How the punk scene's do-it-yourself flyers and posters create a lens into the pounding heart of the music and movement.
Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation is a vibrant, in-depth, and visually appealing history of punk, which reveals punk concert flyers as urban folk art. David A. Ensminger exposes the movement's deeply participatory street art, including flyers, stencils, and graffiti. This discovery leads him to an examination of the often-overlooked presence of African Americans, Latinos, women, and gays and lesbians who have widely impacted the worldviews and music of this subculture. Then Ensminger, the former editor of fanzine Left of the Dial, looks at how mainstream and punk media shape the public's outlook on the music's history and significance.
Often derided as litter or a nuisance, punk posters have been called instant art, Xerox art, or DIY street art. For marginalized communities, they carve out spaces for resistance. Made by hand in a vernacular tradition, this art highlights deep-seated tendencies among musicians and fans. Instead of presenting punk as a predominately middle-class, white-male phenomenon, the book describes a convergence culture that mixes people, gender, and sexualities.
This detailed account reveals how members conceptualize their attitudes, express their aesthetics, and talk to each other about complicated issues. Ensminger incorporates an array of scholarship, ranging from sociology and feminism to musicology and folklore, in an accessible style. Grounded in fieldwork, Visual Vitriol includes over a dozen interviews completed over the last several years with some of the most recognized and important members of groups such as Minor Threat, Minutemen, the Dils, Chelsea, Membranes, 999, Youth Brigade, Black Flag, Pere Ubu, the Descendents, the Buzzcocks, and others.
David A Ensminger —
David A. Ensminger, Houston, Texas, teaches English and humanities at Lee College. He has written for the Journal of Popular Music Studies, M/C Journal, Houston Press, and Maximum Rock'n'Roll.
Ensminger, David A. Visual vitriol: the street art and subcultures of the punk and hardcore generation. University Press of Mississippi, 2012 (c2011). 334p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781604739688; ISBN 9781617030734 pbk; ISBN 9781604739695 e-book. Reviewed in 2012aug CHOICE.
Ensminger (Lee College) uses punk art and music as vehicles to "trace the social discourse of punk." He has worked as a music journalist with his own fanzine, No Deposit No Return, and formerly as editor of Left of the Dial. Exhibition of his large collection of handmade posters, flyers, and handbills became the "Visual Vitriol" project. Using this collection of urban folk art, this book explores the history, angst, and meaning of the punk movement in North America and Britain from 1976 to the present. Included are more than a dozen interviews. Rather than an encyclopedia, it is an "entranceway, a self-reflexive ethnography." Readers interested in a reference book should consult Brian Cogan's Encyclopedia of Punk Music and Culture (CH, Dec'06, 44-1844). Ensminger writes with an articulate, edgy, engaging voice that helps readers enter the outsider culture of the punk scene through his explorations of punk art, graffiti, skateboarding, the ghoulish, queer punk, Hispanics in punk, hardcore, and the "wicked women of punk." This is a one-of-a-kind book that is interdisciplinary in nature. It will be useful in collections of alternative art and music, as well as sociology.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty. -- L. F. Lister, Colorado College