AMSTERDAM: FROM THE MAGIC CENTER TO PUNK PARADISE Denney emphasized the similarities between Pop Art and punk and pushed for others to recognize them. ‘She was just really well connected in the Pop Art scene. Andy seemed to think of punk as graffiti kids and drag queens’, says Miller, adding, ‘And everybody loved Andy’. Warhol was indeed a crucial figure in punk, not only in New York. Malcolm McLaren was fixated on Warhol; his strategies are echoed in McLaren’s promotion of the Sex Pistols (Gorman 2020: 50–51). Vivienne Westwood too, as Jon Savage describes it, ‘cultivated her own inner circle of performers [who] gave punk its Warholian edge’. He observes: a similar carnival of the oppressed and the Bohemian, prostitutes and drug addicts, the brilliant and the publicity-seeking. These teenagers changed their lives in pop acts of transformation, using bizarre dress codes, cartoon pseudonyms and amphetamines. (Savage 2005: 183) Warhol’s creation of a scene, a real-life tableau of performers and charac￾ters, staging their lives, was repeated in punk. Various characters surrounding Velvet Underground and Warhol’s factory blended into the early punk scene. On the cover of the first issue of PUNK – which was advertised by ‘punk is coming!’ flyers downtown in December 1975 – is thus a cartoon drawing of Lou Reed by John Holmstrom. Punk’s exaltation of the trashy, synthetic and fake found paragons in Warhol’s replica works. Punk artists were fascinated with the intelligence of Warhol’s provocation, his celebration of the low, his media diversity, his dual existence as both mass media star and bohemian. One special show of love was Neke Carson’s ‘Rectal Realist’ (1972) portrait of Andy Warhol (Figures 4a, 4b and 4c), which was included in the Punk Art Exhibition. Carson stuck a paintbrush up his rectum, and thus ultimately painted Warhol with his asshole. Warhol sat for the séance, and very much enjoyed the idea, which he conversely documented with his own camera (Murphy 2008). To paint Warhol – the master of ironic and iconic portraits – in this manner is not only very humourful, but also quite precise in its adaption of a Warholian technique. The ‘realist’ in Carson’s description of his paintings The 1979 American Punk Art dispute alludes to Pop Art’s own notion of the base and the immediate as what is truly ‘realist’ in art. Carson’s work parodies both the self-importance of body art and the painterly genius-gesture, and is instead oriented towards the lowbrow notions of Pop Art. Much like Andy Warhol, Neke Carson was interested in fun, fashion and the fakeness of the art world: ‘Glam Conceptualism’, as his latest show was partly titled (Bienstock 2019). That association to glam rock, like the proto-punk New York Dolls, demonstrates where many of the artists featured in the Punk Art Exhibition were coming from. About choosing what work to include, Marc Miller explains: We were just artists who were hanging out at CBGBs. And it became clear that there were a lot of visual artists there, so the show we did drew 80-90 percent out of the people that were at CBGBs. That was before it really opened up, so it was a small group of regulars. So much of it was just obvious, you didn’t even need to think about it! We started with PUNK magazine, because they kind of named the movement, you know. They came out of the School of Visual Arts, were cartoonists, they were connected with all the groups. They were at the center of the scene, even though they were very young kids. John [Holmstrom] and Legs [McNeil], they were just looking for action. (Miller 2018: n.pag.) Apart from the scenes around the School of Visual Arts and the Pop Art crowd around Warhol, the East Village graffiti scene was also closely entwined with the early punk movement. The artists participating in that first Punk Art iteration at The Washington Project for the Arts in 1978 thus came from quite different angles, though all had in their way a bond to punk rock and to the visuality of punk: John Holmstrom and Legs McNeil, Curt Hoppe, Tina L’Hotsky, Alan Suicide, Steven Kramer, Ruth Marten, Robert Mapplethorpe, Tom Otterness, Marcia Resnick, Screaming Mad George and Arturo Vega, among others. Some were represented in the hip galleries of the art district of SoHo, and others distanced themselves from that scene. Miller remembers: There was a lot of hypocrisy. Everybody was pretending to be anti-art, especially the ones most connected to the artworld. Well, they did not want to be playing that artworld game anymore. […] There was a rebel￾lion against art, but because at that time there was so much art-for-art’s￾sake around and a kind of formalism. (Miller 2018: