Hippie Modernism

Aesthetic Radicalism and the Counterculture

Andrew Blauvelt

Clark Richert, view of Drop City, “the Complex,” in El Moro, outside Trinidad, Colorado, c. 1966

"The Barricade and the Dance Floor: Aesthetic Radicalism and the Counterculture" is republished from Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia (Walker Art Center, 2015; Andrew Blauvelt, ed.). The exhibition is on view October 24, 2015 through February 28, 2015, before traveling to the Cranbrook Art Museum and University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

In Hjorvardur Harvard Arnason’s sweeping survey History of Modern Art, first published in 1968, a brief entry on psychedelic art completes his six-hundred-page tome. It seems a fitting way to conclude the book’s march through modernism, focusing as it does on the au courant style of the moment. As Arnason explains, “The recent appearance of psychedelic art may be accounted for in several ways: the easy availability and enormously increased use of psychedelic drugs; the mixture and confusion of appeals to several senses simultaneously in the so-called mixed media performances; the ethos of the hippies and flower-children; and the prevalent atmosphere of rebellion against ‘the establishment,’ whether in society in general or in art specifically.”1 Arnason does not elaborate on these causalities, which, nevertheless, are instructive in their range of positions. The use of mind-altering and consciousness-expanding drugs such as LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin on the part of artists would seem to be an expected foundational definition of a psychedelic art. This “art under the influence” approach applied not only to some artists whose work was produced during drug-induced sessions but also for the many more who drew upon such episodes and experiences more symbolically or referentially, giving psychedelic art currency as both a form of process and representational art. Interestingly, Arnason does not parse the difference between the artist and the audience undergoing an altered state of consciousness, rendering psychedelic art also possible in the mind’s-eye of the beholder. This inclusive reading is alluded to in his second cause, the “mixed” and “confusing” sensory experiences of mixed-media performance—choreographies that often intentionally blurred the roles of audience and performer as easily as it melded the aural, visual, and tactile realms into one experiential whole. In fact, although he introduces this final section with a focus on the psychedelic artist, the trajectory of psychedelic art clearly exceeds such conventional limits and must embrace the culture and society at large. Thus, the appearance of such an art would be the consequence of its newly created audience of “hippies and flower children”—presumably as both spectators and co-creators—in a socially antiestablishment “atmosphere of rebellion.” Arnason understood that such an art is not limited to representing conditions of social rebellion “in general,” but also posed a challenge to “art specifically.”

Arnason had neither the space nor the historical distance to expand on this provocative thought, although he closes this section, and thus the book, with the following: “There could be no more striking demonstration of the variety of recent art than the contrast between the rigors and discipline of color-field, systemic, or minimal art on the one hand, and on the other hand, the surprise images of cosmic or mythic events induced by ‘mind-liberating’ drugs.”2 One could argue that it was precisely this contrast or difference that would dispel psychedelic art, including nearly all related forms of countercultural production, from art history proper following the waning of the movement itself. Although Arnason concedes in his postscript to the book that the history of modern art was “primarily a revolution in perception,” albeit led by artists and followed by viewers, the drug-induced hallucinations of psychedelic art were perhaps a bridge too far.3 The skepticism is already in the air in his closing sentence, whereby more established 1960s art movements exhibit rigor and discipline—understood as control and definition—while psychedelia is a byproduct of serendipitous and thus uncontrollable effect. The teleology of successive artistic movements established by Arnason and repeated by others—Pop, Color Field, Minimalism, Post-Minimalism, Conceptualism—creates a powerful canonical narrative that tends to exclude anomalous episodes that clash with its storyline. By the time the revised second edition of History of Modern Art was published in 1977, the section on psychedelic art was eliminated.

It is possible, however, to understand and situate psychedelia into a continuum or continuity of art-historical thinking, as Adrian Piper, who began her artistic career in her teenage years with psychedelic paintings and drawings, relates to her own evolution: “Realism depicts the objects of ordinary conventional reality; Impressionism depicts the perceptual qualities of those objects broken up into light and color; Pointillism depicts the perceptual and formal qualities of those objects broken up even further into color and minutely small forms; Psychedelia depicts the cracking open of all of those perceptual and formal qualities; Minimalism expresses the underlying geometric essences behind those objects and their qualities; Pop Art depicts those objects shorn of the conventional conceptual schemes that give them meaning; Conceptual Art expresses the breaking up and reconstitution of those conventional conceptual schemes and the objects (and subjects) embedded in them.”4

In this lineage, psychedelia follows Impressionism, not chronologically but philosophically, as the artist depicts an altered sense of reality and the objects and spaces within it. Rather than a formal reordering of perceived color and form (e.g., Pointillism), psychedelia promises something different—access to more deeply hidden truths of reality and alternate planes of lived experience. Such insight was to be gained through the use of psychedelic drugs, of course, but it could also have happened through so-called drugless trips, such as spiritual awakenings via meditation or through technologically induced or mediated experiences. “Cracking open” ordinary reality is not unlike the preferred metaphor of the counterculture’s throwing open—following Aldous Huxley, then Jim Morrison—the “doors of perception.” In psychedelia, the role of the artist is to bear witness to or induce such revelations in others: its primary mode is depiction—re-creating the effect post-trip, reporting back one’s experience—and these representations were sufficiently discernible and unique enough to be categorized as its own aesthetic. Thus, Arnason provides a formal analysis of psychedelic art: “heavily figured,” “acid colors,” “undulating lines,” “amorphous space,” and so on.5 Isolating the characteristic visual language of psychedelia was tantamount to codifying its style. It is not surprising then to see psychedelia portrayed, discussed, and ultimately dismissed as a style with its resultant commodification. Artist Jud Yalkut was already wise to the situation when he wrote in Arts magazine in 1966 that “‘Psychedelic’ symbology appears as the next reworking of our vernacular,” and warned, following the example of the rapid reabsorption of Pop art back into popular culture, “The dangerous temptation is getting ‘hung up’ by gaudy surface appearances and easy associations,”6 noting that “LSD Art” had already been canonized by Life magazine.7 While it may be possible to understand psychedelia in its historical moment as a style of the times as represented in both conventional and unconventional art forms, it was also simultaneously postulated as a timely style or fad—another marketing strategy, a “magic sales word,” as duly noted in the Wall Street Journal.8

