, who’d be playing music and I’d ask “Who’s that?” “Black Flag!” “Oh yeah, of course.”

Bo: I found out about punk through skateboarding, skate vids and a street punk kid that my older sister dated.

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“The four BAGS flyers at BACES, WHISKEY, STARWOOD and CLUB 88 are super old school. Great pics of Alice. The Solo Pic [at the top of this post] I found in the Slash Records Archive.” — BRT

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What did you guys think about the punk themed Met Gala?

Bryan: I thought it was cool. It’s awesome for punk to be validated at such an esteemed institution. It started in New York and has come full circle. Richard Hell wearing a torn shirt with safety pins, which Vivienne Westwood took to the next level with Sex and Seditionaries. I can’t be mad at it because I want punk to be celebrated.

Bo: I also think it’s cool, except they snubbed Vivienne Westwood on the red carpet. They totally cut her off and that’s lame. I wish they had shown her more respect.

"PHRANC is a very important part of the early LA punk scene and she also played in Catholic Discipline with Claude Bessey from Slash Magazine and the Decline Of Western Civilization." —BRT

“PHRANC is a very important part of the early L.A. punk scene and she also played in Catholic Discipline with Claude Bessey from Slash Magazine and the Decline Of Western Civilization.” —BRT

Why do you think the punk aesthetic has been so pervasive?

Bryan: Punk is the perfect storm of a youth fashion culture that also includes economics and politics. It’s a total package of art, music, fashion and life. People say it can never happen again, but it keeps get recombined in interesting ways. It might not be the same, but it’s a similar spirit. If you look around at the current political/economic situation it’s like 1976 all over again, and you’ve got like Pussy Riot in Russia. I think it will keep going.

"I couldnt forget 45 Grave and Dinah Cancer. Those flyers are amazing." —BRT

“I couldnt forget 45 Grave and Dinah Cancer. Those flyers are amazing.” —BRT

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Since punk is a youth culture, do you still consider yourself punk?

Bryan: No, I don’t. I’m too old. Now my role is to tell kids not to pay attention to anyone and go do whatever they want to do. I publish the books, put out the records, [and] host the art shows.

Bo: As an outside observer, I just wanna say that Bryan does not separate life and work. This is his life. He does it 24/7.

"Patti Smith rules! These are my favorite two flyers i have from her." —BRT

“Patti Smith rules! These are my favorite two flyers I have from her.” —BRT

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Do you think punk fashion exists to identify like minds?

Bryan: Well, I think at first the fashion was a way to be different. Like you didn’t want to look like anyone else, so you wore these crazy clothes. But then that became a uniform, so the most punk thing you could do was dress more normal.

Bo: Like Black Flag. They dressed like mechanics: black shirt, blue jeans, boots, short hair—ready for a fight.

Bryan: I don’t think punk was ever about clothes making you fit in. You’re not supposed to fit in. It’s about being yourself and wearing exactly what you want to wear. You gotta own it. I like seeing kids now who are wearing clothes from every different era of punk. They’re mashing together opposites and it still works.

"Exene is one of my all time fav's...X was amazing and she was wicked cool. They always seemed like what i would have wanted my older siblings to be like if i ever had any. Cool with homemade tattoos and stuff. Henry with long hair cracks me up, but i like that its an Exene flyer and not an X flyer." —BRT

“Exene is one of my all time favs. X was amazing and she was wicked cool. They always seemed like what I would have wanted my older siblings to be like if I had them. Cool; with homemade tattoos and stuff. Henry with long hair cracks me up, but I like that its an Exene flyer and not an X flyer.” —BRT

Who are your favorite women in punk?

Bryan: My cousin Michelle got me into punk, so I’ve always been influenced by the women. When I was working on Fucked Up and Photocopied, I would totally fan out when I met these awesome women like Penelope Houston from The Avengers, Alice Bag from The Bags, Beki Bondage from Vice Squad. I found Lorna Doom! She hadn’t been to the Slash offices in 15 years when I contacted her. She came in looking perfect: bleach blonde hair, red lipstick, leather jacket and killer heels.

When I was growing up in the Bay Area there was a girl gang called the DMR’s (Dumont Mob Rules) in Berkeley. These girls were super badass, always the first in the pit. They taught me how to peg my jeans and do leopard print hair, and give hair cuts. I learned how to be punk from them.

"LORNA DOOM. She Rules!! Denny Burt took this shot and I used in in FU+P. This was probably from 1979 or so. She looked exactly the same when i met her in 1999 when she walked back into Slash Records for the first time in forever to give me her flyers and story for the book." —BRT

“LORNA DOOM. She Rules!! Denny Burt took this shot and I used in in FU+P. This was probably from 1979 or so. She looked exactly the same when I met her in 1999 when she walked back into Slash Records for the first time in forever to give me her flyers and story for the book.” —BRT

Flyers selected by Bryan, all these flyers are in either Fucked Up + Photocopied or Punk Is Dead Punk Is Everything.

Culture Shock > Artsy Fartsy > The Art of Punk

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Martine Syms is Nasty Gal’s Web Designer and self-proclaimed Conceptual Entrepreneur. Her specialties include the color purple, modern comedy and strategic swearing. Find her at martinesyms.com or talk to her @martinesyms!