Total assault on culture

BLAST, Provo and Guerrilla emerged from very different societies; BLAST from post-Victorian pre-modern England; Provo from Conservative mid 1960s Amsterdam; Guerrilla from the politically turbulent US city of Detroit in the late 1960s. All were produced by visual artists, performance artists or poets and all were iconoclastic.

Iconoclasm describes how traditional cultural icons are destroyed in order to make way for the new. Modern countercultural iconoclasm is more symbolic than active; it sets out to destroy and replace tired traditional culture but rarely involves actual destruction. It borrows the slogans and gestures of revolution and the language of war to create the necessary space and energy for new forms of culture and expression. Modern iconoclasts often emerge when there is no appropriate culture for them and no place for them in mainstream culture.

Punk is often described as an iconoclastic culture because of its emphasis on absolute non-conformity, its visibly rebellious 'look' or aesthetic and its do-it-yourself ethic. Punk demanded that the new movement of young people stop consuming the culture that was made for them, and instead make their own culture.

BLAST, Provo and Guerrilla emerged at times of social conflict and their creators borrowed the energy of the struggles around them for provocative and revolutionary, but fundamentally poetic, expression.

BLAST attempted to find new possibilities of expression that would challenge the violent boredom of the times whilst Europe moved towards the First World War. Provo harnessed the energy of angry young people shut out of mainstream culture in order to wake up 'addicted', 'catatonic'(stupefied or unconscious) consumer society. Guerrilla spoke of poetry revolution in the language of the revolutionary Black Panther Party.

Only Provo successfully achieved any form of active social revolution but, alongside the other countercultural activity and expression of their times, all played a part in the wider liberation of culture from its stagnant traditions.