The History Of The Rebel

I was recently set a contexts project by my lecturers which involved looking at and researching a specific storytelling idea. We were required to look closely at a womenswear trend story for Autumn/Winter 2017/18. My groups trend story was REBEL/REBELLION.

This is the only mood-board out of the three, shops, people and history that required purely secondary research methods. We researched into the historical and contextual background to the ‘rebel’ trend story. I found this challenging to begin with as I did not know where to begin. However as a group, we decided that we would focus on what/who/where the key influences, how the story been used in the past and how it has the evolved over time. We also considered what forms of creative output have informed and fed into the trend story.

For this research section, I personally decided to explore the culture, political, historical, geographical and generational aspects, in an attempt to discover where the ‘rebel’ story came from. I also wanted to look at how music, art, technology and film could have influenced the meaning of the ‘rebel’ today.

Activists challenge the status quo and this is where I started when researching the history behind the rebel. Activists also exert significant influence on market acceptance of breakthrough products and services. They champion social change. Martin Luther King, 1929-1968, was the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement and is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolence and civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs. A present activist who I admire is Malala Yousafzai who fights for female education and women’s rights which has grown into an international movement.

I also placed technology into this section. Nearly all of the technical aspects associated with personal computing were available by 1972, but the PC didn’t take off until a few years later. This was because of rebels! Computer hobbyists, rebelling against centralised computing, organised groups such as the Homebrew Computer Club where they worked on personal computers. Similarly, the hybrid car succeeded partly because market rebels in the environmental movement paved the way by arousing collective enthusiasm for ‘green’ causes among consumers and regulators.

Genetic Engineering rebels against those with strong religious and moral beliefs. The genetic engineering of humans has raised many controversial ethical issues. Genetic engineering is tested on animals, often including primates. Some animal rights activists find this inhumane. Genetic modification of embryos can pose an ethical question about the rights of the baby.

Scientists over the years have also shown rebellion-like characteristics. In 1614, Galileo was accused of heresy for his support of the Copernican theory that the sun was at the centre of the solar system. This was revolutionary at a time when most people believed the Earth was in this central position. In 1616, he was forbidden by the church from teaching or advocating these theories. Darwin and his theory of evolution caused a lot of controversy, which continues today, because they can be seen as conflicting with religious views about the creation of the world and the creatures in it.

There are likewise some cultural/generational groups that could be seen as rebels. Hippies, 1960/70s, criticised what they saw as a culture of conformity from their parent’s generation; they were anti-establishment and wanted peace. Punks in the 1970s included a diverse array of ideologies, fashions and forms of expression, including visual art, dance, literature and film. The subculture is also largely characterised by anti-establishment views and the promotion of individual freedom. Lastly, Mod and rockers in the 1950/60s. Whitsun 1964 has become famous as the peak of the Mods and Rockers riots, as large groups of teenagers committed mayhem on the rain-swept streets of southern resorts like Margate, Brighton, Clacton and Bournemouth.

Political events over history either go against others’ beliefs or fight for their beliefs. Suffragettes, the members of a women’s organisation in late 19th and early 20th century, campaigned for the vote for women. British politicians, press and public were astonished by the demonstrations, window smashing, arson and hunger strikes.The CND Campaign for Nuclear disarmament which non-violently attempted to rid the world of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and to create genuine security for future generations. Similarly, the Greenham Common Women’s peace camp was established in 1981, to protest about nuclear weapons being sighted at the air base. The African National Congress has kept this spirit of resistance alive. Over the last 80 years the ANC has brought together millions in the struggle for liberation. Together they fight for land, against low wages, high rents and the dompas. They have fought against bantu education, and for the right to vote for a government of their choice. The struggle against white South African rule was led by Nelson Mandela who became the first black president of South Africa.

Key fashion historical phrases/trends include the 1930s little black dress, 1940s women dressing as men usually in straight suit-like outfits and the mini skirt in the 1960s. After this, the 1970s platform shoes, 1980s sexy jeans and the 1990s minimalism. All of these challenged what was the social norm at the time.

I was reminded of Guy Fawkes when I thought of historical rebel figures, especially now that Bonefire night is approaching. He was part of a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Henry VIII rebelled against the Catholic church, where as George Washington was father of America and democracy everywhere, fighting for what he believed in. Martin Luther King campaigned for black rights in America. Even Jesus had rebellious attributes, he upset establishment and founded new religion and way of life.

I am a fan of art and Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Camille Pissarro and Andy Warhol’s pop art all went against the tide to invent new kinds of art. They challenged convention and pushed the limits of what art was; they were rebels. I see abstract expressionism as a form of rebellion. “Rebel Painters of the 1950s” highlights those artists, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston and Adolph Gottlieb, whom challenged the aesthetic establishment. A more recent piece of art that stood out to me was a Tate Modern piece, entitled ‘Blank Paper’ by Lui Jianhua in 2012. It really was just 3 blank white canvases hung against a white wall! Some of the other artists I included in my sketchbook mood-broad were Kandinsky, Tracey Ermin and Banksy who is known for his controversial paintings and always pushed social norms.

Aviccii’s music video for the song ‘Addicted to You’ screams rebellious to me. A women threw her glass against the wall behind the bar and this is the signal for them to draw their guns and rob the place. Arriving at home, the two women lie down on a bed while caressing passionately. They subsequently decide to rob a bank, and in the process they stop and start kissing at a table while the still-terrified bank clients watch. One of the woman places an explosive on the door of the safe box, but the police arrive and a shoots her dead. Finally, her grieving girlfriend decides to take revenge by taking the explosive off of the safe, running out to the waiting police officers, and blows them all up. Yes, very dramatic! The video was inspired by the story of the film Bonne and Clyde and I saw it as the battle against homophobic attitudes.


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