Anarchy in the Archives

Despite its changing referents, “Punk” always points to something disruptive to norms—the norms of behavior, of social institutions, of the music industry. However, this long and secret history of “Punk” suddenly transformed into a visible and audible movement in the mid-1970s, when punk culture burst out from underground theater and rock scenes in New York and London. As it spread around the world, Punk set the stage for independent music, third-wave feminist politics and musical activism up to the present day. From the Sex Pistols to Bad Brains to Bikini Kill to the Downtown Boys, punk has consistently provided a noisy megaphone for ideas, attitudes and people that would otherwise be muted.

“Anarchy in the Archives” walks the viewer through the history of punk culture, from its aesthetic and political origins in the Situationists through its musical meanings and ongoing revisions in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. This exhibition draws on material from Cornell Library’s Punk Collections, part of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections. The Punk Collections contain hundreds of fliers and posters, more than 1,500 fanzines, along with sound recordings, clothing, photographs, and original art documenting Punk’s regional interpretations and influences both nationally and internationally.

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