Rebecca Binns
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Towards the definition of a punk aesthetic
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This chapter challenges the prevalent narrative of punk as a rejection of 1960s ‘hippie’ culture, arguing that punk inadvertently continued the radicalism of the counterculture by exposing the gap between the promise and the reality of idealistic liberalism. It shows how a network of independent co-operatives, record labels and print shops established by countercultural participants facilitated the cultural output of punk, looking at how run-down inner-city areas allowed such radical communities and alternate living and work practices to thrive. This autonomous context also proved essential for developing the nascent design language of several key punk designers. Jamie Reid’s work for Sex Pistols and Linder Sterling’s work for Buzzcocks and Magazine are prominent examples. Vaucher, Reid and Sterling all used self-produced journals, International Anthem, Suburban Press and The Secret Public, respectively, to develop their radical ideas. All three built on the legacy of the avant-garde, utilising methods such as détournement, as well as rhetorical humorous devices such as satire and irony that characterised the underground press. Sterling’s use of pin-ups to create a ‘feminist’ critique is compared to Vaucher’s, and a precedent is traced in the work of Dadaist Hannah Hőch. While indebted to feminism, punk women often disavowed the progressive politics that underpinned it. As such, the feminist critique provided by Vaucher was strongly resonant of punk. The chapter shows how she combined the lowbrow aesthetic of punk fanzine design with her skill as an illustrator to produce a highbrow interpretation of a rough ‘n’ ready aesthetic.

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Gee Vaucher

Beyond punk, feminism and the avant-garde

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