YOUTH CODES / Matèria Gallery // ROME 2016 // 18.03.2016 – 28.04.2016



Lost Angels, Fallen Stars
// Essay by Gianpaolo Arena

‘To describe the essential theory of anarchism is rather like trying to grapple with Proteus, for the
very nature of the libertarian attitude -- its rejection of dogma, its deliberate avoidance of rigidly
systematic theory, and, above all, its stress on extreme freedom of choice and on the primacy of
the individual judgment -- creates immediately the possibility of a variety of viewpoints
inconceivable in a closely dogmatic system.’

George Woodcock, Anarchism, 1975

The metamorphosis of a motionless and conservative society within an authoritarian state –
urged by a new thought process, strong enough to modify the foundation of society itself and
allowing numerous forms of cooperation between individuals – was the premise to be put in
motion during specific historical and social contexts.

The violent intensity, on which popular music fed upon, reinforced by a seemingly veiled utopistic
ambition, seditiously conveyed a message: the world can be transformed. The point of explosion
that the punk movement represented has partially overshadowed the beauty of the marginal
residue left by the deflagration: destruction as the cornerstone of the creative act, deviation,
the semantic displacement, the rapid change of mannerism and identity, the subversion of the
everyday in situationist practice, nihilism, marginality, social chaos.

‘Be childish. Be irresponsible. Be disrespectful. Be everything this society hates.’

With this phrase, Malcon Mc Laren - the great influencer and the charismatic agitator
of the adrenalin heavy adventure of the British punk movement – fomented the revolt.
‘Be reasonable, demand the impossible’, was the slogan printed on the t-shirts sold
at Sex, the clothing shop found at number 430 on King’s Road; a landmark for the
reinforcement of the bond between Vivienne Westwood and Mc Laren - a perfect fit for
Guy Debord’s ‘La Société du Spectacle’.

All this energy, apparently so reviving and revolutionary, became the symbol of the adolescent
dream; the one with the facial expression and anxiety of the first time, with the amphetaminic
urgency of having it all, the promise of a new world or a new escape route, the possibility of
getting by, of letting go, of having sex freely, and manifesting one’s diversity by celebrating the
symptomatic rituals with style and personal tendency. The punk movement imposed the
reaffirmation of adolescence within culture through destructive rage, frustration and

From 1976 to 1977, Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon documented the London punk scene
revolving around the Roxy in Covent Garden and the Global Village in Charing Cross. The first
prints of from their
Punks series were originally presented at the Photographers’ gallery in 1978,
and featured many years later, in 2012, at Tate Britain in the retrospective titled Another
London. Knorr and Richon sought a direct engagement with their subjects, clearly affirming their
own presence with a formal and unconcealed approach, through static scenes and embalmed
poses frozen in an infinite instant by the cold light of the flash. It almost seems as if they wanted
us to experience the tension looming over the state of things by creating a timeless testimony of
what they encountered. The signs displayed during the enacted ritual were swastikas, the union
Jack, safety pins, loosened black leather jackets filled with painted writing, ripped jeans, heavy
makeup, collars, chains, zippers, studs. Amongst the most notable heroines of the music scene
such as Ari Up, Laura Logic, Palmolive, Poly Styrene and Siouxie Sioux, the partakers were
young and unenthusiastic concert and dance floor aficionados; bored, antagonistic individuals,
irreverent figures and Dickensian wrongdoers. Between hedonistic drifts and fleeting rushes,
the protagonists appear strong and vulnerable, repressed and shameless.

The series
Colossal Youth by German photographer Andreas Weinand, born in Rheine-
Westphalia, belong to the following decade. In the extraordinary images that constitute the
series, we are hit and attracted by a rapid succession of sounds, colours, objects, and actions
that profoundly strike our senses and imagination. The young protagonists, depicted with
honesty and candour, express rage, happiness, abandon, enthusiasm and resignation. They
are pictured during group rituals whilst celebrating, arguing, drinking, sleeping, falling in love
and ultimately becoming parents in the case of Günther, Melanie and little Fee. Intimate images,
shot in chaotic, dirty bedrooms and in vast, pure, open-air settings. Weinand, with the gaze of
an outsider and through a long process of empathic convergence, seizes the anthropological
and communal side of his encounters. In a diaristic manner, with distinctive style and aesthetic,
the author unveils the self-destructive, sacrilegious and ephemeral codes that reveal the
transitory existential state of his impulsive and boisterous subjects. What transpires is the
incendiary and prophetic excitement of the free and lively youths, the fleeting hope of their
vision, the frenzied and neurotic investigation of the senses, the excess of exploration and the
uncertain desire for a future. Once again the static gaze of these fallen angels hides the
innocence and the end of an infinite history.

/ Gianpaolo Arena /

YOUTH CODES // 18.03.2016 – 28.04.2016

curated by Gianpaolo Arena and Niccolò Fano


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