Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia
In the decades since the height of the countercultural phenomena of the 1960s and ‘70s, the simultaneous looking-back and looking-forward of that period’s movements have been portrayed, explicated and codified in so many ways that for some people the word “hippie” has the latent power to conjure a mix of feelings – nostalgia, embarrassment, wonder, pride, longing, love, distaste, contempt, confusion and others.
Andrew Blauvelt, curator of Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, has temporarily purified that complexity of emotions by helping us to view selected countercultural artworks of the period through the lens of an equally helpful reductive nominalization, the “hippie modern” – a socially engaged, fed-up, solution-seeking creator whose paradoxical innovations in art, architecture and technology asserted a utopic standard that we still recognize, appreciate and understand today.
Put another way, the hippie modern is an enlightened heroic figure whose deeply skeptical view of technological and political progress – a falsely “ever-forward” progress deemed essential from the outset by the mainstream – led to an exploration of alternative forms of consciousness that, when extended beyond the individual, required their own coordination and technological advance.
Hence the art, designs and ideas cleanly and aptly on display at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
Dates: October 24, 2015 – February 28, 2016, in galleries 1, 2, 3, and the Perlman Gallery.
The exhibit is a survey of countercultural works from 1964 to 1974. For me it was a sheer buzzy joy not only because of the images, sounds and smells, but also because of the onlookers, a mix of the curious, kind and inspired.
A verbatim excerpt (my bullets) from curator Blauvelt’s preface to the catalogue emphasizes some themes:
- the pedagogical experiments of a socially practiced art
- the speculative and open-ended nature of a more participatory and socially impactful design
- the discourses of sustainability and resilience in architecture and design
- the harvesting of once radical and visionary ideas into the image banks of contemporary practitioners
In order of appearance, thank you to the interviewees: Amira and Alexandra; Hibaaq; Mike, Hannah and Jen; Andy; Lauren; Louis and Jenna; Joe and Albert; Vicki; Maia; Casey and Connor; Jim; Shaylen, Jenna and Kaitlyn; Erin and Katie; Lucas; Mike and Dave; and James.
Also in order of appearance, audio excerpts between interviews: Jordan Belson, Allures, film projection and sound; Boyle Family, Beyond Image and Son of Beyond Image, three-screen film projection and sound; Superstudio, Ceremony, film projection, sound and architectural fantasy; Bruce Connor, Ed Cobb and Christina Antonio Basilotta, Breakaway, film projection, sound and dancing; The Cockettes, film projection and sound; Boyle Family, Beyond Image and Son of Beyond Image, three-screen film projection and sound; Ken Isaacs, Knowledge Box, big blue walk-in box, 16 slide projectors projecting in, and sound; Boyle Family, Beyond Image and Son of Beyond Image, three-screen film projection and sound.
Text, sound and photos of exhibit by Josh Collins.