Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia
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Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive
Feb 8, 2017 - May 21, 2017
This major exhibition is the first comprehensive exploration of the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s and its impact on global art, architecture, and design. It presents an extraordinary array of works—many of which have been added for the Berkeley presentation—including experimental furniture, immersive environments, media installations, alternative magazines and books, printed ephemera, and films that convey the social, cultural, and political ferment of this transformative period, when radical experiments challenged convention, overturned traditional hierarchies, and advanced new communal ways of living and working. In the art, architecture, and design of the counterculture one can see early stirrings of the tech revolution and ecological consciousness, as well as powerful expressions of the desire for peace and social justice.
Hippie Modernism shows us how the counterculture, once dismissed as a social and aesthetic anomaly, introduced ideas and techniques that have profoundly shaped contemporary life. The BAMPFA presentation highlights the key role the Bay Area—and especially Berkeley—played in the art, architecture, and design of the counterculture movement. Creative innovators in Bay Area communities sought to create radical change—technological, political, and ecological—on the streets, in the classroom, and in government policy.
Among the central themes of the exhibition is the desire to expand consciousness and achieve greater awareness of the holistic relationship of self, world, and cosmos. Altered states of perception were stimulated not only by meditation and psychotropic substances but also by art and design. Other works address the rejection of conventional social structures and the dissolution of boundaries between art and life, culture and politics. Archival materials from Bay Area protest movements and collectives represent the transformative activism of the period.
While this exhibition presents an extraordinary range of archival materials and artifacts from the past, its greatest importance lies in the lessons it holds for the present and future. Most of the pressing social and environmental issues addressed by the counterculture are still with us today. We hope that this exhibition and its accompanying programs will provide a productive platform for discussion and insight about our contemporary realities.