Punk is not just a music genre, but a lifestyle. Music plays a very important role in the punk lifestyle, but so does a fierce independent streak, DIY work ethic, and anarchic political leanings.
In Punk House: Interiors in Anarchy, Abby Banks travels across the country, visiting these punks. But this is not a socio-political research paper. This is a photographic journey, visiting “punk houses.” Punk Houses are small houses that are usually occupied by far more people than the house was originally designed for. These houses are often times abandoned, in the middle of nowhere, and certainly run-down. The idea behind these punk houses is twofold. By cramming as many people as possible into a living space, rent is significantly reduced, allowing the inhabitants to spend less time working for the man, and more time dedicated to their interests. These punk houses also become living, breathing art projects.
Banks’s photos show a lifestyle that many people might associate with the destitute, or the drug-addled. They are often filthy, but there is a kind of beauty in that filth. Third-hand furniture is slapped with a coat of bright green paint, to match the red and orange and yellow walls. The couch you see by the curb, with its stuffing coming out and missing a leg, is now someone’s bed. Canvases are shunned in favor of the walls, the ceilings, the floors, the appliances. Posters and band flyers are side-by-side with graffiti like “I am all tomorrow’s broken hearts.” Crates are stacked into makeshift bookcases and crammed full of bootlegs and crumbling paperbacks from Vonnegut, Burroughs, and Sartre.
A couple minor complaints about Punk House. Most of the photos are just a portion of a room, a bit of a wall, a corner of miscellany. I wanted Banks to back off a bit so I could get a sense of space. It was very disorienting. Also, there was virtually no information about the photos. They seem to be very loosely organized by geographic region, but I wanted just a little more info. I don’t need an essay, but maybe where each punk house was located, who the current residents are, and a blurb or two about their living art would suffice.