() “MAKER FAIRE AND PUNK ROCK” by V. Vale
The first, quintessential principle of “Punk Rock” was (obviously) “DO-IT-YOURSELF”… meaning Create All Your Own Culture: music, recordings, record labels, distribution, “Punk Rock” stores, art, graphic art, collages, drawings, interior decor, your clothing, hairstyles, sculpture/installations, social gatherings, community centers, squats or shared housing, art studios, shows — everything that makes your life “meaningful” and “fun.” And this “principle” made EVERYONE at least a naive or “outsider” artist, if not more…
Note that this is a kind of D-I-Y de-emphasizing the profit motive — instead of capitalist-think, “Do whatever it takes to make maximum profit as fast as possible,” think, “How can what I do benefit everyone else too?” Another word for this might be “Collective” — but with “Responsibility.” The CRASS are a 43-year-old example of this; not only are they still a shared-housing collective, but they were the first to put on their LPs stickers saying “Pay no more than…” [a minimal, low price at the time]. They grow their own food, are vegetarian, are the first to do the dishes or clean the bathrooms, and aggressively try to improve their personal environments wherever they go.
When you’re “poor” (even if it’s “voluntary poverty”), you have to co-operate with other humans, to survive — i.e., practice “MUTUAL AID.” In fact, Mutual Aid is possibly the best principle of interacting with others. In the beginnings of Punk Rock in San Francisco, there was a lot of this practiced out of necessity: shared housing, food, automobiles…
The CRASS founders Gee Vaucher and Penny Rimbaud apparently practice “Financial Minimalism” — which doesn’t preclude buying the occasional chocolate-chip cookie or excellent cup of coffee. And sometimes expensive art supplies are bedrock essentials. But furniture can almost always be found on the streets of a major city. So perhaps another Punk Principle is just that: FINANCIAL MINIMALISM — which is a bit at odds with today’s “hip, indie” media [examples: Vice, Swindle, et al] promoting knowledge of expensive “Designer” brand names plastered on everything high-profit/ low-manufacturing-cost under the sun, such as sunglasses, handbags, and jeans… Probably the Punk Gold Standard was: “I got this for free.” Or, “I found this on the street.” Or, “I got this at a flea market or thrift store.” As early Punk Rocker Bob Basile once said, “My favorite designer is St. Vincent de Paul.” [a chain of thrift stores in San Francisco — are they still around?]
The second principle was “BE ANTI-AUTHORITARIAN” — think for yourself, accept no authority; Neither Oppressor nor Oppressed Be. You don’t enjoy being oppressed, so don’t oppress others. Don’t play pranks against other “victims,” play pranks against corporations, ad agencies, politicians, etc. The old bumper sticker “Question Authority” still rules. An early Punk Poster proclaimed “Kill Your Idols” while showing photos of Sid Viscous, Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer, Ramones, et al.
The third principle was BLACK HUMOR: Change your outlook so that EVERYTHING in life gets viewed through the lens of Black Humor, and avoid all situations where humor is not permitted. Everything stylistic about original Punk Rock emitted Black Humor — humor with a Dark Side: from the “destroyed” hair styles and clothing to the music and posters and publications — modernist “slickness” was counterpointed by “Punk Rock” roughness, noise, collaged-together, seams-showing “assemblage,” appropriation, negating, and collective ecstasy reaching for that difficult-to-attain “Trance State.”
Other principles involve words which to us are still controversial, such as “Peace” and “Love.” It might be heresy to quote this, but William S. Burroughs once proclaimed, “Love is a Con” — perhaps he was referring to the way the L word is used in advertising (and sometimes “real life”) to control us. Beware of anyone who tells you they love you on the first date; it’s only at the end of your life can you look back and know who TRULY “loved” you; history is the only judge. As far as “Peace” goes — we’re for it, but we’re also about defending ourselves and our loved ones — read into that what you will. Our views have been earned by hard experiences. Remember, the American Constitution almost insisted that all citizens “bear arms” to be used against a government that in the future turns fascist.