n.pag.) Much like the musicians were fed up with virtuoso self-aggrandizing guitar solos, artists were fed up with virtuoso self-aggrandizing art theorists. In their press release, the curators recreated the rock ‘n’ roll excitement of punk: What is it? Why is it? Where is it? When is it? Punk Art is the most ambitious show ever mounted at the Washington Projects for the Arts […]. The Punk movement is the most energetic statement of the seven￾ties. It stems from a generation of artists which grew up with televi￾sion as their best friend where they viewed violence, sex, and cigarette commercials daily. Punk was thus equated with bored, antisocial and mass-media-consuming teenagers. Towards the press, the curators represented the punk movement as all boldness and action. Miller recounts: It was a little bit of hype, a little bit of manipulation. Just coming up with ways to personify the concept of punk. We knew that the term ‘punk art’ was ripe for attention […] There were some we left out, although they would have fit in. Just because it did not match the public perception of punk […]. We did not want to confuse people too much. (Miller 2018: n.pag.) The more contemplative and doubting sides of punk were largely omitted. Punk’s social criticism, self-destruction and pain were not a focus, at least not in the publicity for the show (in several of the works themselves, however, these sentiments were intensely present). Instead, the PR emphasized provocation. Miller, again: We phrased it as an invasion of Washington. We were not just gonna do a punk art show, we were gonna invade Washington. That had a lot to do with Legs [McNeil], who was a terrific provocateur. (Miller 2018: n.pag.) The image of punk art invading Washington worked with the press. Howard Smith, for example, writes how the exhibition is within ‘throw-up distance from the White House’ (Smith 1978). In a release from Associated Press, which was picked up by many local newspapers, the ‘bizarre outfits’ of the ‘several hundred guests’ present at the vernissage were described extensively (Miller 1978). The coverage thus mostly affirmed an image of punk that was about attention-seeking fashion and hype. Legs McNeil, meanwhile, was also pursuing another goal: to distance US punk from UK punk, especially the likes of the Clash, who had recently released their socio-critical ‘I’m so bored with the USA’ (1977 in the United Kingdom), formulating a punk version of the 1970s leftwing rejection of a perceived US cultural, economic and military imperialism. McNeil wrote a ‘Punk Manifesto’ (Figure 5), which he not only distributed to the press, but also wrote on the walls of the art space: [Punk is not] asexual faggot hippie blood-sucking ignorant scum as the media would have you believe. Elements of that behavior pattern has infiltrated this country from England. Punk in New York was, in general, less politicized in comparison with the notions of class-struggle, anarchy and pessimism that became more pronounced after 1976, when the epicentre of punk moved to London. As Roger Sabin has argued: ‘[i]f we think of punk as an explosion […] then the UK’s economic recession during this period can be seen as the catalyst’ (Sabin 1999: 3). McNeil seems to have reacted against that shift, the mutation of ‘his’ movement. Ironically, that claim to a certain version of punk and the reaction towards a felt misinterpretation, was exactly what motivated the angry letter in Amsterdam too, one year later. McNeil’s statement was not included in the American Punk Art exhibition in Amsterdam (he did not travel there to write it on the wall), but that looming conflict between different perceptions of punk, 450  Punk & Post-Punk The 1979 American Punk Art dispute Figure 5: Legs McNeil (1978), ‘Punk Manifesto’. Archive of Marc Miller. Courtesy as well as the rejection of what was regarded as American cultural imperial￾ism, just added to the circumstances that alto gether guaranteed that this show was bound for a battle in Amsterdam. AMSTERDAM: FROM THE MAGIC CENTER TO PUNK PARADISE To understand the conflict that erupted around the American Punk Art exhibi￾tion, it makes sense to first take a look at the situation in Amsterdam at the time, and the role that punk played here. In comparison with other continen￾tal European countries, punk came to the Netherlands relatively early, perhaps because the Netherlands was so close to the United Kingdom, both geograph￾ically and culturally, and because of the high level of English usage, as Kirsty Lohman suggests (Lohman 2017: 5). The influence from the United Kingdom played a more defining role here than influence from the United States. In