Arnason wasn’t alone in his speculations about psychedelic art. In 1968, Robert E. L. Masters and Jean Houston published the book Psychedelic Art, which featured a broader range of examples, including the paintings and drawings of Isaac Abrams, whom Arnason had included in his text, and Ernst Fuchs as well as media-based environments and light installations by artists such as Jackie Cassen and Rudi Stern, USCO, Don Snyder, and Yayoi Kusama. Psychedelic Art offers the most in-depth study, perhaps the only one, of the subject: searching for a definition (art produced as a result of or during a psychedelic experience or used as a catalyst to induce one); comparing and contrasting it to other artistic movements and styles such as Surrealism; embracing other new forms such as the multimedia installation, experimental film, and the light show; and parsing the differences between psychedelic environments and scripted Happenings. Despite this more expansive range of media and practices and extended context, the boundaries of psychedelic art proper are policed to exclude the applied arts and design—essentially nothing associated with commerce: no vibrant rock posters, no sexualized comix, no dance club environments, and most certainly none of the gaudy paraphernalia of the “psychedelicatessens, head shops, and acid marts.”9 However, by avoiding commerce, it also evaded much of the culture too—the expansive canvas of psychedelic practices that historian and curator Lars Bang Larsen describes: “What was and still is called ‘psychedelic art’ was made in the service of the hippie lifestyle and politics. It unfolded on camper vans, in communal murals, in light shows and media happenings, and in the graphic design of rock posters and record covers.”10 Larsen concludes, “However non-conformist and immersive these were, the counterculture was generally indifferent towards the art concept and reified art in its aestheticisation of everyday life.”11 The counterculture was too preoccupied inventing a new world of cultural experiences and social rituals—acid rock music; guerrilla or street theater; anarchic literature; Eastern-infused spirituality; freestyle dancing, “de-schooling” and the free university; androgynous fashion and hairstyles, including flying the long hair of one’s “freak flag”; gatherings of campus protests, be-ins and sit-ins, and communal living, etc.—to be concerned about a separate category called art. To the hippie, life was art and art was life. At the time, it was referred to as “life-style.” Long before the word lifestyle became synonymous with aspirational marketing and consumer hedonism, it was in fact used to describe what geographers and anthropologists might call a way of life (genre de vie). It is therefore surprising from today’s vantage point to see the word, then typically hyphenated, in contemporaneous accounts being used in a positive or at least neutral way to signify what were, indeed, new and even radical ways of living, thinking, and making.

Despite its rather short-lived existence in the annals of art history, psychedelia itself lives on, less circumscribed as an art practice and much more expansively inscribed in the cultural imagination where it was first manifested and where it remains lodged—still radiating in the glow of its afterimage. Psychedelia in its more expansive cultural sense has been the subject of recent curatorial reprise and critical reappraisal. A decade ago in 2005, Tate Liverpool mounted an extensive reassessment of the period, Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era, which examined a broad range of disciplines and media, inclusive of both art and design. The exhibition’s curator, Christoph Grunenberg, asks in his introductory essay “Art with No History”: “Why has a movement with an acute presence in the 1960s been purged from the official history books?”12 Grunenberg provides his own answer: “The free-wheeling shapes, exaggerated acid colours and pervasive formal entropy of psychedelic art continue to be met with aesthetic revulsion and intellectual arrogance. The apparent frivolity of psychedelic art and artefacts, its assumed affinity with kitsch and other decadent manifestations of mass culture, suggest a lack of substance. Its aesthetic, political and social radicalism, it seems, has been obscured by a veil of bright colours, ornamental, all-over patterns and general over-indulgence in decorative surplus.”13

Writing earlier, in 2003, Lars Bang Larsen concedes: “Art historically, of course, it doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Only a small segment of psychedelic culture was art, and what was art was part and parcel of the beads and the bongs, the light shows, the love-ins and the sit-ins. That is, the art aspect is anti-academic more by fate of lifestyle than by choice, destined as it was to be derivative of broadly cultural sources, most notably the rock and fashion scenes.”14 For Larsen, who has since written extensively on the subject, psychedelia marks a limit condition for art in its rejection or exclusion from both the “art market and academic dogma.”15 Unlike Pop art, which was steeped in the gallery and museum systems for promotion and sales and drew upon popular culture as its point of reference and departure, psychedelia developed its own subculture and thrived in the commercial marketplace of its own fashioning, eventually generating enough useful symbolism to be exploited by mainstream society. Unlike Minimalism and Conceptualism, which were virtually formed in a discursive space created by artists and critics, psychedelia was, in the words of art critic Dave Hickey, “permanently out of academic fashion,” with its penchant for visual excess and its resistance to interpretation.16 For Larsen, the topic is not necessarily one to be recuperated and reinserted into art history as Grunenberg argues, but rather that psychedelia suffers from, in his words, “too much history,” or perhaps more correctly, too much cultural baggage to be taken seriously as art.17

Ultimately, the reduction to psychedelia of a diverse range of countercultural artistic practices—let alone the era itself—is the problem. This was identified already in 1968 by Theodore Roszak, who coined the term counterculture as a way of differentiating the generational rejection of postwar American values in his book The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition. In the chapter “The Counterfeit Infinity,” Roszak duly notes that “all roads lead to psychedelia” as a problematic end unto itself for most people, and not merely as a starting point for an expanded consciousness as its early adopters maintained—a circumstance attributable to the marketing of psychedelia by both Madison Avenue and the merchant classes of Haight-Ashbury, the easy availability of homegrown psychedelics , and the proselytizing of their use by acid-guru Timothy Leary, whose 1966 performances of “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” pretty much summed up the hyperbolic conflation of LSD with religious salvation and human potential.18

