Image As Virus: Better Badges In The Punk Era
“Image As Virus: Better Badges In The Punk Era 1976-1983” is an exhibition devoted to punk badges/buttons. The exhibit focuses on Better Badges, a small but culturally crucial company formed by Joly MacFie (b.1950) in West London, who created the very first punk badge (pin-back button) in 1976 and went on to produce an estimated 40 million badges/buttons over the next six years.
The rarely seen collection contains original merchandise by key punk bands and record labels such as Buzzcocks, Ramones, Crass, Suicide, Rudi, Joy Division, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, X-Ray Spex, Industrial Wombats, FAST Product, The Raincoats, Desperate Bicycles, The Slits, and Motorhead. Celebrated artists such as Barney Bubbles, Jamie Reid, Peter Fischli, Peter Saville, Malcolm Garrett and Linder Sterling contributed many of the original designs. The founding principle of Better Badges was “Image As Virus, Elitism For All!”
MacFie was a former member of Hawkwind, a roadie for Pink Fairies and Suzi Quatro, and traveler of England’s counter-culture and free festival movements. Inspired by punk’s “world-turned-upside-down” ethos and a desire to make fans as important as performers, his revolutionary company quickly succeeded in making badges – alongside the dual-cassette tape recorders and pirate radio of late 1970s culture.
Fans of tiny bands excluded from mainstream media could now had the tools to turn themselves into cultural transmitters, broadcasting their latest musical obsessions to friends and passers-by. The badges/buttons they wore were symbols of personal identity, rebellion, passion, and fashion. They were striking, topical, edgy, and often witty. MacFie created some of the designs himself, while other designs were created by punk bands and punk fans. “Punk Bible - New Musical Express (NME)” published a chart of each week’s top selling “pins”.
This exhibition features the rare private collection of Kevin Pedersen, head of What's Your Rupture? record label in New York City and initiator of the Punk Badges Instagram site www.instagram.com/punkbadges (#imageasvirus) where you can follow his amazing and ever-growing punk collection. Various ephemera give a vivid sense of the key role punk badges/buttons played in the development of British independent culture. The exhibit features badge mock-ups, gig flyers, fanzines, original sales catalogues, and personal correspondence of pop culture icons such as Billy Childish, Hilary Morrison (Fast Product), and Gerard Cosloy (Conflict/Homestead/Matador/12XU).
The Special Exhibit runs through December 31, 2018, and may be viewed at Busy Beaver Button Museum, which is located at 3407 W Armitage Avenue in Chicago, IL 60647. Stay in touch for special events through out the rest of the year!
Busy Beaver Button Museum is pleased to host this exciting exhibition, not only for the opportunity for people to view this rarely seen, interesting and important collection, but also because Better Badges was the inspiration behind Busy Beaver Button Company’s beginnings in 1995.
About Better Badges:
Joly MacFie and his Better Badges company helped fuel the rise in fan-based promotions popularized by independent record labels. These well-known and highly collectible badges were instrumental in the meteoric ascension of punk music around the world. MacFie believes anyone can afford to collect and wear badges, and that fans, rather than record labels or music industry executives, should dictate music trends.
About Kevin Pedersen and Punk Badges:
This exhibit is curated by Kevin Pedersen and it features buttons strictly form his collection. When he’s not running his record label, What’s Your Rupture?”, he is growing his already large collection (10,000 and counting) of Better Badges buttons and relevant ephemera.
About Busy Beaver Button Museum and Busy Beaver Button Co.:
Co-curated by siblings Christen and Joel Carter, the Busy Beaver Button Museum collection has more than 30,000 buttons of all genres, themes, time periods, shapes, and sizes. The Museum is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and for special events. (ButtonMuseum.org) The Button Museum in housed in the Busy Beaver Button Company, founded by Christen Carter in 1995. Busy Beaver is credited with the re-popularization of the 1inch button in 90s DIY circles, continuing the legacy of Better Badges. (BusyBeaver.net) (@BusyBeaver)
September 22 11AM-3PM
Smithsonian Museum Day
3407 W Armitage Ave, Chicago IL
Stay tuned for more events!