Punk House: communal homes of the anarcho-syndicalist lifestyle

Here's a nice review of the new book Punk House, which documents the squats and other punk dwellings the authors found on a cross-country trip. I crashed on a lot of sofas in houses that looked like these, and even held the lease on one at one point...

Author and musician Timothy Findlen, along with photographer Abby Banks, spent three months driving cross-country to visit and photograph sixty-five punk houses–communal, low-rent houses typically crammed full of punks, squatters, and artists. The end result is PUNK HOUSE, a collection of 300 full color photos and three short essays.

PUNK HOUSE documents a journey that most of us will have never taken; it shows us homes that most of us have never seen; it gives a small taste of a way of living most of us have never lived, and it does so in an easy yet successful way. Banks’ digital snapshots are assembled by location, and are mainly colorful details of the punk houses, the communal punks that live in them, and the masses of oddball junk that decorate them. The photos range from disgusting (the bathroom at Casa de Otto comes to mind –is that blood or hair dye?) to the artistic (is this a junk pile of sticks or is it considered sculpture?).

Link, Link to Punk House on Amazon (Thanks, Dan!)


  1. Abby Banks (the photographer) is showing a lot of her photographs from the book at Get This, an Atlanta art gallery.

  2. I knew Abby when she was a little girl who was friends with my sister. It was so cool when I first heard she had just published a book. It’s quite well printed too.

    Damn, I feel old.

  3. Super cool. I mean, sometimes functionality has to win with awesomeness, but ever since I left a marker in my apartment’s toilet, answering the call of nature has been a lot more fun.

  4. And then, flipping through it at Orca Books in Olympia, being like, “been there, might have been there, know those folks, that’s cool, wow gross”, I opened up the two-page spread of one of Free Radio Olympia’s old studios, and I made a little happy noise and looked around for someone I knew in the story for to show off my newfound proxy-psuedo-fame. not that I have anything to do with pirate radio. have had. ever. um.

  5. how are punks, squatters and artists living the ‘anarcho-syndicalist’ lifestyle? What union do they belong to?

  6. hey I used to live in the house that you pictured (the gallows).

    It was fun.

    Some people are mad about that book since they thought it would be a zine or some other difficult to access format instead of a yuppie coffee table book, but I like it.

    All but one of the houses in minneapolis that are in that book are long gone, and it’s nice to see the pictures and think about how things were way back in 2004.

  7. Uh, I rather like the lifestyle…. However… Anarcho-syndicalism? I very much doubt the inhabitants of these dwellings have ever heard of Proudhon, let alone Bakunin. Nor are they likely IWW members.

  8. #7: I take it then you’ve never been in any punk houses, let alone hung out with any anarchist punks. I’m not going to dispute whether or not the term “anarcho-syndicalist” was used correctly or incorrectly in the title, but to make a sweeping generalization that punks are unaware of left wing philosophy and the labour movement is just ignorant. If you had been in any punk houses, I’m pretty sure you’d find that the (often communal) bookshelves, while containing the requisite copies of Kerouac and Hesse (among other modern classics), contain many books on politics and philosophy covering both anarchism in general and potentially anarcho-syndicalism. Many of the houses I’ve been in have had general or specific books on the Wobblies too (including a graphic novel history of the organization). In fact, the book “Punk House” contains pictures of several of the house libraries (many of which allow visitors to borrow books freely). So while you are correct in that most of the punks probably don’t have IWW memberships, to imply that they remain willfully ignorant of the politics and thought that have shaped and continue to shape punk culture is nothing but ignorant yourself.

  9. I checked this out at the library (ha ha stickin’ it to “the man”) and wasn’t that impressed. It could be called “Slob interiors” as well and make as much sense. I don’t remember there being much historical, cultural or political context.

  10. ha ha. my buddy is in that book. my other buddy’s house is too. i live in a kind-of, but not-really punk house (no politics). boy am i cool or what?!?!

    i thought the book was a little silly, however. it’s not the house it’s the PEOPLE, right?

  11. I take it some of the naysayers here have never been to the Anarchist Bookfair in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park annually. The IWW has a booth (I purchased a facsmimile of the 1927 “wobblie songbook” there.) You can, in fact, purchase Bakunin books there.

    And a vast majority of the attendees are wearing dirty black hooded sweatshirts, have mohawks, are pierced on every inch of available skin, and live in houses that look EXACTLY like the houses in that book.

  12. I think Cory said anarcho-syndicalist to distinguish them from “anarcho-capitalists”. You know…they’re the commie anarchist punx…what do you call that, syndicalist or something?

    Most people I know who live in punk houses just call themselves ‘anarchists’, with no hyphenated qualifier. There are so many facets of the anarchist (or anti-oppression) movement, and each person is interested in different ones, that it’s difficult to nail down exactly what flavor of anti-oppression activist someone is. You’ve got people fighting for the rights of homeless people, stopping pollution, monitoring and preventing police brutality, supporting worker strikes, developing free software, destroying surveillance equipment, teaching women’s self defense, stealing from Wal-Mart, performing street theater, doing queer power graffiti, running free bicycle workshops, creating independent media…

    what do you call yourself when you do a different one of these things every few months? Nobody really knows, so they just pick something that suits them. But we’re all on the same side.

  13. i thought the book was a little silly, however. it’s not the house it’s the PEOPLE, right?

    That’s a different book.

  14. Don’t be so certain, Costik. If you check out the Amazon link for the book, one of the reviews is written by someone (Scott Mylxine) who says he lived in one of the photographed houses. If you check his reviews, one of them is of Alexander Berkman’s Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist.

  15. I’m going to add my agreement to some of the posters here: I was in the squatter/free-party/sound-system/anarchist scene for many years in Ireland, Holland and the UK, and found the people to be some of the most politically aware, and active, I have ever come across.

    These are generally people living on the edge of one layer of society or another, and are usually directly fighting for their right to live or be a certain way, juggling a very acute awareness of housing/civil law, history of legislation and novel forms of protest.

    It can take an awful lot of effort (sometimes at stark odds to the perception of “drop-outs”) to live outside of the accepted notion of civil society. It would be erronous to assume a lack of knowledge on their part, and unfair to ignore their efforts.

  16. if you need a place to stay welcome to the punk
    house it’s a party every day living in a punk
    house stay awhile and sit and smoke a cigarette la
    la la la theres’s always something happening here
    when you’re in a punk house cheap food and even
    cheaper beer are always in a punk house jump up
    and down, dance on the couch stuff a potato in
    your mouth la la la life goes by way too fast to spend it working for somebody else it don’t make
    any sense if you like it here why don’t you stay
    don’t wanna work? well that’s o.k. cause no-one
    else here wants to get a real job come on down,
    hang out with us hang out at a punk house don’t
    mind all the filth and grime and muck cause it’s
    just a punk house spaghetti stains on the walls
    and creepy insects in the halls we’ll have a ball
    young and dirt poor and having fun and we’re never
    growing up

  17. In Chicago, I’d estimate that as many as a quarter of the wobblies live or have lived in a punk house at some point.

    Many IWW members live alone or with significant others in apartments or single family homes, but many also live in squats and low rent collectives generally with crust/folk/anarcho-punk aesthetics. Some of our members live with a wife and kids in the suburbs, others are homeless. Our largest demographic is young and poor, so the low rent of the punk house is attractive.

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