This is not to say that LSD or other psychedelics were not in fact important catalysts in fueling the counterculture. In 1964, Ken Kesey, author of the best-selling novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962), and his band of Merry Pranksters took their hometown acid trip on the road, traveling across the United States from California to New York aboard a wildly painted and retrofitted school bus dubbed Further. In the years just before LSD and hippies would emerge in mainstream media and greater public consciousness, they cavorted much like an itinerant circus troupe, stopping in towns along the route, entertaining bemused crowds, and distributing free LSD to anyone willing to take it. Ostensibly, they journeyed to view the future as set out at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City, which had been dedicated to “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe”—an unintended mash-up of Marshall McLuhan–like aphorisms and its not quite Bucky Fulleresque creation of the Unisphere, a giant stainless-steel globe, situated on fairgrounds that were dotted with numerous corporate pavilions showcasing emerging and futuristic technologies. It was, however, the Merry Pranksters who enacted prescient time travel by bringing the more immediate cultural future of America with them from the West Coast—three time zones behind yet three years ahead of schedule. After the trip, Kesey would also stage other Acid Tests in and around the Bay Area in 1965 and 1966—in the days before the drug was reclassified as a controlled substance and thus made possession and distribution of it illegal in October of 1966. With the aid of people such as Stewart Brand, who would go on to publish the Whole Earth Catalog; Bill Graham, who made his fame and fortune as a promoter of rock music; and with sound and light coordination by Don Buchla, creator of the analog modular synthesizer, the largest of these gatherings was the three-day Trips Festival (January 21–23, 1966) in which thousands of people participated. Although the event included musical acts, such as the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company, it was not billed as a concert as such, but rather an immersive and participatory multimedia experience. Attendees were invited to bring their own “gadgets” and made aware that electrical outlets would be provided, and this ethos further blurred the boundaries between performer and audience rendering everyone a participant. 19 The festival’s billing promised appearances by the cultural avant-garde of San Francisco with screenings by experimental filmmakers that included Bruce Conner and Bruce Baillie; performances by Ramon Sender Barayón and Pauline Oliveros of the San Francisco Tape Music Center, and Anna Halprin, founder of the influential San Francisco Dance Workshop; and light projections by Tony Martin, Bill Ham, and Gordon Ashby; plus a few oddball antics, such as a stroboscopic trampoline performer. Although LSD was still legal, the event was billed as a drug-free, electronic form of psychedelic experience (for the benefit of area businesses and to keep the police at bay). Nevertheless, acid and other drugs flowed freely. The Longshoremen’s Hall, where the event occurred, was extensively wired and rigged with numerous pieces of sound and closed-circuit television equipment courtesy of Owsley Stanley, known for his homegrown LSD, who also supplied the acid. With speakers, microphones, cameras, monitors, projectors, and other audiovisual equipment on hand, the unfolding events, both scripted and spontaneous, as well as the activities of its attendees were captured and fed back to the crowd in varied ways. In its nonconformist guise, the festival, like the bus trip, was a new and thus uncategorizable radical cultural act, neither a concert nor a Happening but drawing upon and rewriting both genres. The Acid Tests and the Trips Festival were, at that time and by their own billing, a first-of-its-kind, large-scale public gathering of such like-minded people—an “electronic performance and new medium of communication and entertainment” that served a greater purpose of making visible a large and fast-growing community that was now becoming increasingly legible and identifiable to itself.20

Beyond Psychedelia

Despite its seemingly omnipresent character, psychedelia is and was too limiting a concept by which to judge or gauge the artistic merit of the countercultural output of the 1960s and early 1970s. To understand the diversity of practices during such an intensely experimental period, the curatorial net has to be cast much wider and much farther.

Some more recent attempts to do so include Elissa Auther and Adam Lerner’s West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965–1977 (2011) for the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and Diedrich Diederichsen and Anselm Franke’s The Whole Earth: California and the Disappearance of the Outside (2013) for the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. As both titles indicate, the theoretical focus takes on a genius loci approach, placing the American West and California, in particular, as the epicenter for more expansive understandings of the social and cultural transformations being wrought as a new form of global modernity emerged in the 1960s. West of Center seeks to expand the art-historical canon of the period by including formerly excluded practices, art forms that did not conform to the prevailing ethos of an East Coast–dominated avant-garde that remained preoccupied with categories such as the art object, artistic medium, and disciplines, even as it tried to actively undermine all three. By contrast, the West Coast proffered hybrid experiments that eschewed and challenged disciplinary boundaries, often commingling art, craft, design, and performance with filmic and architectural practices; extending the notion of medium into a riotous range of media assaulting the senses; and tending to privilege individual experience as the basis of social transformation, while creating a personal yet political commitment that went largely ignored by the New Left political scene. Unrecognizable as either art or politics, many forms of countercultural practice suffer from “a double whammy” of neglect, as Auther and Lerner relate: “The unfortunate fate of the counterculture is that its story doesn’t blend well with either the narrative of the New York avant-garde or the political histories of the 1960s. While its commitment to social transformation divorced it from the histories of the avant-garde, its emphasis on culture and lifestyle alienated it from political histories of the 1960s.”21

The 2013 exhibition The Whole Earth locates its emblematic beginnings with the first images of the planet taken from the vantage point of outer space, a cause taken up in 1966 by Stewart Brand, who created a campaign asking for the release of such pictures, which were then controlled as part of the military-security apparatus of the United States. Eventually, such images would adorn the covers of his iconic Whole Earth Catalog. Like a poster child for a new form of holism emergent in the 1960s, the picture of the whole Earth embodied metaphors of interdependence, interconnectedness, and global completeness that merged perfectly with the era’s new adages, such as those by Marshall McLuhan and his evocation of a “global village” connected by new forms of media or Fuller’s technological-cum-ecological metaphor of a “Spaceship Earth.” Diederichsen and Franke embrace a wider cultural history of the period in which art, images, texts, music, and ephemera are orchestrated in an overarching narrative of the “planetary paradigm,” as they call it, which they suggest emerged around 1968.22 They place at the heart of their endeavor the technological and ecological imperatives that grew out of the counterculture, particularly in California, a place that birthed both back-to-the-land eco-communalism as well as a fervent technological optimism that witnessed the birth of the personal computer and the advance of cybernetics, and would later spawn a public and commercial Internet.23 Extending these well-known historical moments, their project embraces the past and the present, the historical archive as well as the contemporary image sphere. Despite the presence of art, both new and old, the project purposefully foregrounds an intellectual rather than an art history, one that extends countercultural ideas into present-day concepts of neoliberalism, networked capitalism, globalization, climate change, and Empire.

Hippie Modernism attempts to further expand and expose the range of such artistic and cultural practices—the proverbial tip of the iceberg that West of Center surfaced four years ago—with a particular emphasis on radical architecture and critical design of the period, which were not part of that project’s focus. It also offers an alternative aesthetic and theoretical framework for which to understand the countercultural output of the period as a radical break from progressive politics, art, and culture of the time. Rather than focusing strictly on the geography and mythology of the American West, the exhibition takes a broader view of countercultural production, examining how basic tenets such as consciousness expansion, social awareness, and community formation were made manifest through the art, architecture, and design of the period. Like West of Center, Hippie Modernism partakes of a new generation of historians who are just beginning to mine the archives of these lost episodes in cultural history—moments of great interest and inspiration to a new generation of artists, architects, and designers.

An Alternate Architecture

If art history ultimately rejected the petition of psychedelic art to enter its canon, then a similar fate befell countercultural architectural experiments. In his book Architecture Today (1982), author and architectural theorist Charles Jencks offers a survey of recent work that attempts to delineate the differences between late-modernism and postmodernism in architecture. Positioned as the concluding and final section of the book, an eighty-page chapter by architectural historian William Chaitkin is titled simply “Alternatives.”

