Following the first annual Punk Scholars Network Postgraduate Symposium held at Leicester University in 2014, Punk Now!! hosted by BCU once again aimed to provide a space for the sharing of postgraduate research, bringing together punk scholars from as far a field as LA to discuss, explore and ponder questions central to the study of punk now. Coinciding with the conference, the accompanying exhibition Punk Rock!! So What?? provided delegates with Russ Bestley’s curation of punk visual culture and apt surroundings within which to exchange ideas.
In exploring punk now, the eight papers of the first day covered punk in the UK, Serbia, the US, France, Poland and Germany. In exploring the myths of the punk scene, keynote speaker Pete Dale and Anita Raghunath in her paper questioned the graphic originality and expectations of general scene homophobia and sexism respectively, proposing a reality of connections with previous graphic approaches and alternative, marginalised groups that while not directly linked, offered new directions in aesthetics and politics. In an application of the punk DIY aesthetic, Jessica Schwartz outlined current initiatives taking place in association with UCLA, including a rock summer camp for girls through which issues such as body image are explored and expressed through rock music, while Simon Le Roulley called for the application of this DIY ideology to current debates concerning the production of knowledge, including that produced through the discourses and current realities of academia.
The punk networks that Jessica saw as connecting young girls to the wider scene in her paper was further considered by Kirsty Lohman in her study of the scene in Groningen which, due to its geographical peripherality, has developed a more closely intertwined relationship between punk and local identities. For Raphael Kosters, the youth cultural networks of the German scene play a central role in the development and sharing of specific knowledge and skills, arguably guided and provoked in the UK by Matt Grimes’ punk organic intellectuals, in particular zine editors who play a conscious and personally motivated role in the development of ideological discussion within the scene.
Musical and political influence on the scenes in Germany and Serbia were discussed by Michael Blas and Sonja Zakula in their papers. Shaped by the participant attitudes to the wars and politics of the Milosevic regime, Sonja argued that the apolitical stance of punk in 1990s Serbia saved the scene from the censorship and persecution faced by more outspoken contemporaneous rock bands, only to be divided by later differences in discourses of resistance. Michael Blas brought a unique algorithmic approach to the study of musical influence, providing an early outline of his application of graph theory to the punk scene in Germany. While the nature of influence itself is complex and multifaceted, Michael’s visual approach aimed to identity main scene protagonists and document mutual influence through time.
Questions, comments and suggestions during the following opportunities for discussion demonstrated the interconnected nature of much of the research being currently undertaken and provided a forum for the collective construction of knowledge and analysis. The variety of the papers presented was reflected also in the interests and background of the delegates, with insightful questions asked by a eleven year old delegate member and individuals active within the musical and artistic production of punk culture, in addition to those currently researching the scene. Day 1 concluded with a curatorial tour of the Punk Rock!! So What?? exhibition and a well deserved trip to the pub.