Punks not dead, it's just curated now
Where They’re From: Yogyakarta, Indonesia
When They Started: 2007
Genre: Punk Art
Sounds Like: CRASS, The Damned, Dead Kennedys, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, you get the idea
You know art punk? Those bands that are actually too weird to even fit into a normal punk scene? Yeah, they rule. And they are often the product of an art school education acting on some uncontainably creative minds. But, turn the concept inside out and switch the words around, and you get punk art, like Indonesian collective Punkasila.
The seven-member group of artists and art students, formed by Melbourne-based multidisciplinary artist Danius Kesminas, produces sculptures and installations as well as noisy punk albums examining different socio-political issues. They dress like a squad of guerrillas in handmade batik army fatigues and play guitars constructed to look like AK-47s. Their albums come in high-concept, DIY packaging and you’re as likely to catch one of their performances at Biennale as you are to see them at a house show. The project might be more convoluted than the average punk band, but Punkasila is no less scrappy, or loud for that matter.
If we’re being real, the art world and the underground feed off each other pretty consistently and, in practice, punk and art have a lot in common: distaste for convention, making things by hand, inscrutable jargon, being broke. The distinctions can get pretty blurry, especially considering a lot of early UK punk and post-punk bands saw themselves as creative collectives. But if there is a clear dividing line between the two, Punkasila just sprawls around on it like a dog rolling in garbage, which makes their punk rock art pretty rad. Even radder, with their provocations of Indonesia’s political institutions, they’re running a legit risk in a country where even rank-and-file punk kids have been rounded up and arrested over their haircuts. That’s a lot of punk points.
As a considerable bonus, they have some pretty good tunes on their recent sophomore album, Crash Nation Mantra.