Subculture, Shock & Style

I think subculture is mainly based on a person’s origins and how they were grew up, there’s different cultures around the world, and depending on how they were grew up. For example, if somebody was born into poverty then they would of grown up with not a lot and had to of lived of whatever they could get and if somebody was born into a high class family, they’d of grown up being able to have a lot and could easily get what they wanted. This also goes into subculture, high class people could be known by others as snobs or posh whereas people living in poverty will be known as poor and sometimes people can be labelled from the culture they are. Stereotyping could also be brought into culture and subculture as sometimes coloured people could be stereotyped and labelled as being terrorists, people who steal things, carry knives or other weapons etc and that is down to their culture and where they were grew up.

Subculture could be about the clothes people wear or the way they act or even by what they are interested in, for example, mods, punks, skinheads and rockers are different subcultures and they were labelled by their look, their interests in music and fashion.





Nowadays subcultures would probably be emos, goths, chavs, skaters and various others. Chavs are probably the more well-known subcultures at the moment as people labelled as chavs are always being brought up and talked about, if somebody were to wear a tracksuit or a hoodie with the hood up for example, they would be seen by others as chavs, whereas if somebody was wearing a lot of black clothing and maybe makeup they would be seen as goths or possibly even emos. I think these subcultures go back to the roots of how subculture used to be with mods, punks and skinheads, it’s down to the way they look, their interests and their fashion style. “the history of postwar british fashion and music formations reveals the collective ways in which non-elite groups and communities of young people have shaped distinctive cultures as ‘particular ways of life’. Music and fashion have been used as common symbolic resources for the production of such sharply differentiated cultural identities as those of the rockers, mods, skinheads and punks.”  Childs, P. (1999) p. 187








Image Chavs






I also think tattoos and piercings could be related to subculture as some tattoos could shock people and some people may find people with tattoos or/and piercings disturbing. It is up to the person what they want to do with their body but people with many tattoos and piercings can be labelled as freaks and have been stereotyped as not being unemployed as they can’t get a job due to their appearance. This is all down to their style and possibly their interests too, as they could be interested in body art and body manipulation. “The body alterations adornment ‘scene’ has become a distinct and visible subculture in contemporary Britain.” “Although tattoos and certain forms of piercings (especially ear piercing) have long been popular, other forms of body adornment have also percolated into the mainstream (nose and naval piercing, for example)” “Proponents of body alteration argue that the body is a primary means of self-expression, and that adornment is a form of resistance to powerlessness in modern life”  Childs, P. (1999)  p. 68.


In art culture and subculture was brought to everybody’s attention in the 19th century when modernist avant-garde began. It has a complex history, though we can say that one of its central ideas was to ‘shock’.

The French artists and poets called this ‘Épater la bourgeoisie’ which translates as ‘shock the middle‐classes’.

Avant-garde changed art as it changed the way people understood art and made them think different of art as it was a lot different to how they saw it before. The idea of avant-garde was to shock people, this was down by art being made which people had never seen before.

Marcel Duchamp shocked a lot of people which some of his work and a lot of people had many different thoughts and opinions of his work, for example the installation he did in 1917 called ‘Fountain’. Fountain was a urinal which he turned upside down and had displayed as an installation art piece in various gallery exhibitions. Duchamp also shocked people when he had a portrait taken by Man Ray in 1921, this portrait was of Duchamp wearing makeup and dressed in woman’s clothes, Duchamp called himself Rose Selavy and that was his female alterego. Other artwork by Duchamp that shocked people was his parody of the Mona Lisa, this artwork done in 1919 was Mona Lisa with a beard and moustache, Duchamp referred to this work as ready-made art. His ready-made art involved taking ordinary objects, not generally considered to be art and transforming them by adding to them or changing them. “Some deny that Fountain is art but believe it is significant for the history of art and aesthetics. Others accept it grudgingly as art but deny that it is significant. To complete the circle, some insist Fountain is neither art nor an object of historical consequence, while a few assert that it is both art and significant – though for utterly incompatible reasons.”  Kuenzi, R. (1991) p. 64.



Fountain by Marcel Duchamp, 1917


Rose Selavy (Marcel Duchamp) by Man Ray, 1921


Other artwork which shocked people was Chris Burden’s Transfixed which he did in 1974. This artwork saw Chris Burden nailed to the back of a Volkswagen Beetle by one of his friends. This work was already shocking by the fact that he was nailed to the back of a car but the Volkswagen was then driven through the street where it obstructed traffic, this obviously shocked many of the people driving through the streets at that moment in time, which would also have been very disturbing to see.


Transfixed by Chris Burden, 1974

Other shocking art, which was a lot different to Chris Burden’s was the work of Lynda Benglis who in 1917 placed a picture of herself naked with a fake penis in an advert for the journal, Artforum. This shocked a lot of people as when reading through the journal they’d see this picture and it would be very unexpected and disturbing to come across in the journal.


Lynda Benglis’ Artforum ad, 1917

I found artwork by painter-sculptor Izumi Kato which I thought was subculture based, especially his sculptures. I looked at one of his projects called ‘A View From Afar’ which he did in 2011. A View From Afar was a mix of sculptures and paintings and was in the Comme des Garçons Six Osaka Gallery. I thought that this project was subcultural as it the sculptures and paintings look very strange and maybe even disturbing and I feel as if seeing them in the gallery may shock people, here are some examples of A View From Afar.






Childs, P. (1999) Encyclopedia of Contemporary British Culture, London, Routledge

Kuenzli, R. (1991) Marcel Duchamp: Artist of the Century  Massachusetts, MIT Press





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