By alternative, Chaitkin refers to the experimental work of the 1960s and 1970s initiated by two different camps, one enacted by architects but critical of their field and another operating outside or beyond the field of architecture proper. On the one hand, there were those projects undertaken by mostly young architects, recent graduates of architectural programs, which embodied provocative and visionary schemes that might not ever or could never be built, or that extended the notion of architecture well beyond the realization of a building. Often existing as compelling drawings and visually powerful collages, they offered a conceptual alternative to normative architectural schemes and practices of the day—a powerful critique of both the affirming and servile nature of much professional practice while challenging the lowered expectations of architecture from society at large. Although educational products of the academy, they rejected the pedagogical agendas and routines of their elders and offered not only “paper architecture” alternatives, but also material experiments—prototypes that extended the notion of architecture toward the broader realms of environment, media, and spatial experience. A second category of experiments took place in parallel by essentially nonprofessional architects or amateurs in the best sense of the word, whose work and practice entailed not only the design but also the fabrication of experimental structures. Typically, their work was an extension of their lives, a personal or communal need for shelter replacing the client commissions of professional practice, while their own manual labor contributed to the task at hand and thus further collapsed the distinctions among the varied roles of designer, builder, and inhabitant. This was not, however, simply a case of indigenous, anonymous, or impoverished building. In their pursuit of alternative living, their ideas challenged conventional notions of public and private property, the use and fixity of space, and of conventional building methods, among other things, while embracing both old techniques and new materials.24 By doing so, it challenged the basic precepts of architecture from largely the outside the profession.

It is on this second camp that Chaitkin focuses his attention, preferring to discuss built works because they were “short on theory but long on practice,” paralleling Jencks’s use of realized or built commissions in the book’s other sections.25 In his important chronicle of countercultural architecture, Chaitkin covers structures such as the mathematically precise geodesic domes of Fuller, an engineer, and also the variant geometries of handcrafted hippie “zomes” of Steve Baer for the celebrated communal architecture of Drop City. He embraces the funky aesthetic of the wooden houseboats of Sausalito and the “woodbutcher’s art”26 of myriad hand-built homes nestled in the woods as well as the revival of indigenous and nomadic forms such as the tepee or the yurt. Despite a foray into inflatable architecture, its leanings in the direction of technology were more toward the appropriate and alternative type, rather than the speculative and technophilic. Chaitkin eyes renewable energies like solar and the reuse of cast-off materials from industrial society as well as the recycling of motor vehicles into forms of mobile architecture—the conversion of school buses, vans, and cars into he calls “truckitecture.”

Chaitkin returns to the concept of “Funk” repeatedly in his text, drawing upon the work of curator Peter Selz, whose 1967 exhibition Funk, at the Berkeley Art Museum, first attempted to define the concept in the visual arts. Selz locates Funk as a West Coast and particularly Bay Area phenomenon, the “opposite” of New York Minimalism: “hot rather than cool; it is committed rather than disengaged; it is bizarre rather than formal; it is sensuous; and frequently it is quite ugly and ungainly.”27

Defined through three-dimensional works—mostly polychromed assemblage sculpture—Selz positions the rawness of Funk against the smoothness of Pop art and its additive approach against the reductive tendencies of Minimalism. Just as psychedelia served as a stylistic moniker for Arnason’s examples of countercultural painting, Funk served a similar purpose for sculpture. The cobbled-together nature of handmade wooden houses with their ad hoc assemblage of discarded doors and windows, for instance; the Frankenstein appearance of a clapboard shed appended to an old pickup truck; or the “testicular protuberances” of Ant Farm’s House of the Century all lend credence to Chaitkin’s characterization of Funk in describing such examples of countercultural architecture, or as he calls it, “funkitecture.”28 With his recourse to formal analysis, he hews closer to Jencks’s penchant for stylistic views of history. Nevertheless, Chaitkin remains aware of the marginal status of much of what he is presenting, and with a last attempt at reconciling his narrative with that of Jencks’s larger agenda, concludes his essay with the proviso that “rogue designers need not remain outsiders.”29

This chapter stands out in the book not simply because it has a different author, but also due to the fact that Jencks felt compelled to include it at all. By the early 1980s, countercultural architecture had been eclipsed by the more timely debates about postmodernism, which was precisely the thrust of Jencks’s book. Although Jencks was sympathetic to vernacular traditions of building (although one suspects that these were more of the timeless variety than the timely eruptions of the 1960s), and while he does conclude his own essay with images of architect Frank Gehry’s house with its incorporation of ordinary materials such as chain-link fencing, this fondness is unlikely to explain the chapter’s existence. In the introduction, Jencks hints at a possible explanation for this textual oddity. In Jencks’s deflection of criticism about a possible lack of “architecture from different cultures” and its incompatibility with his own discursive agenda, Chaitkin is retained to “explain several strands of alternative architecture.”30 Despite the deployment of postmodern tropes such as pluralism throughout the book and the implication of a global perspective, here instead difference is coded as architectural otherness. Thus, Chaitkin focuses his essay largely on what he labels “outsider architecture,” that is to say, structures of various types built by nonprofessionals or enacted outside the disciplinary parameters of architectural practice or beyond conventional building methodologies. Read as a rebuff to Jencks and other proponents of postmodernism, Chaitkin argues this about countercultural architecture:

Its complexity and contradiction may not have been legible on its alternative architecture, but that architecture’s content was, in a way, change itself. It was not about stylistic change. Any new style is a tentative successor to whatever is extant, and architectural history—made by architectural historians—‘alternates’ in such cycles. This Alternatives section is about parallel architectures, not a progression of styles chronological or individual.31

The disruption posed by radical experiments emanating from both camps that Chaitkin mentions were decentering exercises that challenged the disciplinary boundaries of architecture as well as the late stages of a modernism that had failed in its earlier utopic, avant-garde promise of social transformation. Architectural historian Felicity Scott duly notes that the field’s response to such challenges—particularly in the waning of such alternatives—was “a call to order under the rubric of ‘postmodernism,’ a defensive re-demarcation, or reterritorialization, of disciplinary boundaries aiming to control such trajectories, to render architecture once again recognizable.”32 Jencks would be at the forefront of such a clarion call.

