Design a site like this with
Get started

Punk/Noise Panel 1C

Panel 1C: Aggression/Abjection/Transgression 1

Room G.17, Armstrong Building

Céline Murillo (University of Paris 13 (Sorbonne Paris Cité)
‘From Aggression to Transgression: No Wave Films and Their music’

Punk films made in New York in the late 70s are generally labelled “No Wave” films, a term derived from a second wave of American Punk music. When No Wave music is the sound track of No Wave films, what happens? The visual aesthetic can be seen as raw, while the sound can be aggressive, its melody swathed in noise. Does the sensorial aggression translate into a transgression of the norms of film style, does it go even further by transgressing social norms?

We will go from a study of the correspondence between the aesthetic of No Wave in film and music first, and then rely on examples to find out where aggression becomes transgression.

Laura Way (Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln)
‘Why punk? Exploring women’s initial exposure/attraction to punk and how this is negotiated alongside gendered ageing’

What might draw young women to punk? And how are such things negotiated (or not) over time as they age? Drawing upon qualitative interviewing with ageing punk women, this paper takes these two questions as its focus. Academically, punk has been repeatedly conceptualised as a subculture/scene underpinned by a particular set of values (see, for example, Bennett 2006, Clark 2003). The sense of ‘anyone can do it’ can be understood as part of that. In this paper I will be considering to what extent such values played a role in the initial attraction to punk experienced by the women I spoke with, and, where present, how these are maintained or adapted to allow punk identification to continue over time. Alongside this I will be discussing music, which played a key role in all of the participants’ initial exposure to punk, and their changing relationship with this. By applying a feminist lens throughout, my analysis will tease out the ways gender (Walby 1989) and gendered ageing (Gullette 2015, Twigg 2004) might present challenges for punk women with regards to both constructing and maintaining punk identities.

Renée Steffen (University of Basel)
‘Abjection in Queer Film and Video’

In my paper, I will show how the idea of “abjection” has been fundamental for queer representations in film and video of the early 1990s as also for the emergence of queer theory at the time. Abjection was understood then primarily as a tool to explore sexist, racist or homophobic distortions. It thus has been connected to emancipatory goals within academic fields as well as within artistic and curatorial strategies.

I will address artistic strategies I will summarize as “self-abjection”, a way of appropriating and re-telling conditions of social abjection through art (e.g., film and video) and activism that is influenced by personal and subjective experiences within a specific political framework. This intersection might have started in the 1980s, primarily within HIV/AIDS activism; but it was also influenced by the punk movement.

Many queer filmmakers are using “self-abjection”, I will argue, primarily via “primitive” low and no-budget (auto-)ethnographic methods in experimentation and storytelling (such as Sadie Benning, Suzie Silver, Jennifer Montgomery, Azian Nurudin, Shu Ka Chung and many others). As all of the works I will be discussing have been shown at influential art shows at the time, between 1991 and 1993 at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art in New York, I will engage with the problem of how (or even if at all) institutions like the Whitney can participate in political activism and support subversive causes of sub- and counter-cultural movements and their perspectives.


