From Tuesday to Saturday last week, Punkfest Cornell took place throughout Ithaca, and included panel discussions (one of which featured members of Pussy Riot), live band and spoken word performances, an opening reception in Kroch and a film screening at Cornell Cinema.
Unfortunately, I was incredibly busy last week, so I was only able to attend the aforementioned opening reception, but I have a feeling that would have been the event I enjoyed most anyway. The reception was celebrating the launch of Punkfest Cornell: Anarchy in the Archives, a new exhibition from the Cornell University Library Rare and Manuscript Collections in the Kroch Library within Olin Library. As you can see from the image below, the exhibit will be on display in the Hirshland Exhibition Gallery until May 19, 2017, so you have plenty of time to mosey on down there. Admission, of course, is free.
If you take the stairs and not the elevator down to the Kroch, one of the first things you will see before you reach the gallery is this flag poster from the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” single cover, which as my friend Erin suggested would look really nice as a cover photo if you posed next to it.
Now, whenever there’s an opening reception for anything, there tends to be food, but the Chinese and Mexican hors d’oeuvres that were being served for this event totally exceeded my expectations. I was expecting crackers with cheese, dips and cured meat, but this is what we got to eat:
There were pulled pork sandwiches, peanut butter-covered grilled chicken, rice balls with cheese and shrimp dip, mini chicken and waffles, chow mein, Chinese duck (or tofu?) on white buns, churros, s’mores dessert cups and champagne. So yeah, this was already a success. Plus, there were a lot more people at the opening than we expected — mostly older folks, but I spotted a few fellow Cornell students.
For the most part, the exhibition consisted of punk rock memorabilia, like this adorable baby onesie,
this button and pin collection
and hypersexual shirts. You may have to take a closer look at the cowboys one to understand what’s going on.
Among the many things I learned about punk culture from Punkfest is how punk and hip hop developed in similar ways. I’m not even going to try to explain this since I’m no expert, but I’ve attached the image above for your consumption.
I hadn’t been aware of San Francisco’s (shoutout to my hometown!) influence on and contribution to punk culture, but I can’t say I’m surprised. The Dead Kennedys, one of the most famous punk rock bands, were formed in 1978 in San Francisco and are going to be on tour in early 2017!
A popular method of getting people to show up at your new band’s gig is by making posters, which composed quite a bit of the exhibition. I found this Hello Kitty on Ice poster particularly simple yet entertaining.
Zines (short for magazines) were popular in punk culture as well and often included articles about band performances, political commentary and collages. As you can see from the handwritten address and cut-and-paste style of the piece above, zines were not very highly funded or organized operations. I find the “VOTE FOR PRO-CHOICE: VOTE CLINTON” message appropriate given this year’s elections.
One of the most famous faces of punk is fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. The ties above were designed by Westwood and actually tell us a lot about punk culture. Swastikas were originally adopted by punk culture as a way to excite and outrage others, especially those who lived through World War II. However, some punks also wore swastikas as a way of re-appropriating the sign, while others were in fact neo-Nazis. While I get the intention behind their concept of re-appropriation , I don’t believe this was the best way to achieve that idea.
Any discussion of punk culture would be incomplete without mention of the Sex Pistols, one of the movement’s most important bands. Their single “God Save the Queen” (the cover of which I showed earlier) criticized the monarchy and is the band’s, and perhaps the culture’s, most famous song.
The text from the poster above reads, “‘In every government on earth there is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy…’ Thomas Jefferson.” Coupled with the photo of the partially nude woman and the altered Andy Warhol banana poster, this quote illustrates the sexual and the political (more specifically anarchist) aspects of punk.
Before I sign off, I’d really like to further point out and applaud the amount of effort that was put into the exhibition, as well as the opening reception. Everything, even the smallest details, was given a lot of thought, and I see the display apple with spikes in it as a manifestation of that, so thank you to the Kroch!