Friday, July 25, 2008

How punk lost its funk

How punk lost its funk
By Miguel Paolo Celestial
Published in The Philippine Star, 17 October 2007

It was only recently, 2006 spring-summer to be precise, that Vivienne Westwood released her “anti-propaganda” t-shirts, the most famous of which was the one she designed for a human rights organization. It bore the text: “I Am Not A Terrorist – Please Don’t Arrest Me”. Another statement t-shirt from her collection read: “Active Resistance to Propaganda: Culture versus Dogma”, printed with the face of Rembrandt and a baby satyr.

She has released a paper, no less, with the text as its title, which expresses her frustration over contemporary culture and what she feels are its inadequacies. (In a previous interview*, Westwood declared, “Our culture is stagnant.”)

Sounds like pretty heavy stuff from the designer who began her fashion career dressing and inspiring the influential punk rock band Sex Pistols.

Well-established and commercial, yet still widely regarded as the deviant designer of London, Vivienne Westwood has very strong ideas on culture and on subversion—the very essence of the punk movement that made her famous. She declares at the end of her paper, “This word subversive, which people brag about like it’s an accolade—well, subversion means bringing down society, undermining the society.”

But was this premise ever achieved by the band that she helped bring to iconic status? Or even earnestly worked towards? At the onset, one may say that the initial progressiveness of the group and of the movement itself may have given the idea of subversion, of genuine rebellion. But as the ideology was forgotten by the attitude, it didn’t take long for the progressive attitude to wear away from the music, and for the wild abandon of the music to finally disassociate itself from punk’s last remnant, in whatever permutation: its fashion...

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*Interview published in Arena Homme Plus #25: Post Pop, 2006

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