Thursday, 7 August 2014

Vidmar Je Pizda- Punk Graffiti

Photo by Jože Suhadolnik, from 'Balkan Pank', published 2014 by Akina Books

Over the last few weeks I've been reading and making notes a lot, with the aim of getting the first chapter of my PhD drafted by the start of September. One of the books I've been looking through is Punk Pod Slovenci (Punk Under the Slovenes), an anthology of articles, lyrics, debates and reflections on punk in Slovenia, published in 1985- perhaps the height of the 1980's Ljubljana hardcore scene. Whilst the book's main focus is on the punk scene rather than hardcore and the vast majority is in Slovene- my language skills aren't quite there yet in terms of being able to understand and translate much- there is a chapter dedicated to reproducing the text from punk graffiti found around Ljubljana, something a bit easier to understand.

Graffiti, according to Petja Grafenauer Krnc, first appeared in Ljubljana at the end of the 1970's, and as the picture below suggests, consisted primarily of slogans, names of punk bands and symbols. Actions were taken against graffiti artists shortly after it's appearance, and the authorities would also attempt to remove it from walls, which led to many artists moving quite literally underground, with the walls of Disco FV serving as a replacement for the walls of the city. Jože Suhadolnik's fantastic 'Balkan Punk' captures the recognisable aesthetic this provided, dedicating several pages to photographs of the graffiti itself, whilst many of his portraits of punks feature a backdrop of graffitied walls. I'm hoping to speak to Jože in more detail before the end of the month about his photography and memories of the Ljubljana punk scene as part of my studies, but will also be writing about his work in greater detail for this blog.

A lot of the graffiti reproduced for Punk pod Slovenci is self explanatory, especially the listing of band names, including Slovene hardcore/punk/alternative bands such as UBR, Stres DA, Otroci Socializma, O'Pizda, Čao Pičke, O!Kult, Laibach, Pankrti, Lublanski Psi... and international bands, Indigesti, Dead Kennedys, Crass, Subhumans, Cockney Rejects... but there are a few notable phrases that stood out to me and my rudimentary understanding of Slovene. 'FV KRETENI' AND 'FV IDIOTI' appears to be criticism of FV Music- which in many ways was the home and organising point for much of the alternative scene in Ljubljana, including elements of the Hardcore Collective. Hardcore shows were often held at Šiška (a venue operating as the home of FV between 1983-84) and later at K4 (FV's home between 1984-85), whilst FV Založba, the publishing arm of the organisation, released a number of hardcore records. Like everything else though, FV was not beyond criticism from, and conflict with, hardcore punks in Ljubljana.

Punk Graffiti, scanned from Punk Pod Slovenci 

The book also shows the presence of some universal classics such as 'All Cops Are Bastards', 'Anarchy' or 'Anarhija', 'Fuck Teachers' 'Fasistična Država' (Fascist State), as well as references to Tito, and the more specific 'Policaj Ljubim te v rit' which I think translates to 'I love police in the arse/ass'. The phrase 'Ne grem v vojsko' translates as 'I'm not going into the army' and seems to refer to military service which had extra resonance in Yugoslavia at the time, beyond the general pacifism you could find across worldwide hardcore. To use a phrase from an interview I conducted with Gigi from UBR, the army was 'the graveyard' of hardcore punk in Slovenia, as many bands were forced to split up as a result of a member being called up to the JNA.

There are plenty of references to punk still being alive and healthy and unsurprisingly the Sex Pistols seem to have been a popular subject, with references to them directly, 'Destroy', 'No Future' and various tributes to Sid Vicious, including 'Mi Smo Sidovi' which roughly translates as 'We Are Sid'. There are also references to 'Sex Pistols Avenue' and 'Johnny Rotten Square', the latter of which was a congregation point for punks in Ljubljana.

I'm not quite sure what '1968 is over, 1984 is over, future is between your legs' really means but it's interesting enough and seems to be and update of a poster produced by Ljubljana based artist Dušan Mandić (the poster apparently said 1983 instead, which was the year it produced). A lot of the other stuff at the moment to me just seems to be jibberish or swearing and I'm not sure whether that's down to my understanding of the language being insufficient, or the distinct possibility that it is in fact just jibberish and swearing.

Perhaps my favourite piece of graffiti reproduced is 'Vidmar Je Pizda'. It references Igor Vidmar, journalist, manager of Pankrti, and DJ on Radio Študent, the independent student radio based in Ljubljana. Vidmar was perhaps best known for compiling the Novi Punk Val record, which represented the first wave of Yugoslav punk bands, establishing the Novi Rock (New Rock) festival in Ljubljana, which featured a number of well known international bands (including Discharge, Rollins Band, DOA, Amebix, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Ramones, The Sisters of Mercy, Nick Cave and lots more) alongside bands from Yugoslavia, and also for being arrested in 1983 for wearing a 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off' badge- at perhaps the height of Yugoslav Communist repression of punk. The latter half of the sentence is uncomplimentary in perhaps the most notable way (it calls him a cunt), and seems to have been a relatively common opinion amongst some of the hardcore scene at the time, for numerous reasons. Generally the anger and ire he generated referred to his aforementioned prominent position within the dominant, more commercialised alternative culture and as a figurehead and 'spokesperson' for the original punk movement, all of which the hardcore scene actively rejected and frequently criticised, stressing instead the importance of the 'collective'.

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