Life but how to live it—for years the name embellished the wall behind my bed: the place of love and desire, of fears and tears, of fatigue and regeneration. No question mark, thus no searching for sense, or meaning, or technologies. No comma, thus no singling out of some ontological given from the practices of sustaining, endangering, or losing it. Simply the pleasure and pain of engaging in social relations: of bitterly failing while jubilating, and cheering while messing it all up. It is the name of the Norwegian punk band that entered my life by chance when I turned up for a concert at the infamous Hamburg squat Rote Flora, and it was the first thing that came to mind when I heard about Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz’s new film project on punk archives and queer socialities.
[S]ocial relations made on grounds of jouissance “must be a queer sort of social bond, one that is the effect of the disruption of the given time of the social contract (heteronormativity), yet creates at a secondary level a new social ordering (queer sociality).”
In the following pages I will attempt figure out how “the disruption of the given time of the social contract” happens and whether it can be viewed as an effect of politics. As the titles No Future and No Past (Boudry and Lorenz 2011, each 16mm, 15 min) suggest, the films concern themselves with time: Is it the time of heteronormativity, materialized in the rhythm of three-minute film reels and the intervening moments of blankness that disrupt the films’ flow? I will read the two works through the lens of Andrea Thal’s curatorial concept for her exhibition “Chewing the Scenery” and show that the disruption is an effect of chronopolitics, yet one that is simultaneously a visceral politics. Furthermore, echoing Elizabeth Povinelli, I will argue that the queer sociality of the films—not that displayed by the films but that evoked by their setting—while evolving from “lawless” jouissance, suggests a certain kind of ethics, namely, an ethics of remembrance. This ethics remains bound to violence—the violence of crime and normalcy—and thus confronts the punk archive with the challenge of facing heteronormativity, postcolonialism, and the impossibility of remembering that these produce.
The queer sociality staged in No Future and No Past—two films that are confusingly similar yet decidedly different—is characterized by boredom, indifference, and a simultaneous submission to and rejection of “the law.” The films culminate in a seemingly unmotivated act of destruction—Darby Crash smashes his guitar—that is less aggressive than it is detached. At the beginning, one sees what appears to be a band that has reformed after many years, not of their own volition but due to mysterious circumstances. The band appears to be preparing for an unnamed gig. Nothing would happen, one reckons, if it were not for on-screen director Werner Hirsch, who prompts the characters to say their lines and gives instructions that are followed—though unenthusiastically—by the four musicians grouped together in a punk-style rehearsal space. Expectations of punk negativity—implied by the infamous phrase “no future” and by the film’s cast, consisting of Ginger Brooks Takahashi (of the band MEN) as Darby Crash, Fruity Franky (of Lesbians on Ecstasy) as Poly Styrene, G. Rizo as Joey Ramone, and Olivia Anna Livki as Alice Bag—are finally met when Darby Crash has his solo performance. Or are they? The destruction of the guitar can also be read as an already canonized citation of rock culture. Similarly, the use of bodies and objects as instruments can be read as an established practice of experimental music. So, is it the gender drag that strikes the audience when Darby Crash—in reality a white guy from Los Angeles known for wearing typical punk-style outfits—appears on stage in a pink cashmere jacket, a miniskirt, patent leather high heels, and a pearl necklace?
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