the mid- and late 1960s, Amsterdam was the San Francisco of Europe, known as the ‘magies sentrum’ (magic center) – the city stood for cannabis and hippies. Apart from such associations, Amsterdam was also known for its anarchistic activist art groups, most of all the Provos and CoBrA, each with close connections to the Situationist International (see Schuyt and Taverne 2004: 415–16). CoBrA had been founded in 1948, the group’s name put together from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam, the home cities of the group’s initiators, including Asger Jorn, Constant, Karel Appel and Christian Dotremont. In the post-war culture of the Netherlands, the group played a central role in its inquiry into how to move forward in art and society after 451 Marie Arleth Skov the catastrophe of the Second World War. The second important group, the Provos, first appeared in 1965, and for the next decade stirred up Amsterdam with anarchic humor, with slogans, happenings and sit-ins. In one action, the members of the group distributed raisins and were arrested for disorderly conduct. In another, they carried banners demanding democracy (against the monarchy in the Netherlands) and when these were confiscated, they carried blank banners, demanding nothing; these were confiscated too (Goossens 2011: 200). In the 1970s especially, Amsterdam also became associated with the massive kraakbeweging – the squatter movement. The onomatopoeic ‘kraak’ was originally used for break-ins and burglaries (based on the sound it makes when you break open a door). During the Second World War resistance groups used the term for sabotage against the Nazis (van der Steen et al. 2014: 3), and the squatters of the 1970s placed great value on this implication of resist￾ance against oppression. All of these groups and lifestyles – CoBrA, Provos, the hippies and the squatters – were interrelated at different points, and they all made up the background for punk in Amsterdam. ‘The punks wanted to be as important as Provo’, Hugo Kaagman remembers, ‘They were our example, you know?’ (Kaagman 2017: n.pag.). By the mid-1970s, the energy and rebellion of the hippie movement seemed gone. The two most important rock venues at the time were Paradiso and Melkweg (Milky way) – mellow, spacy names. Paradiso, which was managed by Fluxus artist Willem de Ridder, had been illegally squatted by hippies in 1967, but by the mid-1970s it was publicly subsidized. Diana Ozon remembers: When the 70s came, everything was so dull. The houses were empty. No squatting movement yet. Only the sad hippies, junkies […]. It had lost its magic. (Ozon 2017: n.pag.) Punk broke into this lethargy. In January 1977, the Sex Pistols played at Paradiso. Punk saved the place: Paradiso became the hub of punk rock in Amsterdam (see Jonker 2012: 43). Punk spread very fast: do-it-yourself (DIY) was a key factor from the outset, enabling a large number of bands, zines and art groups to establish themselves within no more than a year. From the beginning, the punk movement in Amsterdam worked in a broad cultural and social field. Kaagman remembers: We did not want any political responsibility. We did have demands! But we were cultural. That is more than political. Politics is important, but we wanted to change more than that. (Kaagman 2017: n.pag.) This social-cultural current was highly pronounced in the Amsterdam punk scene. SARPHATISTRAAT: ‘IEDEREEN MET IDEEN IS WELKOM!’ Around two years prior to the American Punk Art show battle, in April 1977, artists Hugo Kaagman and poet Kristian Kanstadt squatted Sarphatistraat numbers 62–64, establishing the place as a punk music venue, art workshop and collective: ‘the first Dutch punk stronghold’, as Jerry Goossens and Jeroen Vedder (1996: 49) refer to it. The mouthpiece of the group was their zine KoeCrandt. By early 1978, Kaagman, Kanstadt and Ozon, were joined by musician Ludwig Wisch and graffiti artist Dr Rat. Punk in the KoeCrandt group version consisted of poetry, collage, improvised theatre and happen￾ings, concerts, installations and graffiti. Not all punks in the city appreciated the group’s arty attitude: Peter Panic from the punk band Panic, for exam￾ple, called them ‘intellectual sacks of shit, performing little plays that make me want to vomit’ (Peter Panic, quoted in Goossens 2011: 200). As often in punk culture, there were conflicting fragmentations in Amsterdam too. From the start, the Sarphatistraat group was characterized by the collabo￾ration of artists and musicians. Diana Ozon describes the making of the place: Ivar immediately started decorating the place with Hugo’s spray cans. In the built-in cupboard I smashed a