In the spirit of Jencks, who routinely crafts various time lines of architectural movements to accompany his texts, Chaitkin offers readers a hand-drawn map that charts the flows of alternative architecture across the continental United States.33 It locates important communal experiments, such as Drop City and Libre in Colorado, and Morning Star and Wheeler’s Ranch in California; countercultural collectives such as the Lama Foundation in New Mexico or Ant Farm in Texas, where the group began; and even ephemeral events, such as Whiz Bang Quick City (the West Coast iteration, but not the East Coast one) or the Alloy Conference in New Mexico. Interestingly, Chaitkin overlays onto this countercultural mapping a series of sweeping arrows, like a wind chart, flowing from the east to the west and southward. These delineate a migration of politics, money, and technology out of their historical centers of Chicago, Detroit, New York, Boston, and Washington, DC, and into the new centers of the Sun Belt, including Silicon Valley, Seattle, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and Miami. Although the countercultural experiment is easily locatable in the West and Southwest of the United States, Chaitkin reminds us that the decentering of the country was taking place along many, varied fronts—a long-term geopolitical shift and demographic drift that is still with us.

The same cannot be said of Chaitkin’s essay. Although positioned within a volume on recent architectural history, it was excised from the 1993 edition of the book, ostensibly to make room for the latest experiments of the professional vanguard. Not surprisingly, its inclusion was never seen as a truly integral component to a history of professional practices in the first place. Chaitkin offered a counter-history of late twentieth-century architecture whose critique of modernism would be succeeded by an overtly historicist and largely depoliticized version of postmodernism. As Chaitkin himself admitted, a history of alternative practices does not alternate with the currents of stylistic change.

Utopia Deferred versus Utopia Now

In order to define what hippie modernism may mean, one must examine the notion of the hippie. This represents an interesting challenge since the term was originally an imposed label and not one birthed by the counterculture. It is popularly assumed that the word was a media creation—some suggest it was Herb Caen, a newspaper columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, who popularized the use of word hippie through his daily columns, which then resonated in the mainstream media as it turned its lenses onto the burgeoning Haight-Ashbury scene in the late 1960s. Caen had earlier coined the term beatnik to describe those people populating the art and literary scene in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, appending a Sovietsounding “nik” to describe members of the Beat Generation. The term hippie would evolve out of earlier subcultural scenes, taking as its root the concept of “hip” or “being in the know”—not unlike today’s use of the word hipster to describe a certain type of fashionable person and their lifestyle. Prior to the broadly adopted moniker of the hippie, it might have been words like freak or head that served to denote an affiliation of disaffection with the conventions and conformity of postwar American life. By the time the hyped Summer of Love had been promoted by the media—virtually ensuring the migration of thousands of youths to the San Francisco area in 1967— terms such as weekend hippie or plastic hippie were already being deployed by the faithful to expose the superficial commitment and shallow engagement of young and not-so-young interlopers. Eventually, the term was widely used by both adherents and detractors alike, becoming useful enough as a linguistic tool to endure.

Used to identify or self-identify with an emergent class of largely youthful dissenters to the normative values of mainstream America, the word hippie is historically associated with the rejection of establishment institutions and bourgeoisie values; opposition to war—whether Vietnam or nuclear proliferation—and the embrace of pacifist beliefs; the championing of personal freedom, including recreational drug use and sexual liberation; the adoption of an ecological view of nature and humankind’s role and responsibilities within it; and a tilt toward Eastern spirituality and mysticism and away from organized forms of Western religion; among other things.

Despite this core ethos and philosophy, the visuality of the hippie lifestyle and culture resonates most strongly today, not only as a reflection of its distinctive aesthetic sensibility but also as an affirmation of the power of the media to reflect and distort—above all, to disseminate these essential characteristics throughout the larger culture, spreading the word but diluting the message in the process. Easily distilled to a series of clichéd images and impressions—tie-dye, bongs, beads, painted vans, long hair, free love, etc.—the figure of the hippie is not an unproblematic one. Compounding the issue was the characterization of the 1960s’ counterculture as a social and political failure—a theme taken up in great earnest especially by conservative politicians and thinkers as they rode the wave of Reagan-Thatcherism in the 1970s and 1980s.34 No wonder then that we are left with the meager choice of the clueless flower child, the naïve tree hugger, or the slacker pothead as the period’s troubled ambassadors. What is important, and perhaps most forgotten, was the sense of impending threat of revolution that seemed possible in the hectic social turmoil of the 1960s as a collection of dissident factions—antiwar demonstrators, draft resisters, civil rights protesters, black militants, gay rights activists, environmentalists, feminists, anarchists, communalists, etc.—coalesced against “the establishment.” The proliferation of alternate futures and utopic visions that were encouraged, enacted, or postulated during this period testify to the possibly of creative imagining unleashed by the prospect of imminent change. That such radical social change did not come to pass at that time does not equate to ultimate failure or an affirmation of the neoconservative backlash that followed, anymore than winning a battle constitutes winning the war.

Rather than rely on the received stereotypes and clichéd images that the present offers to us about the past, I would like to revisit some of the literature of the period in order to explicate a more nuanced and complex understanding of the figure of the hippie. What is particularly interesting is that such analyses did take place in the throes of the counterculture’s formation and dissolution. The classic touchstone for such a perspective is the seminal sociological analysis offered by the aforementioned Theodore Roszak in his best-selling 1968 book The Making of a Counter Culture, which was quickly seen as a kind of guide to the inner workings or mentality behind the youth dissent movement. In fact, Roszak invented and popularized the term counterculture to distinguish it from the notion of a subculture—signaling the sweeping oppositional nature of the movement that existed against, not merely as a subset of, the existing culture. The term would provide the largest linguistic vessel into which a variety of groups with different agendas could be placed: the New Left politicos organizing to resist the Vietnam War and its expansion into other parts of Southeast Asia, the acid head drop-outs of the psychedelic community, the new communards of the back-to-the-land movement, the revolutionary militants of the Black Panther Party, and the environmentalists espousing a holistic conception of the ecosystem, to name a few. Similarly, the counterculture is used in this project as an umbrella term to consider, for analytical purposes, a multitude of heterogeneous artistic practices that were formed in opposition to conventional notions of art and culture.

The subtitle to Roszak’s volume is largely forgotten: Reflections on a Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition. The sympathetic yet paternalistic tone of his text casts this youthful opposition as “technocracy’s children,” the largely white middle-class heirs to the leisure society of postwar America governed by a managerial class of technical experts and bureaucrats. By technocratic, he means the evolved form of an industrialized society that has fully adopted the logic of organizational culture administered by a cadre of experts using tools such as rationalized planning and coordinated management guided by technological progress and scientific knowledge. It would be too simplistic to say, however, that opposition to technocratic society is the equivalent of being against technology itself. The myriad explorations of new technologies and materials during this period would provide plenty of evidence to the contrary: from the synthetic distillation of LSD to the embrace of plastic inflatables, computers, and portal video technology to the cataloging of the latest tools in the Whole Earth Catalog. Instead, it was the increasing reliance on a technical and managerial class of experts to the exclusion of more inclusive democratic processes; the outsized influence of the military-industrial complex of the Cold War and Vietnam that President Eisenhower had famously warned his fellow citizens about years before; or the growing concern of the degradation of the environment and its impact on human health, which casts technology in a more instrumental and pernicious role that informs its opposition. Technocracy appears to stand above and apart from the political sphere of partisan actions. Yet, technocracy engenders compliance from all parts of society, including its governing parties, in seemingly benign ways, offering beneficence to its citizenry in exchange. In other words, security and prosperity are promised but only as long as the system itself continues to smoothly operate, without obstruction or significant resistance.

