THE MEDIA INITIATION OF SUBCULTURES
Photography by Deeptika
The idea that authentic culture is somehow outside media and commerce is a flexible one. In the context of fully-fledged form, the belief suggests that grassroots cultures resist and struggle with a colonizing mass-mediated corporate world. The distinctions of youth subcultures are, in many cases, happening of the media.
Every music scene has its own specific set of media relations. For example, ‘Acid house’, a dance club culture which evolved into ‘rave’ after scandalous media coverage about drug use, is particularly revealing of the cultural logics involved. There is no opposition between subcultures and the media, except for a determined ideological one. I do not uncover pure origins of sound, style, and ritual, nor criticize a vague standing stone called ‘the media’. Rather, I look at how various media are integral to the youth’s social and ideological formations. The organizers usually convey the message at a local level through local micro-media like flyers and listings to bring the crowd together. Niche media like the music press construct subcultures as much as they document them. National mass media, such as the tabloids, develop youth movements as much as they distort them. Contrary to youth-subcultural ideologies, ‘subcultures’ do not germinate from a seed and grow by force of their own energy into mysterious ‘movements’ only to be belatedly digested by the media. Instead, media and other culture industries are there and effective right from the start. They are central to the process of subcultural formation, integral to the way we create groups with words.
The term ‘underground’ is the expression by which clubbers refer to things sub-cultural. More than fashionable and trendy, ‘underground’ sounds and styles are ‘authentic’ and dented against the mass-produced and mass-consumed. Underground denotes exclusive worlds whose main point may not be elitism but whose parameters often relate to particular crowds. They delight in parental incomprehension, negative newspaper coverage and the best blessing in disguise. More than anything else, then, undergrounds define themselves against the mass media. Their main antagonist is not the law that might suppress but the media who continually threaten to release their knowledge to others.
Thousands of years back, the human race comprised of naked animals wandering wild without a worry in the world. Fast forward to the 21st Century and we have lifts, government, and Instagram. In spite of all these changes in our “modern” society, nudity has been avoided and still is a taboo. But despite the general dislike towards the subject, a lot of people have embraced it in their own ways. Be it for art or maybe to keep up with fashion’s cyclical nature, nudity has reached a new level of liberation in the past decade as compared to the last hundreds of years together.
The question now is why do people practice nudism? The reality is that there are many reasons why we shouldn’t wander around in our surroundings naked day in and day out? Nudity is often seen as signals of sexual availability and many believe that your privates should be held for your partner or yourself. Combining these reasons with all the badly directed publicity, it isn’t a surprise that many seem too shocked by the subject. It is important to take note of the setting of the nudity. We see nude subjects in the art which are considered aesthetic. Real-life sketching is an important part of figuring out how to draw and naked models are displayed in public.
But take designer Rick Owens A/W 15 collection in which the clothes were cut in a way that the models’ genitalia was subtly visible. This caused an uproar in the media. People started saying that it was a simple and cheap tactic to gain media attention. But if this nudity is commonplace in art then why is it unexpected or considered outrageous in the fashion and lifestyle industry?
In the 1980s during the nascent London nightclub scene, a group of woman who called themselves Neo Naturists were quite the sensation because of one plain fact. They would turn up to events in nothing but body paint. They were a big part of the London underground scene and certainly livened it up a lot. The group consists of three sisters, Christine, Jennifer, and Wilma Johnson, who took performance arts to another level. They mixed songs and used audience provocation which got a very mixed response from people.
Nowadays, the group has come together for a project at Studio Voltaire in South London. It is an amalgamation of eight grainy films of their performances and shows as well as figurative paintings, flyers and press cuttings of their events.
The point is by removing their clothes they were celebrating the human body in its naked glory and it was in no way pornographic. Now in their 60s, Jennifer still continuous to paint Christine while Wilma moved to a village in France and has become a surfer. But they are definitely not letting the age stop them as they are still active in underground clubs and events just as they were 36 years back.
In a way, there is nothing more confident than nudity. Nudists are people who are rarely ashamed of who they are. They seem to have learned the fact that everyone is the same and there is hardly any reason in being ashamed of what others think of as “imperfections.” They are not hiding behind clothing because they don’t see a need to do so.