Invisible Tradition

February 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Simon Reynolds, “Greil Marcus: A Life in Writing,” The Guardian Saturday 18 February 2012 (Guardian Review p. 12)

At once epic and fragmentary, the book [Lipstick Traces] argues for the Sex Pistols as the culmination of ‘an unheard, invisible tradition’ of apocalyptic protest-poetry stretching back via Situationism and Dada all the way to medieval millenarian sects like the Brethren of the Free Spirit. ‘Johnny Rotten is speaking for himself but all those other voices are in there speaking with him too. All kind of demands on society, on life, on ontology, on epistemology are present in the noise of punk and in that vocal sound, boiled down on to a little 7-inch piece of plastic’.

Auto-Destructive Art

September 29, 2009 § Leave a comment

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Jonathan Jones, “How Dada Spawned the Art of Anarchy,” Guardian Art and Design Blog 29 September 2009

“…Punk and dada, across the decades, share a savage hostility to the security and luxury of artistic respectability. The true anti-artist is never interested in compromise: for Lydon, to class the Pistols as high art was to tame them, contain them. This same anti-art rage is exemplified by Gustav Metzger, whom I interviewed recently, and whose concept of “auto-destructive art” is yet another variant of modern art’s impulse to smash reality.

This impulse to destruct, efface, obliterate cannot be confined to a single kind of modern art. There is as much negation, as icy a contemplation of the void, in the Rothko Chapel in Houston as in any dada collage.

This is why [Greil] Marcus writes so well about dada and its legacy, because he sees its bitter, liberated heart and does not take for granted what it was. It is also why to dismiss “anti-art” tendencies today is to be blind to the way they permeate the entire history of modernism — in short, to be a stuckist.”

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Jonathan Jones, “Gustav Metzger: The Liquid Crystal Revolutionary,” The Guardian 29 September 2009 (p. 19 of the Arts section)

“…In the 1960s, his argument that destruction is a form of last-chance creativity in a terminal world had a subterranean influence — not least on Pete Townshend, who was Metzger’s student at art college and credits him with inspiring the Who to destroy their instruments. …

In 1974, Metzger called an Art Strike: for three years, from 1977 to 1980, he refused to make, sell or exhibit art, or to promote himself as an artist in any way. …

Today, at the Serpentine, I ask him why he invented auto-destructive art, what he meant by it. ‘It was a summing up of my entire life until that period,’ he says, in the German accent he has never lost. ‘It was my childhood in Nazi Germany, coming to this country as a refugee, as a survivor. And then when we had peace, the entire planet being transformed by nuclear weapons. That is at the centre of my life.’ …

Of watching the [Nazi] parades, he says now: ‘Certainly the brutality of seeing 10,000 people marching like machines — as a child I must have rejected it.’ Did it make him the artist he is? ‘It could be that I saw so much power that I needed to get rid of it in myself. That’s one way to understand the origins of auto-destructive art. In Judaism there is a tradition of rejecting power: the Prophets rejected power. That was part of my childhood, giving up rather than acquiring.’ …

You could say that Metzger is the Kindertransport’s greatest failure: instead of building a constructive life for himself in postwar Britain, he invented a destructive life — or a destructive art. His art is a refusal to forget, to assimilate, to move on. His anger at the world is almost that of an alienated child: he tells me that, in a photograph he once showed me — of a child holding his hands up during the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto — he sees himself: ‘I identify with this child.’

Violent art is Metzger’s response to a violent world. In his exhibition, that same Warsaw photograph will be shown concealed behind a barrier, like the other images in his series Historic Photographs. These are his most enduring and remarkable works: you crawl on your hands and knees across the images as a way of remembering what happened. …”

Link to the Gustav Metzger exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery.

It’s What You’re Not Playing

September 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

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Dorian Lynskey, “John Lydon: PiL Lets Me Express Proper Emotions,” The Guardian Monday 7 September 2009 (Arts section, p. 17):

[On the subject of dub reggae] “For me, the best rock is not what you play — it’s what you’re not playing”.

Sex Pistols

July 28, 2009 § Leave a comment

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From Jon Savage’s The England’s Dreaming Tapes (Faber, 2009)

Lee Black Childers on the Bill Grundy fall-out:
“Malcolm by that time was saying, ‘It doesn’t matter if we never play’” (p. 90).

Johnny Rotten on Sid Vicious as a one-man phantom band:
“Sid was out of his tree, thinking he was god, because by that time Nancy was telling him he was ‘the only star in this band’. The fact that Sid made no recorded contribution to any record didn’t occur to him to be important” (p. 230).

Jonh Ingham on how McLaren created an audience for the Pistols and then prevented that audience from seeing the band:
“Malcolm made the Pistols invisible. The kids are there, and you can’t have the Pistols. I guess it worked, but it was a dumb thing to do, making the band Olympian” (p. 495).

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