Coming Out of the Doldrums: Funk and DIY Aesthetics

Renegade Futurism

Clockwise from top left: Sun Ra, Rammellzee and Afrikaa Bambaataa Clockwise from top left: Sun Ra, RAMMELLZEE and Afrikaa Bambaataa

Funk is more than a music genre that reached a peak in the 1970s and 80s. Funk is a style, an aesthetic, and a creative production method that takes or borrows artifacts from the environment and puts them together to create something new. Funk is also a mythology and way of seeing the world. For example,

One Nation Under a Groove (Funkadelic, 1978) introduces Funkadelica, a nation wherein the Funk rules and can’t be either stopped or labeled. The people of Funkadelica are called Funkateers (as are P Funk fans) and are led by Uncle Jam. Their mission is to rescue dance music from the doldrums (unFunkiness).

Funkadelic, circa 1972 Funkadelic, circa 1972

P-Funk mythology was realized in highly theatrical stage shows, which Clinton called “funk operas.” They featured elaborate and outlandish costumes and the landing of a space ship onstage—the Mothership—from which Clinton…

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