Summer of Love exhibit this summer at Tate Liverpool

Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era
27 MayÔø?Ôø?Ôø?25 September 2005

Summer of Love is a ground-breaking exhibition which reveals the unprecedented exchanges between contemporary art, popular culture, civil unrest and the moral upheaval during the 1960s and early 70s. The art and culture of the psychedelic period constitutes one of the most exciting but also much neglected phenomena of the twentieth-century. Moving beyond a purely nostalgic reception, Summer of Love attempts to uncover this forgotten and repressed aesthetic that continues to exert an increasingly powerful influence on many contemporary artists. The exhibition reconstructs the original creative and utopian potential of psychedelic art and locates it within the wider cultural and political context of the 1960s and early 70s, presenting it as an international phenomenon with works from the UK, United States, Europe and Japan. It demonstrates how artists were deeply entrenched in popular culture, influenced by the mind-altering effect of drugs and participated in counter-cultural activities. The inclusion of psychedelic art created by major figures such as Andy Warhol and Yayoi Kusama illustrates the critical role of psychedelia within the contemporary aesthetic discourse, providing a complex and more comprehensive picture of the art and culture of the 1960s.

The psychedelic aesthetic manifested itself in all aspects of cultural production, ranging from art, music and film to architecture, graphic design and fashion. Summer of Love presents a rich selection of over 150 important posters, album covers and underground magazines, in particular from the San Francisco and London scenes. The exhibition includes paintings, photographs and sculptures by, amongst others, Isaac Abrams, Richard Avedon, Lynda Benglis, Harold Cohen, Richard Hamilton, Robert Indiana (his celebrated Love signs), Richard Lindner and John McCracken. Numerous long-neglected artists are represented with rarely seen or specially reconstructed works and installations. Major environments include Mati KlarweinÔø?s New Aleph Sanctuary 1963-71, which brings together many of his motifs (which he also used in his designs for Santana album covers) in a spectacular installation. Vernon PantonÔø?s colourful and amorphous furniture landscape tell of utopian visions of liberated and relaxed living.Ôø?Ôø?Ôø?

A special emphasis is placed on environments as well as film, video and multimedia installations, replicating the total experience of psychedelic light shows and music performances. Andy Warhol appropriated the use of light shows and film and slide projection for the Exploding Plastic Inevitable and Velvet Underground. Major film installations include a room with multiple projections of the Boyle FamilyÔø?s films, first used in light shows for the psychedelic band The Soft Machine and a liquid crystal projection by Gustav Metzger. The medium of film is integrated into the exhibition through large-scale projections and an accompanying film programme with underground, experimental and mainstream films. Films presented in the exhibition include works by Lawrence Jordan, Stan Vanderbeek, Andy Warhol, James Whitney, Jud Yalkut and Nam June Paik.

The emergence and flowering of psychedelic art coincided with one of the most revolutionary and tumultuous periods of the twentieth century. The art in the exhibition is contextualised through a wealth of documentary material, highlighting the events, people and places in four centres of countercultural activity: San Francisco, New York, London and Liverpool. The sections include photographs, films of concerts, light shows and places such as the UFO nightclub in London and the Human Be-In in San Francisco, featuring Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary. The underground press, emerging during the 1960s as an instrument of alternative communication and democratisation, is represented through Oz magazine, International Times, East Village Other and The San Francisco Oracle and many other publications and documents. Providing an intriguing picture of a period in fundamental moral and political upheaval, they are also testament to an extraordinary burst of creativity and revolution in design and printing techniques.

Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era will tour to the Kunsthalle Schirn Frankfurt from 2 November 2005 Ôø? 12 February 2006.

A strikingly designed and fully illustrated catalogue examining art, posters, film and music will be available alongside the Summer of Love Reader, published by Liverpool University Press, which is an in-depth authorative look at the underground movements.Ôø?

Turn on, tune in, log on / The PC and the Internet sprang from pot-smoking, acid-dropping California dreamers

Turn on, tune in, log on
The PC and the Internet sprang from pot-smoking, acid-dropping California dreamers

Reviewed by Ian Garrick Mason
Sunday, April 24, 2005

What the Dormouse Said
How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry
By John Markoff
VIKING; 310 PAGES; $25.95

In the world of high technology, a visionary is a person whose obsessively held hunch happens to come true. For everyone else, fate holds either obscurity, or, for an unlucky few, habitual derision, as with Digital Equipment Corp. founder Ken Olsen, who has been unfairly held up as an example of technological cluelessness ever since he told a convention in 1977 that “there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”

A similar fate was courted by Xerox Corp. when it elected not to commercialize the Alto, a prototype personal computer invented at its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1973, almost a decade before companies like Apple, Radio Shack and IBM entered the PC market. In contrast, PARC itself would go down in business history as a nexus of farsighted West Coast researchers who were ignored by their buttoned-down East Coast masters.

