SOUNDS OF OPPRESSION: The Lost Inheritance of the UK Sound System and Reggae Scene
The history of the reggae sound system inheritance passed down through generations in various music styles (Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, Dancehall and various sub-genres where it has fused with other cultures). The words and phrases describe the same fight concerning social exclusion within the Black diaspora. The crisis in mainstream UK Reggae scene concerns the ‘invisibility’ of Reggae music or lack of recognition where elements of the culture are being used within the mainstream entertainment and media outlets. Reggae and Sound system culture is also undervalued within the African-Caribbean culture with the essence of the cultural practices now stigmatised or diminished in favour of contemporary music genres and commercial interests focused on celebrity.
We would argue that the musical legacy should give recognition to the ‘roots’ of the Reggae and sound systems within Jamaican culture which has been replaced by commercial rather than authentic interests in the practices. Often those from the authentic origins are easily exploited and replaced in mainstream UK media by ‘sanitised’ celebrities which could be viewed as institutional racism working to exclude the authentic voices in Reggae.
In this twenty-minute video essay we will explore some potential alternatives to current trends and examine what steps might be required to return ‘The Lost Inheritance of the UK Reggae scene’ to its righteous place in contemporary UK culture.
Daniel Johnson/Roy Wallace May 2018
In 2005, I captured video of recording sessions, live performances and other scenarios involving original British punk band Buzzcocks – a band seminal in their approach and contribution to the punk ethos and pioneers of the DIY approach to the production of art, not only as the creators of music but as the hub of a collective artistic approach that spanned music and visual arts. The materials that I documented being created went on to become the 2006 album Flat-Pack Philosophy, the band’s eighth studio album, released on Cooking Vinyl in March 2006.
After decades of documenting and producing projects around ‘punk’ using an individual DIY approach, I now want to explore the potential for a shared collaborative initiative between artist and audience which draws upon the ‘punk’ philosophy of bricolage and anti-formalist film convention which celebrates and offers more complex interpretations of documentary through ‘The Art of Punk’ by questioning ‘definitions of power’ relationships.
To achieve this ambition, I intend to select potential documentary elements of self-produced materials exploring the relationships between postmodern and realist approaches to the documentary intention. This work seeks to expand and interrogate the relationships between the documenter and the documented using a series of ‘disconnected’ elements as a ‘self-assembly’ strategy for creating and re-creating documentary practice as Art and ongoing collaborative online activity.
Using these video materials, the aim of this project is to construct a series of ‘realist interventions’ as a loose narrative structure drawing upon a fictional relationship between a character (played by Monica Wong) and her interaction with the band as they go about their work. The internal story is therefore a device to examine relationships between:
• Filmmaker and subject.
• Realism and fictional construction in documentary practice.
• Do It Yourself approaches to documenting ‘punk’ as motivated by the bands lyrics.
• Photography and documenting reality.
• Documentary ‘intention’, ethics and negotiating boundaries inside and outside of the project.
• Documentary practice as a post/post post-modernist art form.
Using the materials gathered during the album’s assembly the themes and ambitions of this work connect with core issues explored explicitly by the artists themselves as part of the creation of this album and more widely as part of the DIY ‘punk’ philosophy. After forty years of punk history mostly created and documented by mainstream broadcasters to ‘enounce’ an accepted and unquestioned construct of ‘punk’, this project seeks to re-position and re-claim documentary activity about ‘punk’ in the exhibition space, presenting audiences with a critical perspective on the forty-year journey through the artistic endeavours of key participants who inspired the filmmaker.
BLOODY BLOODY BELGIUM
A video history of the development of aesthetic and political aspects of the Belgian punk movement firmly rooted in a D.I.Y. ethos which relied on individual spontaneous contributions outside of any social or commercial structures. This activity had particular characteristics of social affluence different to other similar movements elsewhere in Europe but argues that this small diverse punk scene had a valuable impact on facilitating the growth and development of the punk scene world-wide.
Positioned at the crossroads of Europe the Belgian DIY punk scene actively implemented the potential of the UK anarcho-punk ethic ‘post Crass’ and facilitated a vibrant scene with global participation, which it still engages with to present day. The nature and approach the subculture participants fostered, developed and maintained a ‘unique diversity’ of inclusion particular to the Belgian culture which helped cement a functioning self-sustaining infa-structure facilitating ‘unique’ approaches to inclusive participation with a touch of surreal Belgian humour.
