Visions of Utopia and Dystopia in ex-Yugoslav and Italian Punk Songs
The claim that speculative fiction is descriptive, and not predictive, is especially true for utopian and dystopian fiction. Utopian fiction usually describes a speculation of a rather desirable future society according to a given set of ethical values and political aspirations. Its goal is not to directly predict any futures, but rather to set an idealized example of what human culture could or should approximately resemble if civilization takes the “correct” direction, it aims at setting a narrative horizon for the motivation of certain, usually progressive, political activities and ethical behaviours. Dystopian fiction is like inverse utopia, it wants to warn how bad human culture could end up looking like if we do not act upon the status quo. Dystopias tend to describe the current state of affairs in bleak tones and sharp edges, usually in a fictional future setting.
Punk songs of various tendencies very often speak out about political issues, and many of these songs refer to the reality they describe in implicit terms of dystopia and utopia. This paper proposes to take a look at a selection of such songs from the Italian and ex-Yugoslav cultural areas. Both of them are interesting as peripheral, non-British/American punk, but also because they are two neighbouring cultures with a lot of common history, except for one detail: during the peak of punk Yugoslavia was nominally a socialist country, Italy was not. How did this fact affect the aesthetic of the utopian/dystopian discourse in punk? What are the ethical values and political aspirations of these punk songs in either context? Can we even determine them precisely? What were they trying to warn against? And what were the aesthetic devices to express all of it?
Let Us Hear Now the Crisis of Brains on the Asphalt: Three Punk Expressions of Crisis im Rahmen der Anarchist Studies Network Conference in Nottingham(Call for Papers); aufgrund der COVID-19 Pandemie findet die Konferenz dieses Jahr online statt.
Since the crisis-marked beginnings of punk, its obvious relationship with anarchism could be easily described as “it’s complicated”. In spite of the wide use of the word and the circled A symbol, not every artist considered anarchy in its political meaning of radical egalitarianism and libertarian socialism. As part of my ongoing research on avant-garde influences and tendencies in European pop culture, I am considering the presence in punk of the “impulse of anarchy”, as considered by Edoardo Sanguineti, as a more-than-political aesthetic phenomenon present in all avant-garde poetry (and arts in general) in modern history, consciously or not, whose ultimate goal is still, all considered, “to change life and modify the world”. Through this perspective, the proposed paper will present a comparative analysis of a selection of three expressions of crisis by three different punk groups from three different European countries, in three different languages: “Možgani na asfaltu” (“Brains on the Asphalt”) in Slovene by Berlinski zid from (then) Yugoslavia, “Lasciateci sentire ora” (“Let Us Hear Now”) in Italian by Franti from Italy, and “Crisis” in English by Poison Girls from the UK. The paper will thus try to contribute to the understanding of anarchist and anarchic influences in cultural coping with crisis under international capitalism and bourgeois hegemony.