John Markoff, a San Francisco technology writer for the New York Times, extends this visionary-centered narrative even deeper into the history of personal computing and the Internet. “What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry” is an enthusiastic argument in favor of the idea that it was the uniquely Californian scene that brought forth the technologies we depend on so much today — that the PC and the Internet sprang as much from a cultural environment of back-to-nature independence, personal freedom and psychedelic drugs as they did from engineering diagrams.

Based on the evidence Markoff presents, there is much to this. The most recent ancestors of modern PCs were the kit-based computers beloved by hobbyists in the mid-1970s (a favorite model was the Altair 8800), and one of the centers of the hobby movement was Menlo Park’s own Homebrew Computer Club, founded in 1975 by peace activist Fred Moore. Homebrewers swapped software and components and advised each other on how to build computers from the ground up — a do-it-yourself ethos with close links both to the Whole Earth Catalog phenomenon and to the ideas of radical educator Ivan Illich, who believed that technology should be limited to the human scale.

Homebrew was in turn an outgrowth of the storefront-based People’s Computer Co. (PCC), which played a vanguard role in selling hands-on computing time and training to anyone who walked in off the street. PCC was one expression of the era’s general reaction against corporate power, which in the world of computing was symbolized by the “glass house”: the room in which the central computer was kept, attended by its priesthood of operators. For frustrated scientists and hackers, the notion of having a computer dedicated to an individual was immensely attractive. As Ted Nelson declared in his influential 1974 manifesto, “Computer Lib/Dream Machines,” computing should be available to all, “without necessary [sic] complication or human servility being required.”

Surprisingly, many of the basic technologies behind personal computing were products of artificial-intelligence research. Douglas Engelbart, an electrical engineer at Stanford Research Institute, believed that computers should be used to augment a person’s existing powers of reasoning, rather than to replace or supersede them. By focusing on subjects such as knowledge-worker productivity and work-group collaboration, Engelbart’s team invented important tools for interactivity: text editors, cursors and the mouse.

Markoff emphasizes the link between Engelbart’s quest to technologically augment the human mind and another engineer’s attempt to do so pharmacologically. A senior designer at recording equipment manufacturer Ampex, Myron Stolaroff, established the International Foundation for Advanced Study in order to measure the effects of LSD on creativity. Drugs, in fact, are an ever-present backdrop in Markoff’s book: Pot is smoked freely in Engelbart’s lab (causing his researchers increasingly to be seen as “stoned goofballs” by the other scientists at SRI), and brilliant programmers and writers drop acid with near abandon. The author even recounts how Apple founder Steve Jobs once told him that “taking LSD was one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life.”

The implication throughout is that drugs were somehow one of the necessary conditions for the development of innovative PC technologies. Yet nowhere is that implication turned into a clear assertion — the closest thing is a comment by highly inventive programmer (and occasional LSD user) Dan Ingalls: “Well, where do you think these ideas came from?!” But Ingalls was joking, and elsewhere there is little evidence that drug use actually improved the ability of researchers to come up with ideas. Engelbart himself took LSD as part of Stolaroff’s program and found its results disappointing. The only product he invented while under its influence was a “tinkle toy,” a floating waterwheel for toilet training that spins when urinated on.

The tendency to make too much of things is a major flaw in Markoff’s book. After conflating today’s trend toward “open source” software with the very different debate over content “sharing” (known by its opponents as intellectual property theft), he reduces both to a black-and-white battle between “information propertarians” and “information libertarians”: “a fault line that today has become the bitterest conflict facing the world’s economy.”

He romanticizes both the era — “how unlike the cynical, selfish nineties” — and his subjects, even to the point of paradox: Researchers at Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Lab “shared a passionate belief in an unbounded future, coupled with a slightly dark and sardonic worldview that only people with a truly deep understanding of the way things work could have. ” And his profiles are so uniformly of the brilliant-misfit-leaves-East-Coast- culture-to-find-freedom-in-San-Francisco kind that after what seems like two dozen such sketches, one dreads meeting a new character.

Ironically, it’s the ever-splintering counterculture that lends some much needed balance to the book. Diligently following each radical thread, Markoff shows how the military funding behind SRI’s computer science programs led increasingly militant protesters to oppose the very research that would ultimately produce the PC.

Yet when one of the labs is occupied by activists, a student saves the mainframe from destruction by convincing his fellows that the machine is “politically neutral.”

Not a visionary statement, perhaps, but a refreshingly grounded one.

Ian Garrick Mason is a Toronto writer and reviewer.

Crypto-Fascist Action.

Schwarzenegger praises Minuteman

Friday, April 29, 2005 Posted: 11:21 AM EDT (1521 GMT)

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who outraged some Mexican-American groups last week by calling for a closed border, praised the civilian volunteer Minuteman Project for its patrols to spot illegal immigrants.

“Look, they’ve cut down the crossing of illegal immigrants by a huge percentage,” Schwarzenegger told KFI-AM’s “The John & Ken Show” on Thursday.

The Republican governor accused the federal government of failing to control the border and said it encouraged illicit crossers by giving them access to water.

“The whole system is set up to really invite people to come in here illegally, and that has to stop,” he said.

The Minuteman Project involves hundreds of volunteers, some armed, who have been patrolling the Mexico-Arizona border since April 1 to document and report illegal crossings.

