Punker Than Punk - Between Heritage and Attitude

While London - in partnership with some of the most distinguished British institutions, such as BFI, British Library, Museum of London, and Rough Trade, among the others - has already been celebrating the 40th anniversary of punk rock in style, with a year long programme of gigs, exhibitions and films called (you guess?) Punk.London, someone is not happy and wants to state what punk is really about with a unique and quite radical protest. Punker than punk itself.

If this someone is the son of two persons who critically helped define the sound and the aesthetics of the genre, i.e. fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and Sex Pistol’s manager Malcom McLaren, and threatens to set on fire his £5m collection of punk memorabilia that we can assume somehow richer than that of an average punk fan, then the debate over the reasons of the protest grows even more interesting.

According to Joe Corré, who is also founder and owner of the lingerie brand Agent Provocateur, this series of celebrations, blessed by the Queen and backed by the Mayor of London and the National Lottery Fund, have made punk become like a f*cking museum piece or a tribute act”, whereas in his opinion, the British public might still need punk to voice its own frustration and malaise.  

One week ago, Corré already burnt the first relic of the collection: An original 8in acetate of Anarchy in the UK he had added to eBay to raise funds for charity, failing to reach its 1m stated price. Tomorrow, on the 40th anniversary of the release of that legendary single later featured in the LP Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, the remaining assortment - which allegedly includes a pair of Johnny Rotten’s trousers, a Sid Vicious doll, and test pressings of several Sex Pistols records - will be set ablaze at an undisclosed location in Camden Town and streamed live on burnpunklondon.com.

The deliberate ruining of something valuable has been considered an art form since Chinese contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei intentionally dropped and destroyed a 2000-year-old Han Dynasty urn in 1995, and can definitely be an effective way to draw attention to some important issues, such as the lack of interest in preserving our common past (as in Weiwei’s intentions) and the mainstream mis-representation of punk.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to highlight that Joe Corré is neither a punk nor artist, but an entrepreneur, son of entrepreneurs who made money out of the frustration and rebellious feelings of the youth that, at that time and always, have embraced punk as a lifestyle. We seriously hope he will eventually accept
John Lydon’s advice and donate every single piece to charity, contributing to punk rock history in his own right.