hole through the wall towards Ludwig’s rehearsal room on the front side. (Ozon quoted in Jonker 2011: n.pag.) The house punk band was Lulu Zulu & The White Guys, the band of Ludwig Wisch, which – since Wisch was black – was quite a caustic name. Wisch’s sarcastic arrogation of the ridiculing and racist connotations of the name ‘Lulu Zulu’ was further reinforced by the addition of ‘& The White Guys’, a reversal of the clichéd roles of dominance (not the white front singer with black musi￾cians in the band, but the other way around). Sarphatistraat was a multipurpose space. The artists showed punk objects as what could be described as objets trouvés, wilfully fetishizing the everyday remains of punk and connecting themselves to a Dada tradition of leftover bricolage, as we can find, for example, in the work of Kurt Schwitters, or the Surrealists browsing flea markets for the objects of yesterday. Sarphatistraat also hosted the editorial offices of KoeCrandt (Figures 6a and 6b). Here, concerts were organized, leaflets printed, zines sold and bikes repaired. Young runaways came to the gallery and were helped out with official forms. Sarphatistraat was known for its open environment. ‘IEDEREEN met ideen is WELKOM!’ (Everyone with ideas is welcome) it says on one collaged flyer. The content of the KoeCrandt zine oscillated between the political and the nonsen￾sical, the practical and the poetic. In one unified message in a KoeCrandt montage, the group stated: ‘Punk is not a fashion. It is a lifestyle. It is the only relevant art form today’. Ozon and Kaagman both saw punk in continuation with a twentieth￾century countercultural tradition: It was a sort of follow-up to CoBrA. To us, CoBrA meant: If you want to be strong, you need to stay together. So, we were a group. We liked how they took inspiration from the imbecile, outsider art, and we liked their energy, and how they were smashing things, smashing painting, provo￾cation, it was a kind of punky movement. (Kaagman 2017: n.pag.) The KoeCrandt artists’ admiration for CoBrA underlines their very conscious historical positioning. After all, the CoBrA artists were, in the words of Carter Ratcliff (2003: n.pag.), the ‘sons of the surrealists’ and, in the words of Richard Kempton (2013: 9), ‘the spiritual grandfather[s] of the Provo movement’. The group structure and collaborative approach are key elements in all of these movements, as is the social element of art. Furthermore, the descriptions as spiritual ‘sons’ and ‘grandfathers’ – apart from the obvious maleness of both terms – make clear how both artists and art historians often think about historical relationships. The succession from the radical-revolutionary side of Surrealism to 1960s art activism as envisioned by the Provos (or, in New York for example Ben Morea and the Motherfuckers), to the punk movement, draws up such a countercultural family tree. In a diagram published in KoeCrandt (Figure 7) Kaagman made manifest his ideas about a punk art genealogy, or what he calls ‘carrying the torch’. Under the caption Dialektiek (‘Dialectic’), he sets up two lines leading from 1900 to 1984, in which one represents ‘counterculture’ and the other ‘big brother culture’. The black-and-white aesthetics of the outline emphasize the clearness of the message. This is a statement, written black on white, without too many nuances. The image emphasizes an us-against-them reading. The dialectical process does not bring forward any sort of common thread, but rather illustrates progress as attack and counter-attack. The black-and-white aesthetics furthermore indicate that this is a photocopy, meant for reproduc￾tion and distribution, thus emphasizing its pamphleteering character. The KoeCrandt group’s work on the street – both graffiti and public art interventions and happenings – underlines their close connection to the older Provos, though not without some generational conflict. ‘Sometimes the Provos were quite patronizing, like “we did that already!”’, says Ozon, an attitude which Kaagman also remembers: Later, in 1980 or 1981, when there were barricades, and the police came to our squatted houses, the Provos were like: In our time, it was better, you know, 1968. So, we said, well fuck you! The squatter movement consolidated in the mid- to late 1970s, and the Amsterdam squatter and punk circuits became entwined. This ‘natural 455 Marie Arleth Skov symbiosis’, as Kirsty Lohman (2017: 4) calls it, originated out of a common front against the monarchy, against the police, against the housing shortage and – connected with this – against the demolition of residential apartment buildings. Both the opening of the metro line in 1977 