These networks (like many others across EU & UK) still function to support and facilitate the contemporary punk scene, which still struggles with tensions around the transition of punks within an aging movement. In Belgium as in many other punk scenes, real and ideological tensions have seemingly ‘enounced’ the political potential of punk with the resulting fragmentation of a movement and participants who once celebrated its unique solidarity.
Is Punk Dead? Definitely not I would argue, using my documentary journey to explore ‘how’ punk has developed to inform contemporary activities in Belgium and its impact within the current punk scene and the wider society. However, a key set of questions arising from this research is ‘what impact does contemporary dominant political libertarian perspectives within the world-wide ‘punk’ movement have on the individuality, creative originality, social manifestations and political activities of the participants?’
Now that music, image and other forms of ‘punk’ representations are in conflict with the capitalist ideologies informing traditional modes of media production with free immediate access and availability via the internet. Why would you bother making a documentary about Punk in Belgium?
THE DAY THE COUNTRY DIED: The Second Sitting
‘Punk’ as a cultural force, was considered by the music press in the UK to have ceased around the late 1970’s. This project is an exploration and documentation of the subsequent rise of the UK ‘anarcho-punk’ movement in the 1980’s. This video document represents the culmination of the single-filmmaker approach developed through my earlier research projects but takes the DIY ethic further through exploration of the production, postproduction and eventual global distribution of a documentary work about this particular subject. As with earlier projects, the research ambition is to pursue a truly independent approach to documentary video production work and in this project similar themes and conventions are explored using archive video, stills photography, interview and music video approaches in the facilitation of a ‘documentary narrative’.
The original aim was to document materials then produce an online video that highlighted the impact of ‘anarcho-punk’ in UK during the 1980’s and this version is an online update available worldwide via the PSN website. As a narrative, the ambition was to explore the tensions and complexities of arguably the most significant and influential of contemporary cultural and political movements which give birth to preceding subcultures (rave etc.) and is still manifest politically through the activities of the ‘Anti Globalisation Movement’ with spectacular counter-interventions during the ‘G’ summits worldwide. The three key research questions addressed in this project were:
What documentary representations and other materials exist which detail the complex nature of this movement?
How can such a diverse cultural and political movement be represented using the constraints of online video
With further developments in digital technologies, is it possible to produce and distribute documentary work globally outside of traditional media industry constraints?
This video ‘paper’ seeks to explore the question ‘How can the politics of early Anarcho-punk still have impact in a digital age?’
The story of Good Vibrations Records and Terri Hooley who emerged as one of the most influential catalysts for the rapid growth of the punk scene in Northern Ireland in the late seventies. Forgotten or ignored by the ‘media’ in Northern Ireland and many of the people he helped put on a world stage, this ‘documentary’ seeks to ensure that Hooley is given his rightful place as a progressive contributor, in Northern Ireland’s troubled history.
Directed by Roy Wallace, the work pays homage to Hooley for helping create a music scene, which transcended the sectarian violence of the time and paving the way for a healthy resistance to the political situation and the politicians who have claimed to represent the people of Northern Ireland throughout its long and troubled past. Shame the so called ‘Peace Process’ killed off punk in Northern Ireland along with the progressive community sector which had embraced non-sectarian politics.
“None of them ever represented me”
Terence Wilfred Hooley 2006
PUNK AS FUCK
An Ethographic Travelogue of Unreconstructed Punks on Tour!
MODERN ANGELS (Not suitable for under 18 viewers!)
Modern Angels documented the ‘body art’ sub-cultural practices in Belgium at the turn of the millennium. The work features several participants in a ‘ritualistic’ performance, having scarification performed ‘live’ in front of an invited audience. The work challenged concepts around ethical documentary boundaries and the marginal space between acceptable documentation of ‘hidden’ sub-cultural practice to a wider academic and public audience.
Modern Angels helps provide a window into a dated hidden practice which is now commonly accepted and the three main elements of the work; tattooing, body art and body manipulation have become widespread cultural practices. The documentation of these practices during a specific historical period offers potentially a unique insight into the content and form of the work as a ‘single filmmaker’ documentary approach.
PUNK NOW: PSN Conference Birmingham City University 2016