Category Archives: sewer show

Gutter Surrealism and Punk culture

I want to write about Gutter Surrealism and its relation to Punk culture. The reason I want to address this is because Gutter Surrealism is heavily influenced by the madness and beauty of punk culture. First of all I want make it clear: I’m not a punk and I’m not trying to pass for one either. Gutter Surrealism is its own legitimate movement seeking to cut out its own path. But there’s a lot of similarities the two have in common; a spirit of DIY (do it yourself), liberation, anti-authority, high energy, anti-mind control, you get the picture.

I’ve always been fascinated with the underdog. It’s a personal thing of mine. Whenever I watch a youtube video of someone running away from the cops, I instinctually cheer him on. The news actors (I only use the term “reporter” when connected with real journalists. Everyone else is just an actor) can say whatever they want about the guy. In that moment he’s the hero to me. After they catch him, he goes back to being just another ordinary baby killer or whatever awful thing people tend to become. I’m not saying all underdogs are criminals because that’s obviously not true. But if you’re an underdog yourself, you’ll quickly learn the law is not on your side. You become suspicious of anyone in power.

It was while I studied Art History and Theory at SDSU, that I became convinced that throughout history, weirdos were always more interesting and imaginative than normal people. It was around this time that my younger sisters were fully immersed in the underground punk scene. They started telling me about these things called “sewer shows,” which are hardcore punk rock performances literally down in the sewers. The whole idea was surreal, I had to check it out and so I tagged along. The experience was amazing. Mosh pits, people were throwing up graffiti murals, hardcore punk rock music, booze and herb everywhere, everyone having a good time. It was a different world down there. I got smashed off a box of wine and thrashed around in the mosh pit. Some guy even had a homemade flamethrower strapped to his back. He was guiding people through the darkened tunnels with gigantic fireballs.

CA sewer show at secret location

The whole event opened my eyes. We’ve been conditioned to always ask for permission. This group of people circumvented that whole process and made it happen. What hit me the hardest about being down there was the overwhelming sense of freedom. You could do anything you wanted to and were encouraged to. But there was always a base level of respect maintained. People got stupid, but not that kind of stupid. If somebody was an anger junkie, they’d step in the mosh pit and go insane. What I’m saying is that there was a place for everyone. The only time I got negative vibes was after we returned to the city level. Some Neo Nazi mistook my shaved head for being one of him. Besides that, it was beautiful. Yet, the fact that you gotta go hide in the sewers to enjoy music and be free, said something to me about how we live. The message isn’t a 100% clear to me, but I felt there was a definite connection between that subculture and Surrealism.

It’s been said, that the only place we are ever truly free is in our dreams. We can be and have anything we want. The world is yours. As the saying goes, “In your dreams.” Yes, exactly. But what happens when we want to take that freedom that is in our head and move it into reality? That’s where things get complicated. In the world we live in, real prime freedom costs money. Not everyone can afford that pure uncut freedom, but everyone wants to get high off it. If you’re rich then you can afford the freedom to do the most bizarre things and get away with it (just look at R. Kelly). If you’re poor, then you make it happen any way you can.

It was through this shared love of real freedom, by hardcore punk and surrealism that “Gutter Surrealism” was born to me. The term “Gutter Surrealism” came to me after I finished writing Blubber Island. I did a Google search and found only scant remarks. I’m still looking for other Gutter Surrealists in all forms of art. My longtime  friend Cahnan Hickey (bassist of California Punk band Corpspazm) describes G.S as “trashy and mind bending.” I know he gets it. I’m including this bit from Blubber Island which I believes captures the poetry of G.S,

“He took the last drag and flicked his burning cigarette over the edge. At that moment, a strong wind picked up, and the smoking butt flew away like a bird set free.”

It’s about seeing beauty in the ugly things, yet they always remain ugly. Click here to read an example of Gutter Surrealism.

Photo Credits

Dali Photo from: http://tracyinthestars-tracyinthestars.blogspot.jp/2010/08/rebirth-of-salvador-dali.html

Corpspazm Photo http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/corpspazm