Saturday, March 4, 2023

A Review of "No Machos or Pop Stars"


Polymath producer-musician Brian Eno has this great theory about “scenius” as the corrective to “‘genius,’ which exemplifies what I call the ‘Big Man’ theory of history – where events are changed by the occasional brilliant or terrible man, working in heroic isolation.” You don’t even need to sic the use of man in that quote, as we all know how he-heavy official history is. Eno would no doubt approve of Gavin Butt’s insightful and informed No Machos or Pop Stars: When the Leeds Art Experiment Went Punk, as it makes a distinct scenius case for the creative caldron of that north Yorkshire city in the late 1970s. 

Butt, a professor of fine art at Northumbria University, provides this precis in the introduction: “No Machos or Pop Stars follows a select band of art school students—and their compatriots—who dared, for a time, to imagine things could turn out differently to what became Thatcherism’s neoliberal makeover for 1980s Britain. It tells the story of a dialectical entanglement of punk rock and art college radicalism through which both were sublated, in the manner of the Hegelian Aufhebung, into artistic forms that variously attempted to plot alternative routes out of the crisis that had befallen postwar welfarism—alternative, that is, to avant-garde art or rock industry business-as-usual.”

Care to read the rest then do so at the California Review of Books.

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