Entertainment! – Post Punk, New Wave and Authenticity
Friday 9th May, Registration at 12 noon, Lower Street Gallery, London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle, London SE1 6SB
For journalists, bands and fans, genre categories are often a convenient short-hand way of discriminating between what is perceived-to-be-‘cool’ and what is not. More often than not, this boils down to a discourse around ‘authenticity’: such-and-such is ‘the real thing’ whilst some other band or set of bands is, by contrast, ‘phonies’, ‘frauds’ and/or ‘Johnny-come-latelies’. The separation of ‘Post-punk’ from ‘New Wave’ c.1977-79 is a particularly interesting case because, firstly, the sense of ‘authenticity’ and commitment to a (punk) cause was so prominent in this period and, secondly, because many reputations and economies of taste continue to capitalise on a sense that, on the one hand, you’ve got the commercial trash and, on the other hand, you’ve got the real deal.
Perhaps, though, the idea that Post-punk and New Wave form distinct categories is not only something of a fiction but, also, one which has been retroactively constructed by journalists and bands but actually has little reflection in the feelings of both audience and industry. In terms of the audience, is it not the case that a huge number of people in the years in question and in the decades since have collected records from both sides of the supposed divide? With regards to the industry, is it not the case that many Post-punk and New Wave records were being designed, manufactured and distributed by the same companies? This is not to say that there is no distinction to be made between, say, Rough Trade and EMI: clearly there are legitimate grounds for distinguishing between the business model adopted by DiY and indie labels, on the one hand, and ‘the majors’, on the other hand. There remains a surprising level of confusion on this question, with many a supposed ‘indie’ label turning out to be affiliated to a major company; but this is not the central topic for consideration at this conference. Rather, the principal themes include (but are not necessarily restricted to):
• Similarities and differences between Post-punk and New Wave (musical, cultural, political)
• The construction of ‘authenticity’ through branding, marketing and critical positioning
• The extent to which punk-descended music(s) can be more than ‘entertainment’
• The artwork of Post-punk and New Wave records
• Audience reception of this music c.1977-9
• Audience perception of this music since the 1970s
• Constructions of taste between industry, journalists, bands and fans
The conference organisers are particularly keen to welcome presentations from non-academic individuals: it is hoped that a panel discussing audience-perception of Post-punk and New Wave will be primarily or better yet entirely made up of non- academic and non-industry individuals (AKA ‘fans’, if you like).
Panels will also include Design/Designers, Music/Musicians, Audience/Fans and Cultural Commentators/Histories, with an accompanying exhibition of Post Punk and New Wave graphic material curated by Russ Bestley. The event will take place at the London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle, London SE1 6SB and is jointly co-ordinated by the LCC Graphic Subcultures hub, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Punk Scholars Network.
Proposal abstracts should be emailed to Russ Bestley at firstname.lastname@example.org by 1st April 2014