On the occasion of the opening of the exhibition Brilliant Dilletantes
, David Ensminger explores the secret, hidden histories that co-existed between the East and West during punk disruption.
Punk rock has long been understand as the 'zero hour' in which discontent youth attempted to fissure the prevailing monoculture of the 1970s. It embraced Do-It-Yourself ethics, crude amateur musicality, a rhetoric of protest, anger, and repudiation, and the empowering art of agitation. These tendencies were burrowed between Cold War realities. The Iron Curtain was the dominant symbol of totalitarian excess, and Western punk bands took aim at it in different forms: some bands chose satire, like the song "Hang Ten in East Berlin," which borrows from the parlance of surfers, to mock the divisive Berlin Wall borderline. Meanwhile, other bands seemed to revel in Berlin's sense of place, conflict, ambience, and weltanschauung, which influenced everyone from Iggy Pop and David Bowie to the Vibrators, who penned songs for their second album while visiting. Furthermore, in the 1980s, mutual crossings and intersections took place throughout the somewhat porous Iron Curtain (bands often surreptitiously shuttling back and forth), including Western acts like the U.K. Subs, Youth Brigade, and Soulside gigging in Poland and Yugoslavia, plus Billy Bragg playing in East Germany. Meanwhile, German bands crossed the ocean to penetrate America, including MDK and KGB.
In this talk, Ensminger offers up personal perspectives from interviews he has conducted, and focuses on punk's ongoing resilience and resistance to authoritative structures.
Exhibition opens at 6PM. Talk starts at 6:30PM.
is a trained folklorist, punk historian, English Instructor, musician, and writer. His work has appeared in Thirsty Ear, Magyar Taraj, Artcore, Trust, Maximum Rock'n'Roll, M/C Journal, Journal of Popular Music Studies, and Houston Press, among others.
The exhibition Brilliant Dilletantes
is on view at Goethe Pop Up Houston from November 1 – December 14.
This event is part of a series of events timed to the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Visit the Goethe Pop Up Houston event page to learn more.