Roszak is guided by the thinking of philosopher Herbert Marcuse, who in his book One-Dimensional Man, which was widely influential in the counterculture, argued that advanced industrial society creates an uncritical consumerism that it uses to orchestrate social control as it integrates or binds the working class to endless cycles of both production and consumption.35 The basic themes of anticonsumerism can be found in One-Dimensional Man: over-identification and symbolic reliance on consumer goods for personal satisfaction, the creation of desire and the fulfillment of wants instead of basic needs, the irrational expenditure of labor in pursuit of continuous consumption, the waste and environmental damage sustained in order to produce such goods, and the corresponding illogic of planned obsolescence. The inherent multidimensionality of the individual and one’s experience is thus eroded, and with it the capacity for critical thought and opposition. Following the austerity of the Great Depression and the sacrifices of World War II, America’s postwar economic boom and its ascent as a global superpower created an impression of abundance, no matter how unevenly it was actually distributed in society, fueled by technological and scientific advancements—so much so, that it was even possible to proclaim an impending “post-scarcity” society.36 That plenitude was not universal and that freedom was an experience enjoyed by a privileged majority did not go unnoticed by a younger generation, who were not yet initiated into the trappings of mainstream society. Accordingly, any revolution would come not from the working class realizing its alienation from its own labor, as classic Marxism theorizes, but rather, as Marcuse argues, from a new youth movement that resists its inculcation into such a system in the first place and joins together with the dispossessed already operating outside of it.

Marcuse, who along with Fuller and McLuhan, represented the elder spokespersons adopted by the largely youth-oriented movement: in 1968 Fuller was seventy-three years old, Marcuse was seventy, and McLuhan was a comparably spry fifty-seven. Each figure appealed for different reasons—Fuller for his holistic worldview that optimistically married technology and nature; McLuhan for his ability to understand the impact of new media and technologies of communication on modern life; and Marcuse for his critique of late capitalism as shallow and the modern democratic state’s recourse to repressive techniques to maintain the system. Marcuse’s status as a kind of founding father of the New Left political scene aligned him most closely to this segment of the counterculture, although he had written extensively about art, aesthetics, and culture as well.

For Marcuse, the aesthetic dimension—understood as broadly about the human senses, and therefore ultimately about the body—creates the image or the form of a free society, but such a liberation of the body and its senses was a condition to be wrought by radical politics. Marcuse rejected the instrumental use of art as a kind of weapon in waging political struggle, seeing art more as a condition or consequence of liberation itself. Such liberation can occur only when the conditions afforded by a post-scarcity society relieved the daily struggle of basic survival, which had been achieved in many postwar industrialized countries, and importantly, when repression is suppressed or suspended, through acts of negation, in what he called the “great refusal.”

In Marcuse’s 1969 book An Essay on Liberation, the pessimistic Frankfurt School philosopher sees a glimmer of hope in transforming the repressive technocratic state of his self-described one-dimensional man. The optimism derives from the so-called “youthquake” of the 1960s: the students of the Free Speech Movement on the Berkeley campus in 1964; the 100,000-plus so-called flower children who descended into Haight-Ashbury in the summer of 1967; the thousands of French students who were joined by the 11 million workers who went on strike during the protests of May 1968; the half-million antiwar demonstrators who had gathered in Washington, DC, in 1969; the 210,000 young men officially accused of evading the draft, and millions more who sought refuge through deferments; the 250,000 readers of the Black Panther Party newspaper or its members who took up arms for social justice in cities across the United States; the millions who participated in riots across America’s racially polarized cities; and the hippies or freaks who dropped out to join or create one of an estimated 3,000 communes in America—and all the rest who enacted aspects of Marcuse’s great refusal against the smooth, comfortable existence in what he called the “democratic unfreedom”37 of modern industrial society’s “repressive tolerance.”38 Marcuse’s liberation was not from totalitarian regimes but rather from affluent society itself and his refusal was a call to reject forms of social oppression and economic domination and employ a relentless criticism of such policies and practices. According to Marcuse and others, postwar abundance—largely in the industrialized West—had been achieved through an increasingly techno-rational bureaucratic management of society, at a cost which perpetuated not only the alienation from truly productive labor but also engendered a false consciousness about the new consumer-oriented culture of consumption to which work, life, and the economy was now inextricably bound. Marcuse saw revolution possible not through the conventional Marxist expectation of the working classes rising up, but rather through those who had rejected or had yet been absorbed into the working life. The mass counterculture of the 1960s—an eclectic mix of radical intellectuals, acid heads, politicos, hippies, yippies, communards, feminists, antiwar protesters, gay rights activists, and Panthers of all types and stripes—provided Marcuse with his great refusal.