Published by Gustav Thomas

Claws & Tongues was started in order to provide a visible yet fluid platform with which to try out ideas for writings by Gustav Thomas that may or may not lead elsewhere, as in articles, chapters, essays, papers zines or books. Gustav Thomas is my real name in so far as it comprises the two middle names included on my birth certificate, which, as a bona fide part of my ‘real’ name makes it only a half-alias. I’m not ashamed, especially, of what one would normally consider my ‘real name,’ but I don’t intend to use it on this blog or announce it here, in this ‘about’ text, or anywhere else on this blog. That’s not because I wish to keep it somehow hidden or secret – to find out what my framing monikers are would be very easy since I’ve never sought to keep them separate from Gustav Thomas. Rather it’s because that ‘real’ name is the one that teachers, headmasters, employers, medical receptionists, the Inland Revenue, medical staff, authorities of any kind, and so on, and on, has been so thoroughly used by, and thus inextricably tied to, such institutional protocols, that it leaves me, as an individual who, like any individual has the capacity to access their own agency, very little space or scope for developing the potential power and effectiveness of that agency. Gustav Thomas happens to also be my facebook name and as a musician I also chose it (actually the first time I used it) as the pseudonym I use whenever I produced 8-bit Techno on a Gameboy (I haven’t ruled out extending that use to any beat-based project should I pursue any in the future, in preference to either Virginia Pipe or Copydex, the latter being, for obvious reasons, a strictly plunderphonic collage vehicle, anyway). Gustav Thomas also conveniently encapsulates my two ethnic provenances as half Slovene and half Welsh; they are also the first names of both my grandfathers, one a fairly well known (in his time) Slovene writer, novelist and educationalist, the other a WW2 colonel among officers who led the Normandy landings, for whatever significance that, or any other part of their own rich histories, can have, here, or in anything else that I do. Above all, I have started this blog because in my professional life, which is academic, I have made the decision, officially, to have my research assessed (by the various state bodies that do that, through the RAE, REF etc.) as much through my thinking and writing as through my art practice, which it has been exclusively so far. The kind of writing I intend to do is the kind of writing I’ve always done, over the past 15 years mostly on internal departmental blogs meant as teaching support, and will almost completely draw on things I’ve been thinking and saying within an academic context during that time. My first extended pieces, then (those that are 10,000 words or more), are being extracted from my brain as a matter of almost pathological necessity, freeing up space before I can move on and at least learn new ideas, if not make them and articulate them formally. Given the context, and my stage in life (a 50-year-old whose two kids have left home), I fully intend not to start teaching myself to write in a recognizably formal-academic style; nor do I intend for my writing to be considered as such, albeit there are inevitable traces of academia in what I’m writing due to my having earned my living as an academic for – already - too long. Instead my intention is to improve, develop and extend the style I already have which will have probably begun somewhere in early childhood when I first scrawled some short stories with the vague idea that I wanted to be a ‘writer’ and, above all which has evolved through at least three decades of learning, loving to know about, talking about, and teaching about music, art and the ideas, impulses and inherent discourses that inhabit and surround them. I am aware that I have a propensity to criticize certain other artists and commentators harshly, often with extreme formulations, in a manner easily identifiable as arrogance or some such self-interested tendency. I’m not sure exactly where that emerged from; it could be the years of being fully committed (because I knew it was right) to a mode of expressive practice that operates very consciously, and critically, beyond the reductive ring-fencing of ordained culture, what most people think of as Music and Art - Culture; it may well be, though, that I learned such an approach from certain writers I’ve read over the years – it’s in Dostoyevsky, Bukowski and DeLillo in ways I can see in my own mannerisms, but also in someone like Ben Watson/Out To Lunch, whose writing on music and ideas not only had a big impact on me but certainly also encouraged me to be bold and direct about what I knew needed saying, not least because – and this is central to everything – the way in which music, popular music, popular arts and cultures are dealt with on the day-to-day ordinary level, as in what people consume, accept and ingest, how/why they do it, manages to circumscribe completely the immeasurable seriousness regarding how politically and ideologically penetrating all art is (and was always meant to be), but especially (and this is embarrassingly tautological in a way that’s generally ignored) that which is thrust upon a people at great expense by its state and the (almost entirely) corporate (read: oligarchal) interests the State serves. I’ve been accused by colleagues of being too polemical and by Ben Watson as not being a polemicist at all, in both cases meant as identifying a weakness; I would say that to consider anything I write as polemical would be to negate any capacity it may have to say something useful – too much is being said and done by modern humanity that is unfathomably (self-)destructive. My drive in all this comes from a need not necessarily to oppose and take up the position on any opposite pole; rather I just feel that someone (as many someones as possible, starting anywhere at all, including just ‘me’) needs to be engaging in a tendency to question, starting with the very simple interruption, ‘Hang on a second… that can’t be right.’ There are tens of thousands of writers and artists already doing that very well, of course. This blog is merely a workshop from which to start making my own contribution more discernible and, just possibly, useful.

One thought on “Punk/Noise Panel 1C

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: