The Beat Generation

Whilst rummaging in the loft I found this original piece of artwork by the Biff collective. Biff is Mick Kidd and Chris Garratt who have been working since the 80s. They used classic True Love-type cartoon strips to dissect Cultural Theory, sociology, politics, art, semiology etc.

I first came across them at University when I studied Film & Media Studies. Meeja studies in the 80s was still a new discipline and akin to Mickey Mouse Studies. Now it’s everywhere, but then there were only 3 universities that taught it. What I loved was the silliness, the artwork and the way they pricked the bubble of Old Skool Markist theology. Critiquing the world of Saussure, MacLuhan, Adorno, Gramsci, Eagleton, Marcuse, Derrida, Barthes, linguistics, the Cambridge School and generally anything to do with post-Modernism. My fave cartoon was a guy and girl at a disco;
Guy ‘I’m really into semiology.’
Girl ‘Oh yeah? What’s your sign?’

Biff are from a different age and say as much to me about the 80s as Thatcha, Miners, Live Aid, Falklands, South Africa or Reaganomics. Most students today wouldn’t understand half of Biff. Not just because of historical references but because the world’s changed. Hard to believe that when Rolling Stone magazine accepted an advert from American Express in the early 80s there was uproar – filthy lucre from the Man! Younger readers wont know that London once had 2 listings magazines, Time Out and City Limits. City Limits was formed by disgruntled ex-Time Out staff who didn’t agree with the ideological direction that Time Out was heading. It went bust as people stopped caring in the Me Decade about protest and left-wing politics. And it wasn’t as good, to be honest, ahem. Similarly, Glastonbury was routinely slagged by the uber-cool NME – mud wallowing hippies! – and now they have their own stage.

Yeah, I know that all sounds Grumpy Old Man, it-were-all-fields-round-here-ism. But, I guess, my world view was formed then by little everyday things like, supporting the boycott of South Africa – not buying goods made by companies that invested in the apartheid regime: Marmite; Barclays, Guiness etc etc

And sometimes I do miss a rousing chant of ‘Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Out! Out! OUT!’ Happy days…

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