The era’s blend of culture and politics defined a hopeful moment, a glimpse into such liberation, a situation as Marcuse describes, “where the hatred of the young bursts into laughter and song, mixing the barricade and the dance floor, love play and heroism.”39 In this seemingly awkward yet poetic conflation, Marcuse merges acts of political resistance and cultural pleasure. It is a contradictory set of circumstances but one that sutures the larger rift between the era’s New Left political commitment—those manning the barricades, marching in the streets—and the hippie’s commitment to “make love, not war.” The barricade defines a point of contact between opposing parties, a marker of competing physical forces and a symbolic political act to either build one or topple one. It conjures indelible pictures of civil rights marchers facing down fire hoses and police dogs in Birmingham, helicopters dispersing tear gas onto students on Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, or the overturned cars on the streets of Paris. The dance floor by contrast is a commons, a mingling or mixing of bodies, a mass choreography of individuals moving to a common soundtrack, and in this era, against a liquid light show pulsing in sync with the fluidity of the crowd. It evokes the hallucinatory chaos of the Trips Festival, the disco-cum-radical architecture program of Space Electronic in Florence, or the jubilation on the muddy fields of Woodstock. Barricades define a disciplined urban battlefield while the dance floor defines an anti-disciplinary hedonistic playground. These distinct conditions and spaces appear irreconcilable. However, in a spirit of the age that will presage the postmodern, it is not about reconciling opposites but rather connecting disparate notions: not this or that, culture or politics, but rather this and that, culture and politics. This would seem to contradict the received wisdom of the era that saw the activities of the self-professed freaks of the counterculture as essentially nonpolitical from the perspective of the New Left. The two major factions of the counterculture, the politicos and the hippies, would eventually be joined in the figure of the yippie, whose most prominent spokespersons Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman adopted theatrical antics such as trying to elect a pig for president, tossing dollar bills onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange causing the traders to scramble for the cash, organizing a protest against the Vietnam War staged as an attempted levitation of the Pentagon, or handing out copies of the Declaration of Independence when subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.40 The creation of the Youth International Party and its yippie events and actions was a self-conscious manipulation of the media, cleverly staging dissent in ways that would garner press attention, with the ultimate goal of radicalizing the hippie. The same impulse to inject a critical dimension and social consciousness into the hippie scene guided the San Francisco’s Diggers, who rejected the increased commercialization of the Haight-Ashbury community through pronouncements such as the “death of hippie, son of media,” while at the same heralding the “birth of the free” with their distribution of free food and meals or the creation of a free store as tangible examples of modeling what they called a “post-competitive” society. The merger of politics and culture can also be gleaned even earlier in Amsterdam’s anarchist Provo movement (1964–1967), who in their series of “white plans,” for instance, called for free bicycles painted white and the elimination of cars in the city center (White Bicycle Plan); argued for squatting rights to unoccupied properties, which would be painted white, to solve the city’s housing shortage (White Housing Plan); and proposed to fine and stigmatize air polluters by painting factory smokestacks white (White Chimney Plan). The success of the Provos in leveraging public sympathy and media attention would prove influential to the counterculture in the United States.

These groups and others such as the Black Panthers espoused not only a radical politics but also embodied an aesthetic radicalism, which permeated all aspects of their lives: language, clothing, hair, ways of living, ways of coming together, and a theater of social actions—in effect, they performed politics, not at the ballot box but in the street. Marcuse recognized the revolutionary potential in the aesthetic radicalism of the counterculture, noting in a lecture in London:

There is in the Hippies, and especially in such tendencies in the Hippies as the Diggers and the Provos, an inherent political element—perhaps even more so in the U.S. than here. It is the appearance indeed of new instinctual needs and values. This experience is there. There is a new sensibility against efficient and insane reasonableness. There is the refusal to play the rules of a rigid game, a game which one knows is rigid from the beginning, and the revolt against the compulsive cleanliness of puritan morality and the aggression bred by this puritan morality as we see it today in Vietnam among other things.41

The concepts of aesthetic radicalism and anti-disciplinary politics are taken up in Julie Stephens’s book Anti-Disciplinary Protest: Sixties Radicalism and Postmodernism. Stephens looks at how groups such as the Diggers and the yippies adopted an anti-disciplinary stance against conventional political approaches of both the old and New Left of the era. Embracing humor, satire, parody, and pastiche, such groups also dissolved the idea of hierarchy and leadership and mocked the concept of political parties, rejecting the dichotomy between leaders and followers just as they dissolved the boundaries between art and life, reality and utopia. They fused the cultural radicalism of the hippie with the political radicalism of the activist and thus refused the boundaries between them.42 For Stephens, these anti-disciplinary qualities would have direct connections to an emergent postmodernism. However, as she notes, any relationship between postmodernism and the counterculture is usually articulated on the basis of discontinuity, a rupture or break with modernism, typically punctuated by the events of May 1968 in Paris, when French society did not collapse, and the US presidential election in November of Richard Nixon on a lawand-order platform as the effective end of the counterculture.43 In other words, conventional wisdom holds that the dissolution of the 1960s’ counterculture paved the way for a new and separate period of postmodernism in the 1970s and 1980s.

Just as such groups rejected a disciplined politics, they also rejected a disciplined art. The category of art remained useful, even pure, but the cultural apparatus defining art, particularly in the high modernism of the 1960s, was inherently problematic: elitist, commodified, co-opted, exhausted, endlessly interpreted, etc. The invention of new forms of increasingly participatory and immersive forms of cinematic experience, multimedia environments, nomadic architectures, and even acid rock posters transcended traditional artistic and design disciplines and singular practices. Today, we speak about interdisciplinary art, but then they used terms such as intermedia, signaling that the radical action was not the cross-fertilization of disciplines, which revitalizes as it reaffirms, but rather the erasure or abandonment of disciplinary thinking itself in favor integrated experience. If the utopic potential of art and its integration into everyday life had been the driving force behind the modernist avant-garde of the early twentieth century, by mid-century this dream had fizzled, replaced by high modernism’s successful incorporation into the very society it had once dreamed of overturning. As Andreas Huyssen, one of the few critics mapping the postmodern onto and against the 1960s, has noted, “high modernism had never seen fit to be in the streets in the first place, that its earlier undeniably adversary role was superseded in the 1960s by a very different culture of confrontation in the streets and in art works.”44 For Huyssen, a 1960s postmodernism represents the first critique of high modernism, not a rejection of an earlier avant-garde modernism, but rather the recuperation of its oppositional role: “In the form of happenings, pop vernacular, psychedelic art, acid rock, alternative and street theater, the postmodernism of the 1960s was groping to recapture the adversary ethos which had nourished modern art in its earlier stages, and to which it seemed no longer able to sustain.”45

Stuart Hall, writing contemporaneously about the countercultural scene in his 1969 essay “The Hippies: An American ‘Moment,’” also argues, like Stephens, for a more imbricated notion of the hippie-activist dichotomy by outlining four ways in which political contestation of the system has been made manifest by the hippie. First, the figure of the hippie imparts style to the movement, giving itself not only a legible identity but also making the “question of style itself political.”46 Second, they have invented new ways of confronting established authority by performing the tactics of “obscenity, shock, play-acting, [and] the ‘put on,’”47 adding dramaturgical flair to the revolutionary imperative. Third, the hippie lives out a set of values that are counter to those of straight society. In this regard, Hall drafts a list of more than twenty-five opposing values between straight and hippie cultures, such as: affluent/poor, work/play, word/image, power/love, postponing gratifications/ existential now, instrumental/expressive, and so on. Such values set the stage for the hippie to enact “cultural guerilla warfare … of the social consciousness,” becoming what Hall presciently argues is the frontline in a “new kind of politics of post-modern post-industrial society: the politics of cultural rebellion.”48 Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the hippies actively model the future society they envision through their negation of the present one: “It is not possible yet to make and live in the new society; but it is possible to catch a glimpse of what it could be like, to sketch out a model of future possibilities, through broken forms, the split-structures of Hippie life and consciousness. What the activists plan and organize for, the Hippies start to construct ‘within the womb’ of pre-revolutionary society.”49