“Anarchy” has also been cited as a principle in the past, but the major person who historically ripped off RE/Search (to the tune of thousands) is a self-proclaimed, well-known “Anarchist” (that’s why we’re no longer in his “catalog”). Also, in our opinion that’s exactly what Capitalism is today: Anarchy, without Laws. Hence child labor in “foreign” countries, absence of “Animal Rights,” unregulated pollution by corporations worldwide, forest despoilation, no ceiling on profits or incomes or rents, etc. And actually, upon birth every human could be given a roof over their head as their birthright; why should corporations and The Rich own all the housing on the planet? It is a crime against human children to have to pay $900 and up for a studio apartment in the Tenderloin [dangerous neighborhood] in San Francisco.
So how can we further change the world through D-I-Y? Well, for more than thirty years Punk’s “Do-It-Yourself” signified (to me, at least) Doing It Yourself — but pretty much restricted to the “Arts.” But for the first time we attended last weekend’s Maker Faire and realized that: Why shouldn’t D-I-Y also apply to Science and Technology? (Now, we had ALMOST thought that, years ago, when Survival Research Laboratories began, but — we’re dense.)
In other words, for thirty years the underlying message of all my publications has remained: “Everyone Is An Artist.” But, now I want to add an additional message: “Everyone Is A Scientist” — or, “Everyone is an Artist/Scientist.” Because, who doesn’t want to figure out how things work? Who doesn’t want to learn the principles of using a power drill correctly, or how to fix a sticky drawer, or hang a poster on a wall, or — taking things a bit further, learning how to solder, weld, plane wood, fix a sagging porch or roof … the list goes on and on. In other words: PUNK SCIENCE. D-I-Y SCIENCE. Make your own airplane at home — I remember an old “Popular Science” magazine (or was it “Popular Mechanics”?) had an article on just that.
Around noon last Sunday we went to the Maker Faire and half a mile before the exit, traffic was a parking lot — not moving. So we took the next exit and miraculously ended up very near the faire — at the first red light, we spotted a family and asked, “Where’s Maker Faire?” and they said, “Park right here and walk — that’s what we’re doing.”
We walked into a large tent and were instantly hit by INFORMATION OVERLOAD. Well, FIVE HUNDRED “Makers” were there to “Show and Tell” and meet any and all. The instant feeling was, “This is far better than BURNING MAN, because there are CHILDREN — lots of them — and adults all in one space meeting, talking, and progressing toward all kinds of weird discoveries and enlightenments — without drugs.” Throughout the afternoon there was the constant excitement of discovery, wherever you went.
There were moments of collective euphoria, as when the Mentos/Diet Coke geysers spouted upward, drenching the crowd. Or when the Mousetrap began creaking into life, like a gigantic Rube Goldberg mechanism, ending with a 3000-pound safe dropping to the ground and bursting a half dozen big balloons… We were treated to the sight of women and men dressed in costumes from a hundred years ago, talking like sideshow barkers of old while winsome female performers evoked the Roaring Twenties in their theatric “routines.” Cyclecide, the NeverWas vintage house on wheels, the Kimric Smythe steam car … the list goes on.
The Maker Faire is a brilliant example of filling a need where few suspected one existed. We need to restore America to the way it was in the early 20th century, when households routinely had machine shops in their garages and basements, and almost all (male, at least) Americans saw themselves as inventors, carpenters, engineers, fabricators and patent holders. Remember the phrase, “Yankee Ingenuity”? As a rite of passage, teenage boys used to routinely customize cars; welding, painting and modifying them to go faster and look more intriguing. Thousands of American fathers had benches where they reloaded gun cartridges with custom loads, or built well-stocked bomb shelters, or made model airplanes and railway landscapes for their children.
Maker Faire is also an example of community-building, synergy, providing inspiration to children AND adults, empowerment — all those “New Age” words which I usually avoid. MAKER FAIRE and MAKE and CRAFT magazines are antidotes to consumerism which we desperately need right now. And at the end of the exhausting experience, with less than 10% of the exhibits comprehended, I thought, “This may be our only chance to ‘Save the World’.” Because long ago Buckminster Fuller had said, “Don’t try to change man; change environment.” The world has had thousands of years of humans crawling toward the dream of total freedom, education and justice for all, and have we made much progress? Has everyone become educated, anti-authoritarian and “enlightened”? Au contraire; it seems humans are actually devolving, just as DEVO predicted.
So, next year, don’t miss Maker Faire. We hope it spreads all over the planet… This is one “franchise” I would not object to.