By Saira Ansari, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANERIO, BRAZIL – The Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB) has been putting up some great music themed exhibitions recently that help viewers shape their knowledge through multi-sensory experiences. Currently on display is a retrospective show covering music’s most rebellious and loud genre: punk.

Sex Pistols album art, I am a Cliché: Echoes of the Punk Aesthetic, CCBB, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Sex Pistols album art, photo by Cletus Awreetus/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

“I am a Cliché: Echoes of the Punk Aesthetic” is a predominantly visual experience of a movement that had everything to do with making a sociopolitical statement and rejecting convention. The title itself is a characteristically ironic one, taken from the lyrics of the punk band X-Ray Spex.

The exhibition has been curated by Emma Lavigne, who is the curator of contemporary art at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in France. Lavigne writes for her curatorial note:

“Punk might be the ‘Great Rock and Roll Swindle’ described by Malcolm McLaren, but it was also a movement whose fundamentals, postulates and iconography defined an aesthetic. The biographer of punk, Jon Savage, describes it as ‘marginal, international, dark, tribal, alienated, foreign, full of black humour’.”

The show brings together photographs, photo-collages, audio and video to recreate the elements and introduce the various players who defined the world of punk aesthetics. The 150 works on display are attributed to twelve renowned artists, including Andy Warhol, Artsitein, Bruce Conner, David Lamelas, David Wojnarowicz, Dennis Morris, Destroy All Monsters, Jamie Reid, Linder, Peter Hujar, Robert Mapplethorpe and Stephen Shore. A collection of covers of vinyl records is also on display.

The Velvet Underground and Nico - album art by Andy Warhol, photo by Fanny/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

In one of the display rooms, a large section is devoted to the photographs and videos of American artist Andy Warhol, who played an immense role as a media intermediary and manager to several musicians. The walls of the room are covered in silver foil, reminiscent of Warhol’s famed studio/workshop The Factory, where amongst other activities musicians met to play or collaborate.

Warhol’s interaction with the rock band Velvet Underground in the 60s, which resulted in his personal artworks as well as collaborative efforts with the band and an iconic album cover, are part of the display. The room also features a video from Warhol’s infamous Exploding Plastic Inevitable tour, which found its claim to fame through controversial performances and subject matter. The works have been given on loan by the Andy Warhol Museum.

Also on display are portraits of some of the legendary persons of the punk age – Patti Smith, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and the Clash, amongst others. There is an intensity and a surreal honesty in the black and white photographs of the maddeningly creative, waif-like creatures of the early punk movement.

The men and women with their largely vacant expressions, distorted postures and eyes lined black, performed to a tune completely new and completely their own. This show pays homage to those men and women of the age of rebellion.

While Rio may not have the largest punk scene, it does cross-over well with the strong surfer and skate culture. Mickey Leigh of the Ramones, (and brother of Joey Ramone) is involved with a punk rock store in Arpoador, Joey Ramone Place Rio, and took a moment to share his thoughts with The Rio Times.

Leigh explains: “There are basically two categories of people who keep the punk culture alive, and thriving, or even growing bigger. The attraction to those who are more financially limited is that punk is simple, and more economical … On an aesthetic level, punk culture appeals to people who prefer to think and express themselves as individuals rather than just go along with the mainstream. As Rio has many people who fit into at least one if not both of those categories, the punk culture is relatively strong here.”

I am a Cliché: Echoes of the Punk Aesthetic is on till October 2nd at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil RJ – Second Floor; Tuesday to Sunday from 9AM to 9PM. Entrance to the exhibition is free.



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