and the inauguration of Beatrix in 1980 saw major clashes between police and protesters. ‘You know, ‘“fuck the queen, fascist regime”, we had that too’, Kaagman remarks, quoting the Sex Pistols: In 1980, we had the slogan: ‘geen woning, geen kroning’ (‘no housing, no coronation’). We were a movement for housing and punk. At the coronation, there were a lot of military police, we were against them most of all. They were from all over the country, they had no idea what they were doing. (Kaagman 2017: n.pag.) PUNK PLAYGROUND: NEW BABYLON VS. BURNING BABYLON While these street fights were going on in reality, they were accompanied by both dreams and nightmares of the city to come. Two visions of the city and its future collide and mirror each other in the postwar cultural history of Amsterdam; interestingly, both use Babylon as a symbol. The negative biblical connotations of Babylon – Babylon, the city of rebellion against God; Babylon, the city of sin and pride – reverberate, but in both visions are turned around. The first vision is the artist Constant Nieuwenhuys’ New Babylon (1952– 72). It was a project consisting of three-dimensional models, drawings and declarations, all envisioning a utopian city of the future in which people could do things at their own pace, and free. Constant was among the found￾ers of CoBrA and he also worked with Guy Debord, with whom he wrote ‘The Amsterdam Declaration’ in 1958, which was published in Internationale Situationiste, expressing situationist views on the utopian city (Hussey 2013: 39). Constant’s New Babylon consisted of ideas like the collective use of space, constant mobility, no time keeping and a complete automatization enabling creativity instead of utility. ‘Every reason for aggressivity [sic] has been elimi￾nated in New Babylon’, he wrote in 1974: ‘[t]he conditions of life favor subli￾mation, and activity becomes creation’ (Nieuwenhuys 1974: 163). Constant imagined that New Babylon would be inhabited by Homo Ludens, referring to Johan Huizinga’s seminal study Homo Ludens (1938). Huizinga counters the notion of homo faber (Latin: the working human) with homo ludens (Latin: the playing human) and presents the thesis that the greatest achieve￾ments are reached through play, not work. This idea had played a crucial role for the Surrealists, as it later did in post-surrealist groups, like CoBrA and the Situationist International (see Andreotti 2002). The Provos took Constant’s ‘New Babylon!’ as a battle cry. Constant in turn viewed the happenings of the Provo collective as brief enactments of his own ideas, and in Provo #4, he equated ‘Provo = New Babylonian’ (Nieuwenhuys 1965: n.pag.). The utopianism in Constant’s work was subversively linked with a dark assessment of the alternative, should that vision not come true, as becomes clear in the title of a 1971 compilation of texts in German: Spielen oder töten: Der Aufstand des Homo Ludens (Play or kill: the revolt of homo ludens). It was New Babylon, or violence. Constant lamented the lack of understanding for the youth – ‘hipsters, teddy-boys, rockers, mods, halb-starken, blouson noirs, 456  Punk & Post-Punk The 1979 American Punk Art dispute beatniks, nozems, stiljagi’ – who were all frustrated and thirsty for action. By using the derogatory English, German, French, Dutch and Russian expressions for rebellious youth, he emphasized both the international nature of youthful unrest and the utter incomprehension with which it was met by authorities (and parents) in all countries. The punks related to the ideas expressed in Constant’s New Babylon. Diana Ozon wrote a poem called ‘Werklozen aller landen’ (Jobless of the world), in which she proclaimed: Werklozen aller landen / amuseert u! /Mevrouw en meneer / profiteer en recreëer / werk is uit den boze / lee fen geniet / als en werkloze. (Ozon 1982) A rough translation would be: Jobless of the world / keep amused! / men and women / benefit and recreate / work is impossible / enjoy / be unemployed. The poem overlaps with Constant’s vision in terms of international solidarity, (re)creation and no work. The title alludes both to the famous slogan of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto (1848), in Dutch ‘Proletariërs aller landen, verenigt u!’ (Workers of the world, unite), and to the situation in the Netherlands at the time, with massive youth unemployment. The unemployment rate for people between 15 and 25 years of age had jumped from 2.0 per cent in 1970 to 17.3 per cent in 1983 (Voogd 2013). Ozon’s poem reverses the pessimism of that situation. Punk is thus perceived as a playground, the realization of free space and free time. Kaagman explains: We had two views. One was 1984, apocalypse, everything is going to be over. Babylon is falling. On the other hand, we had a vision of the robots coming to do all the work and we can recreate. (Kaagman 2017: n.pag.) Both visions are connected with a sense of being on the verge of something, a fin-de-siècle sentiment or the dystopian notion of an Orwellian 1984 soci￾ety. For a number of years, Kaagman dated all of his works 1984, until Ozon convinced him to stop, because it was so difficult to keep track of. In itself, this bespeaks an interesting internal conflict between a ‘No Future’ impulse and the requirements of archiving, which after all only makes sense if there is indeed a future. ‘Babylon shall fall […] that is a realistic vision’, Kaagman wrote in Het Parool in August 1979. The equivocation of the Babylon notion in Amsterdam’s punk culture becomes clear in the connotations of such a statement. There is a drawing back from Constant’s New Babylon vision, which is replaced by the anticipation of a doomed future. There is also an allusion to the biblical myth of Babylon’s downfall in Kaagman’s choice of words, in the scriptural expres￾sion ‘shall fall’ (Jeremiah 51:49), which fits in with the apocalyptic instinct of the punk community. And then there is the fact that Kaagman wrote this sentence just two months after the British punk/reggae band the Ruts had released ‘Babylon’s Burning’ in June 1979, with Malcolm Owen, forcefully sing￾ing over sirens: Babylon’s burning, baby can’t you see? / Babylon is burning with anxiety / It’s positively smoldering / With ignorance and hate. (Ruts 1979: n.pag.) The overlap between Rastafarian culture and punk, which can also be observed in other countries, was particularly strong in Amsterdam, and in reggae music, Babylon is referenced as a symbol of oppression and discrimination (see Letts and Nobakht 2008; Heylin 2007). Following Constant’s New Babylon, the second vision of Babylon in the postwar cultural history of Amsterdam was thus the punk Burning Babylon. The connotations of rebellion and insubordination in the myth of Babylon – particularly the Tower of Babylon – were nurtured, and mixed with the Provo’s and Constant’s imaginings about the New Babylonians as homo ludens. At the same time, however, Babylon was associated with a tyrannical and repressive system, and its fall was urged on and celebrated. Punk’s conflicting visions of gloom and rapture were thus mixed into this one potent urban symbol. The topic of the city itself, and how artists could move within it, was central in punk. In Amsterdam, the topic of the city interrelates with punk’s dreams and nightmares about the (no) future society, as exemplified in the ambigu￾ity of utopian New Babylon and dystopian Burning Babylon. Andrew Hussey describes how the slogans of Situationist International were all over the punk squats in Amsterdam in the early 1980s (Hussey 2013: 37). Nonetheless, punks were not convinced by the idea of a historical dynamic that would abolish capitalist society and set art free. The Hegelian-Marxist framework, in which for example CoBrA still operated, required an optimism, which was exactly the opposite of what had sparked the punk movement. If we keep in mind that this was the context in which at least some punks in Amsterdam saw them￾selves, and these were the thoughts driving them, then ‘a generation of artists which grew up with television as their best friend’, as Miller and Ringma’s press release had stated, would not seem pertinent. PUNK AND GRAFFITI: ‘THE BASTARD ART OF THE STREETS’ To the self-definition of punk in Amsterdam, certain conceptions of the city and of the street were thus quintessential, and street art – graffiti in particular – was a part of punk. The punk conception of the city as a place that must be claimed was interwoven with an ideal of art as something alert and immedi￾ate, which would help stake that claim. Punk graffiti was a rejection of the managed, faceless, controlled city. The nightmarish Orwellian 1984 notion of control plays into that rejection of regulation. ‘Graffiti is the most direct form of art. It beautifies a city that is invariably becoming ever more impersonal’, Gretchen Gestapo (aka Diana Ozon) stated in an article called ‘De Straat is ons museum’ (‘The street is our museum’), which was published in 17 August 1979 in Het Parool. One year before, in the summer of 1978, John Fekner had curated the Detective Show in an outdoor park in Queens, New York and writ￾ten ‘Street Museum’ on the invitation (Lewisohn 2008: 15). Both Fekner and Ozon thus play on the discrepancy between ‘street’ and ‘museum’ to undercut the institutionalization of art.