Hawkins’ book looks at ‘No-Wave’ culture

Marah Harbison • July 10, 2015
Joan Hawkins
Associate professor Joan Hawkins is editor of Downtown Film and TV Culture 1975-2001 to be released July 25. (Maggie Richards, BA”15 | The Media School)

Associate professor Joan Hawkin’s new book, Downtown Film and TV Culture 1975-2001, is set for release Aug. 15. The book is a collection of essays, written by filmmakers, exhibitors, cultural critics and scholars, about an experimental group of artists that have strong ties to punk music and culture.

Punk culture, sometimes referred to as No-Wave, lacks sufficient scholarly study, according to Hawkins. She said that while there are several works that study No-Wave music, literature, art and culture in a broad sense, studies of the group’s film and television production are lacking.

Hawkins also said historical studies of avant-garde and experimental culture tend to extend only to the late 1960s, the age of New American Cinema and Andy Warhol.

downtown-hawkins-cover“Studies don’t take account of the experimental movements that were as much in conversation with larger cultural trends than they do with the art world,” said Hawkins. “The book tries to make an intervention in avant-garde history and presents a scholarly treatment of an area of No-Wave culture that’s been neglected.”

Hawkins said the book tries to break two more trends that are present in the study of alternative culture and history. It expands the time period typically considered as the era of punk, 1975 to 1985, to include subsequent generations. The book also attempts to expand the geographical area associated with the culture beyond New York City.

“In reality, downtown production, exhibition and distribution happened just about anywhere there was community access cable and punk music clubs,” she said.

The book also explores the impact of historical factors, such as the spread of AIDS and the creation of public access cable, on the culture and art of No-Wave and downtown groups.

In late September, Hawkins will participate in a book reading at Boxcar Books to celebrate Downtown Film and TV Culture 1975-2001, and two similar events are set for New York City in November.