YORK creative hub Navigators Art & Performance is exploring iconic genres – the punk era and the jazz age – in its autumn exhibition at Micklegate & Fossgate Socials and Saturday’s live event at The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, York.
Punk/Jazz: Contrasts and Connections asks: A Love Supreme or No Future? Are punk and jazz at odds or two sides of a coin?
The answer to a question with a nod to American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane’s 1964 album and the Sex Pistols’ nihilistic mantra from 1977 single God Save The Queen comes through a combination of painting, drawing, collage, print, words, sculpture, photography and music.
“Punk and jazz? Each can be controversial, uncompromising, confrontational,” says Navigators Art co-founder Richard Kitchen. “The best of each is groundbreaking, pushing conventions to the limit. Both can hurt. Both can heal.”
On show at the Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social bars is new work by a fresh line-up of artists from York and beyond. “We’re featuring a healthy mix of the known and the less familiar, including Ali Hunter, Carrianne Vivianette, George Willmore, Nick Walters, river smith, Sharon McDonagh, Steve Beadle and Steve Walmsley,” says Richard, who is among the exhibitors as ever.
“There’s a special treat too: the welcome return to the York art scene of entrepreneur and local legend Chalky the Yorkie.”
Saturday’s specially curated live performance at The Basement, Punk/Jazz: A Halloween Special, features York bands The Bricks, Teleost and Things Found And Made (Dunmada), the polemical words of activist poet Rose Drew and Saeth Wheeler delivering psychic-themed comedy.
Doors open at 7pm for this 7.30pm event, presented in association with The Random Cabaret and York Alternatives, and the Basement bar will be open throughout.
“Expect experiments, improvisation and noise! Some of the material will not be suitable for young children,” Richard forewarns.
Here, Richard Kitchen discusses punk, jazz and art, contrasts and connections with CharlesHutchPress
How can jazz and punk hurt, Richard?
“When we came up with the theme, many people said, ‘I don’t like jazz but I like punk’ or vice versa. We’re talking generalisations but not stereotypes here, and we’re interested in spiritual or free jazz, rather than more polite versions.
“They’re both polemical in terms of both sound and ideology. Many people feel threatened by them. Then, of course, they take aim at certain targets, political, social and cultural, and challenge them.”
How can jazz and punk heal?
“People can find themselves through music, whether as players or listeners. Both these forms of music offer a world, even a philosophy, that people develop a passionate relationship with.
“We’ve proposed that punk is an attitude, jazz is a state of mind. Freedom, independent creativity, social justice: they represent values systems that go beyond music in search of a better world. We as Navigators Art have followed those values in giving ourselves permission to achieve things that others have said we couldn’t – or even shouldn’t!”
How did dapper activist artist Chalky the Yorkie become involved in the exhibition?
“We met Chalky at a show last Christmas, chatted to him about art and music and his own history as an artist in York, and felt we’d like to get him involved in the scene again. He had some work that responds perfectly to the Punk/Jazz theme.”
Names new to Navigators Art are among the Punk/Jazz artists: how were the exhibitors selected this time?
“We did a general call-out for the first time on social media and Curatorspace. We’ve had quite a constant presence over the past 18 months and it was time to freshen things up, to avoid the same people making the same kind of work each time. We’ve gone back to basics, with a core admin group and a network of wonderful new and emerging artists and performers.”
Are you a punk fan, a jazz fan, or both?
“Personaslly? A fan of both but they’re broad terms, aren’t they? Anything exploratory and exciting gets my vote. Sheer noise? No! Cocktail lounge tinkling? No! Extreme hardcore where there’s no space to let the music breathe? No! But others in the group have their own preferences of course.”
Punk gets things done in a rush with plenty to say; jazz just faffs around, taking forever to not make any point…Discuss!
“Two sides of a coin, as we say. But the coin itself is the same. They aren’t exclusive. Sometimes you want to shout and get things out of your system; sometimes you want to muse on things at length.
“Punk or jazz, the musicians are working out how best to express themselves, whether it’s protesting about something for two minutes or exploring their own state of mind for hours! The key factor in both is honesty, being true to yourself. I’d say that’s what attracts an audience too.”
Punk had no future, nowhere to go. Jazz is always evolving…Discuss.
“Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten/John Lydon realised punk was imploding very early on, becoming formulaic. Once you get into the punk that led to what became a post-punk freedom to experiment, there’s an openness to many other forms of music, including jazz, dub, world music and so on that created a kaleidoscope of marvellous new forms.
“New jazz is emerging now, which similarly draws on other influences, especially electronics. Labelling music as one thing or another is a convenient shorthand but genuinely creative artists rarely think in those terms.”
What is the full line-up for Saturday’s live event?
“The musicians will be The Bricks, an energetic punk band fronted by Gemma from comics shop Travelling Man, in Goodramgate; Teleost, who are more intense and improvisatory; the Neo Borgia Trio who have formed especially for the occasion from a University of York big band; Mike Ambler, with some grunge-influenced solo songs,; and Things Found And Made (Dunmada), whose experimental set is a secret even from us. Then there’s firebrand poet Rose Drew and comedians Isobel Wilson and Saeth Wheeler.”
What is Navigators Art & Performance?
THIS York creative collective brings a DIY ethos and punk belief in building from minimal resources to exhibitions, live events, projects and commissions.
“We’ve created events for StreetLife and York Festival of Ideas, and we’re now running live events at The Basement, City Screen,” says co-founder Richard Kitchen.
“We present original material for an audience to discover something fresh and exciting.
We encourage young artists, emerging talent and those who feel disadvantaged or underrepresented.”
Punk/Jazz: Contrasts and Connections runs at Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social, York, until January, with the closing date yet to be confirmed. Free entry during opening hours. Tickets for Punk/Jazz: A Halloween Special are on sale at https://bit.ly/nav-punkjazz