British artist Linder Sterling talks about art and punk rock. The artist is probably best known for the record sleeve she designed for Orgasm Addict by the Buzzcocks (1977), showing a naked woman with an iron for a head and grinning mouths instead of nipples.
Her photo-montages, combining images from pornographic magazines with pictures from women's magazines, make a powerful feminist statement.
Linder Sterling: In late 1976, very early 1977, I made a series of photo montages. At that point I was a student at Manchester Polytechnic and I began to look at magazines that were around me, at print media, at advertising. And I suppose, and then that was before things like the style press, so male and female magazines were very easy to separate. For men it was just maybe DIY, sport, cars and pornography, that was the men’s magazines and there was probably what, twenty publications maybe. For women likewise it was fashion, household. This was…the style press did not exist so I sat one day with a….I just cleared everything away, pencils and paints, everything and I had a very, very clean sheet of glass that I had used for monoprinting, so I cleaned that and I had a surgeon’s scalpel and some glue and I just began to cut out from the women’s magazines and the men’s magazines like a sort of jigsaw puzzle, so I began to collect all the pieces and I cut out lots of mouths and eyes and the women I saw in fashion and all those kitchens and all those living rooms and those bedrooms and I cut them all out and then of course yes turned my attention to the female form as I saw within men’s magazines, pornography. So I cut those out as well and then really it was quite a simple act, it was what happens if you put these two together and of course something very interesting happens and you can be quite selective with the elements that you choose to combine so that for the photo montage series that we see at Tate, there are five works and they are really on the whole quite simple. The most well known image is the one that eventually was used for the Buzzcocks Orgasm Addicts sleeve and this is really a female torso with the addition of a Morphy Richards iron and two mouths. It’s quite paired down. I suppose there is a very convenient and very easy date to mark when music really sort of moved from being something from out there that I had listened to, to something that suddenly I was very involved in. An easy date for that is the first Sex Pistols concert in Manchester, you know, those two hundred people or so who were there use that as a very easy marker, I was at this concert and then my life began to change, so on that evening in June in 1976, I met the group Buzzcocks who said “Oh what do you do?” and I was thinking what do I do and I said “I am an art student” and it’s like “Oh will you do something for us?” and it’s like “Well yes” and it’s all sort of ‘why not?’ so I began to do to think about doing some posters and things for the Buzzcocks and you got to know people very, very quickly so people like the writer Jon Savage who spent a lot of time in Manchester. And so Jon and I decided that we wanted to do some sort of fanzines, we wanted it to just look and feel different from everything else. We wanted glossy paper and we wanted it to be larger format and so eventually, it took a long, long time to get the money we made the Secret Public. Even getting it printed was very difficult because none of the printers wanted to touch it because of the content so eventually yes somebody in some back street in Manchester said we will print the Secret Public for you but we want cash and you will not get a receipt and so we were so happy we said yes please print the Secret Public. The centrefold of two, a sort of masturbating couple, it did become an odd pinup for a generation along with the montages for Orgasm Addicts so even now I meet people and you know their eyes, you know, soften slightly and they say “Yes I used to have that alone on my bedroom wall”. lent itself for the title for the piece.