Thursday, December 1, 2011


I’m wondering if Jacques Derrida had ever met The Devo.
Part of London exhibition Post Modernism Style and Subversion is dedicated to 80s music, a profoundly symbolical field for that age, where everything seemed to be dominated by an ironic melancholic and without direction pastiche of styles.
Devo is an American band from Ohio, they formed in 1973 and every now and then they still appear on shows or television.
Their genre has always been a mixed one, in between pop, punk and industrial sounds. Synthetic instrumentations are a constant feature of most of their famous songs (Mongoloid or Whip it for example). They do represent what a multi media artist should be, whose approach has to be skilful and always ready to adapt itself to new experiments.
The name Devo is the abbreviation for Devolution. At that time the term Post Modernism was nearly there to be coined by Lyotard, when in 1979 he published his famous prophetical book, which absolutely created a new perception of reality.
As soon as people started to talk about Post Modernism, all the past categories of knowledge through which man have always liked to describe their world, collapsed in melancholic and majestic ruins.
However, the past was still there, influencing the present in a drastic but ironic and sneaky way.
The idea of devolution comes out from questioning our selves about having ever been modern. It’s a playful position in which the progress is not seen anymore as an excellent quality we achieved, but quite the contrary, as a disgraceful veneration of false idols.
It’s better to stop this evolution toward something that it’s not even very clear in its essence. The tragic behaviour of believing in the rational linearity of our own thoughts is extremely laughable and very often music is a lucky mimesis of this.
The Devo have always performed a meaningful pastiche of paradoxes. Irony and desolation, brightness and dark sides voluntary shown off, industry and nature are just some of the dichotomous couples that keep the audience always receptive to their provocations.
Devolution brings us to Deconstruction. The terms do share a very similar attitude toward reality and its phenomena.
The latter refers to the famous and influencing school of thoughts, which has its roots in France during the late Sixes.
Jacques Derrida is doubtless one of its founders for the originality and depth of his thinking.

Derrida major and initial prospective was a linguistic one. He has been always and essentially interested in writing and reading, probably being conditioned by the linguistic turn that dominated philosophy since Wittgenstein became its conditio sine qua non.
Deconstruction doesn’t mean destroying everything mindless of any distinction.
The first punk wave was already gone and people turned themselves against the extreme negation of the future in favour of a mere prospective of pure chaos.
De-construction implies maintaining the past we are sited on, as a matter of fact we can deny it.
But our duty is to re-create it, to revisit its ruins and, why not, make jokes on them.
The essence of punk was a complete overcrossing of values, the first and original punk went beyond the good and bad, while, in the 80s people started to feel again the need of analysis and critic, although keeping a careful distance from the absolute theoretical approach of the late 60s early 70s.
Devo’s same paradoxical attitude characterizes also The Fall, an English band formed in Manchester in 1976, mainly gravitating on the singer leader’s figure Mark E. Smith.

Smith is an eccentric master of oxymoron. His drunk lyrics are the perfect expression for a mindful cynical social realism. Smith is a poet of our contemporary time, he knows very well how to pull society’s leg and he does this deftly using a subtle equilibrium between hysterical surrealism and very pragmatic sense of reality.
What Smith borrows from the past is a clear declaration of historical continuity. Ancient ruins are examples of our human intrinsic stupidity.
He takes the piss of government in order to make people aware of the constant risk of a ridicule and dangerous self-repetition.
The continuity between time and space is once again witnessed by the name of the band. The Fall was in fact Camus last book. In 1956 the French literate and thinker wrote a series of philosophical monologues. They are the description of the life of a French man who tells his story at the presence of a stranger. It’s impressive how the unknown, far away from being perturbing, has become a comforting place of familiarity.
I guess the exhibition on Post Modernism reminded me above all the subversive power of a laugh.
Probably it’s time for a new revolution but so far we haven’t taken enough distance from our past in order to give things a very different status.
This is Post Modernism. 
But I was told it’s already finished.

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