I'm still AFK this week -- the blog's on autopilot with videos -- but I wrote this on Tumblr earlier anyway so I figured I might as well re-post here.
So there’s another person trying to argue that solarpunk isn’t punk, and in responding to them just now I had a thought about the punk aesthetic, and why solarpunk isn’t deliberately grungy. (Not that solarpunk’s grunge-averse – I don’t think anyone would say that – but you can definitely look pretty mainstream, if very weird, and still come off as vividly solarpunk. At least so far.)
Punk had an aggressively anticapitalist aesthetic. The grotesque, unfinished, hostile appearance of punk art and fashion was meant to make it unmarketable, beyond the reach of capitalist reconceptualizing.
That didn’t work. Punk has been packaged and labeled and sold. Punk’s not dead, but its wardrobe might be.
Punk clothes were chosen as a political act, but the clothes themselves weren’t inherently political. And as I realized this, I realized that we’re already responding to that problem in solarpunk very effectively.
Solarpunk style and aesthetic guidelines and goals may not be uniquely resistant to marketing – the sale of punk all-but-proved it’s impossible to make manufacturable things unmarketable on purpose – but that’s okay, because the politics are sewn right into the fabric.
Solar cell umbrellas, piezoelectric running suits, UV resistant shawls, plus a strong interest in encouraging individuals to be socially conscious and avoid appropriative or exploitative styles wherever possible – if the system wants to market solarpunk styles, that means it’s gonna have to start caring about the ethics and utility, because that’s not an afterthought in solarpunk clothes. That’s thing-number-one.
(For the record: I don’t think that’s incompatible with my comments in “Solarpunk fashion; fantasy; function” where I defended the value of non-functional solarpunk props: I think anyone in the community can recognize the difference between the aspirational work of an individual limited by resources and reality; and an exploitative work by a corporation, preying on a community’s desire to pursue change.)
The grotesqueness strategy of 80′s and 90′s punk failed to guard against commercialization. Maybe the solarpunk approach is to infect the commercial institutions with incentive toward ethics, instead.