Saturday, May 25, 2013

Punk: Chaos to Manure

 When I went to see “Punk: Chaos to Couture” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art today, I did something really punk rock: I skipped the admission line.
Now, technically, I wasn’t breaking any laws (since the Met has a “suggested” donation), but I wasn’t about to stand on line for an hour and pay $25 to see an exhibit that takes about 15 minutes to walk through.
It’s hard to know which is more ironic: the idea of having a show about punk fashion at The Metropolitan Museum of Art or listening to some middle-aged housewife from New Jersey trying to explain to her children who The Sex Pistols were.
As for the show itself: It’s mainly a collection of T-shirts from Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s store in London (variously called “Let It Rock,” “Too Fast to Live, To Young to Die,” “Sex,” “Seditionaries” and “World’s End”) and haute couture interpretations of punk rock clothing from such designers as Versace, Junya Watanabe and Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy.
Of course, the whole raison d’être of punk rock was a “DIY” aesthetic that flew in the face of designer fashion. So the idea of paying $10,000 for an outfit that looks like it’s about to fall apart is obscene, to say the least.
Besides, Vivienne Westwood didn’t really get interesting until her “pirate” and “Buffalo Gals” collections. That’s why her recent show at FIT was more interesting than this one.
The show ends with a so-called recreation of the bathroom at CBGB. I’ve played at CBGB and that, sir, is no CBGB bathroom. The actual bathroom was much smaller and not so artfully disheveled. (I wonder if they used real feces in their “recreation”?)
But that’s the world we live in today:  a world where anything truly original is repackaged and sold to the masses as a simulacrum of its former self. It’s like having a branch of CGBG in Las Vegas. Or a John Varvatos store at the former CBGB in New York.
Perhaps the appropriate reaction to a show like this is a gob of spit and a middle finger. Sid Vicious would be proud.

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