Chris Simcox, a Minuteman organizer, welcomed Schwarzenegger’s support. “It’s gratifying to see that elected officials are responding to the will of the people,” he said.

There are plans to expand the patrols to California in June, a move Schwarzenegger “does not oppose,” said Margita Thompson, his press secretary.

President Bush has denounced the volunteers as vigilantes.

Nativo V. Lopez, president of the Mexican-American Political Association, called Schwarzenegger’s comments Thursday “nothing short of base racism.”

“Those of immigrant stock should have no illusions about what his real sentiments and feelings are toward them,” he said.

Schwarzenegger’s press secretary called the issue a matter of national security.

“It’s not racist to ask the federal government to enforce its laws,” Thompson said.

Schwarzenegger’s comments came a week after he faced criticism for telling a gathering of newspaper publishers that the United States needed to “close the borders.” He apologized the next day, blaming faulty English and saying he really meant the borders should be secured.

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that about 11 million illegal immigrants live in the United States, half of whom come from Mexico. California is home to 2.4 million, far more than any other state.

Neal Pollack feels both confused and enlightened.

Broke Open
April 06, 2005

I’ve finished book number 13 in my year-long quest to read nearly a book a week. This one, you’ll be pleased to hear, had a profound impact on my perception of self. It’s been a long time, almost 20 years, since I could say that about a book. I’m speaking of Breaking Open The Head: A Psychedelic Journey Into The Heart Of Contemporary Shamanism, by Daniel Pinchbeck. Oh, great, you think. Now Pollack is going to start babbling about drugs. Exactly. But first, let me praise the book.

The book concerns Daniel Pinchbeck’s “spiritual journey,” his gradual transformation from New York hipster intellectual to transcendent psychedelic guru. Yet somehow it still isn’t annoying. That’s because, much to my great surprise, Breaking Open The Head is a lucid, funny, and deeply weird work of literary journalism, one of the best examples of nonfiction prose that I’ve read in years. It’s as though John McPhee, instead of writing about oranges, decided to drink yage instead. I really believe that, while on a DMT trip, Pinchbeck had an encounter with a white-mohawked lizard being at an intercelestial bar. That’s a sign of gifted writing.

I found the book so convincing, I went on a drug trip myself. A couple of years ago, I ordered some herbs from a website that sells “marijuana alternatives”. One of those herbs was a sizable bag of >salvia divinorum, a visionary plant that Pinchbeck talks about often in his book. I tried salvia once after I bought it, smoking a small bowl at, pathetically, a Flaming Lips show, but no visions emerged. I didn’t even get a headache. This time, I decided, I’d be a little more systematic.

One midnight last week, I took a pinch of salvia from my bag. I rolled it into a ball and stuck it under my tongue. It tasted bitter, but not much worse than, say, collard greens. I gave it a chew, and then placed it under my tongue for another 30 seconds. I repeated this process a few times until I’d created a slightly acrid green brew in my mouth. I sloshed it around, and kept chewing. By degrees, I felt nauseated, but my stomach held. After 20 minutes, I spit the whole megilla into the toilet, put on some trippy music, lay down on my guest bed, and closed my eyes.

Almost immediately, I had visions. Great, thick green vines, ancient beyond measure, stretched out into infinite space. A being that looked like an Aztec God flew above them, spewing fire. I saw my head splitting open. Red goo poured out and melded into what appeared to be the cosmos. I had another vision, of me dancing with my son, that was a bit more pleasant. A large hole opened in the universe. I flew toward it. A beautiful woman in a white robe took my hand and guided me through. I opened my eyes, and the trip was over. Ten minutes had passed. I fell asleep, waking to my wife shaking me and telling me that it was time to go get my cholesterol tested. Cognitive dissonance had triumphed again.

The next night, I repeated the dose, and saw the woman again, but the main result was the sensation that my body was stretching out beyond its boundaries, getting sucked into infinite space. From reading Pinchbeck’s book, this seems like a pretty common starting point for psychedelic exploration. The strange thing is that all other salvia users describe seeing the same woman. A shaman in the book describes her as the “salvia spirit”.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a supremely secular, unspiritual person. I wouldn’t report seeing a mystical spirit, let alone positively, unless I felt that I really had. In that way, I feel like I’m following Pinchbeck’s path, a little, though I’m not nearly as lost or alienated as he describes himself in the book. Last night, I did a third salvia chew. Nothing came of it, and around 1 AM, I fell asleep. Approximately two hours later, I snapped awake, aware that the room had become flooded with otherworldly light. Then it was dark, but, with my eyes open, I could distinctly see a stone warrior standing in the middle of the room. Then I closed my eyes, and saw the woman again. I seem to recall begging her to show me the secrets of the universe. The sensation of travelling through space returned, and then I fell asleep. This morning, when I woke up, I wrote my next Bad Sex column for Nerve.

I guess I say that last thing because I’m not crazy. I’ve just had a few plant-induced visions, and feel both confused and enlightened. The world has an odd twinge that it didn’t before.