A recent Time magazine (February 8th) marked the mainstream breakthrough of 'cyberpunk' culture. Typically associated with sci-fi and high-tech, what Andrew Ross calls 'technoculture', cyberpunk seems at first to have little in common with decidedly low-tech indie values. As the term itself suggests, however, cyberpunk actually marks the union of high (cyber) and low-tech (punk) sensibilities. For all cyberpunk's fascination with the sublime object of technology, it also displays the proto-anarchist, do-it-yourself (within a scene, of course!) values of indie culture. That my indie-minded friend Tim Pratt is both an ardent enemy of the mainstream music associated with synthesizers and fancy electronic effects and an avid Nintendo player is not out of the ordinary. Indeed, it is pretty typical. Similarly, the people who put together alternative zines full of messy graphic design, hand-lettering, and other indications of low-tech authenticity are frequently avid internet users and know how to use high-tech photocopying equipment and even desktop publishing to produce desired low-tech effects. I met this guy Chris Shaw (from S.F.!) at a summer art pre-college in 1985 who was the stereotypical skateboard-riding, wood-glue- moussing, rat-hunting (in the sewers of Providence!), anarchist punk. I remember Chris showing me how he had carefully fucked with the color balance and enlargement features on a color copier to blur some photograph into a series of non-representational globules of color. Zine culture is full of examples that illustrate this paradoxical relationship to technology.I probably should have added that tpratt, while an ardent enemy of the mainstream music "associated with synthesizers and fancy electronic effects," had passed through a phase in high school during which he was more favorable disposed to the synthesizer-driven "Euro" sound.
It's also interesting that, several years after I wrote this, we ended up getting a poster for a Sonic Youth show in L.A. featuring an Elvis-Frankenstein-Christ palimpsest. The artist? Chris Shaw, whom I still remember with great fondness, though I last saw him in the summer of 1985. Because he was from the Bay Area and extreme in ways I'd never imagined possible, yet sweet enough to tutor me in alternative ways of living, he played a bigger role in my aesthetic education than all but a few people in my life.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I was able to find his own homepage, with links to a wide range of his work, as well as a photo of him at the opening of a show at San Francisco's Artrock a few years back. He's the wiry guy on the left, the one who looks like the character in a William Gibson novel.