For Hall, the political and cultural aspects of radicalism are bound together but represent distinct moments that alternate between expressive and activist modes: “The expressive ‘moment’ gives emphasis to the development of a revolutionary style: the activist ‘moment’ puts the emphasis on the development of a revolutionary programme of issues,” or as he summarizes it: “Hippies create scenes; activists build ‘the movement.’”50 Politicos fight to enact change in the power structure that shapes the future direction of society, while the hippies imagine an alternative tomorrow and stage it: utopia deferred versus utopia now. In effect, this is the reverse of what Marcuse had imagined as art’s potential in a liberated society—that it would be the beneficiary of such a transformation and not the instigator of it. From a design standpoint, the prototyping of alternative realities or the modeling of possible futures is reflected in the Diggers’ famous call to action: “create the condition that you describe.”51

The success and virality of hippie ideas was contingent on its visual representation and enactment—the ability to rapidly prototype post-revolution life now. This was praxis not theory. The success of this approach underscores the shift toward visual and aural communications and its cognitive preferences that McLuhan saw in a post-Gutenberg world, but by partaking of the media it also succumbed to the media. With its expropriation of ideas and its reframing or repackaging of countercultural acts for mainstream society, the media and the market were able to translate the radical into the palatable.

Whether one accepts the idea that aesthetic radicalism is embodied in such groups as the Provos, the Diggers, and the yippies, who merged and fused the aesthetic with the political, or whether one agrees with Hall’s analysis that the larger hippie cultural scene overlapped or alternated with moments of social and political activism to forge a larger project of countercultural activity is a matter of degrees. In their struggle to create a new social, cultural, political, and ecological utopia, the counterculture expressed its political activism and activated its cultural radicalism in new and imaginative ways. By doing so, they created a new sensibility or aesthetic in the broadest sense. It is this sensibility that I’ve defined as a hippie modernism—an aesthetics of refusal— one that rejects the given parameters of a practice, obviates the boundaries of a defined field, or alters the course of an instrumental technology. It is also, fundamentally, a form of projection not just negation—one that envisions utopic potentials, models alternative experiences, and channels liberatory futures. It is situated historically as a momentary disruption between postwar modernism and its postindustrial aftermath. It is a bridge that connects across this historical chasm, but it is also one that catalyzes the contemporary zeitgeist—both cultural and political.

Many of the issues and problems the counterculture identified nearly fifty years ago remain partially or even entirely unresolved. However, such radical experiments and utopic propositions linger in the cultural imagination because of their prescient ability to envision alternative futures, albeit ones that continue to be played out in the same fragmented way and in the same contradictory system in which they were originally conceived. In this way it has no more failed than the presumed failure of the 1960s itself, which if measured over the long haul and from today’s perspective shows its persistence rather than its abandonment. The counterculture’s embrace of many themes and ideas find their equivalence in contemporary artistic and cultural practices, including such things as: ecological awareness, self-sufficiency and self-organization, pedagogical and social practice, open media and networked culture, audience participation and human-centered design, public interest and social impact design, and even the status and role of utopian thinking itself. The counterculture also resonates in a plethora of today’s social arenas, whether the resurgent interest in yoga and spirituality, organic foods, local agriculture and production, recycling and upcycling efforts, net neutrality, open-source computing, climate change, green washing, alternative energy, marijuana legalization, LGBTQ rights, the legislation of women’s bodies, or social protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter, among others. It is difficult to identify another period of history that has exerted more influence on course of contemporary culture and politics. Hippie modernism’s recuperation of the avant-garde dream of dissolving the boundaries between art and life meant, if successful, art would no longer hold its special autonomous status and architecture and design could no longer be defined by its recourse to practices as determined by socially narrow professional interests. If utopia is indeed no place, then the struggle to get there is not half the battle but indeed the war.

“It may be that all this is a utopian dream. But it is of such dreams that the revolutionary project is made,” wrote Hall as he concluded his essay on the hippies. “Hippies, and their predecessors and successors cannot make actual, except fleetingly, these insubstantial possibilities. But, in their ‘moment,’ they begin to suggest and anticipate it, to sketch it in, like some cast of hired actors perpetually ‘on stage’ in some theater-in-the-round of the future.”52


  1. H. H. Arnason, History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1968), 628.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Ibid., 629.

  4. Adrian Piper, interview with Matteo Guarnaccia (first published as an Italian translation, Matteo Guarnaccia, “Tele dal Gusto Acido alla Scoperta della Realtà,” Alias (il Manifesto), April 5, 2003, 4–5, Adrian Piper Research Archive Foundation Berlin, accessed June 17, 2015.

  5. Arnason, History of Modern Art, 628.

  6. Jud Yalkut, “The Psychedelic Revolution: Turning on the Art Trip,” Arts Magazine, November 1966, 22.

  7. See “Psychedelic Art,” in Life, September 9, 1966, 60–66+.

  8. See Clarence Newman, “Call It Psychedelic and It Will Sell Fast, Some Merchants Say,” Wall Street Journal, February 9, 1967.

  9. Robert E. L. Masters and Jean Houston, Psychedelic Art (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 87.

  10. Lars Bang Larsen, “One Proton at a Time: Art’s Psychedelic Connection,” text accompanying the exhibition Reflections from Damaged Life: An Exhibition on Psychedelia, September 26–December 15, 2013, Raven Row, London, accessed June 17, 2015.

  11. Ibid.

  12. Christoph Grunenberg, ed., Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era (London: Tate, 2005), 13.

  13. Ibid., 98.

  14. Ibid.

  15. Ibid., 98.

  16. Dave Hickey, “Freaks,” in Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era, ed. Christoph Grunenberg, (London: Tate, 2005), 64.

  17. Lars Bang Larsen, interview with Sophia Satchell-Baeza, “Cosmonauts of Inner Space,” Sleek, October 23, 2013.

  18. See Theodore Roszak, “The Counterfeit Infinity: The Use and Abuse of Psychedelic Experience,” in The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 155–177.

  19. For oral accounts of the Trips Festival, visit www.thetripsfestival.com for audio clips. See also Charles Perry, The Haight-Ashbury: A History (New York: Random House, 1984) for an account of the event.

  20. Taken from the flyer promoting the Trips Festival. For a summary of the event and to see an image of the handbill, visit: www.digthatcrazyfarout.com.

  21. Elissa Auther and Adam Lerner, eds., West of Center: Art and the Countercultural Experiment in America, 1965–1977 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), xviii.

  22. See Diedrich Diederichsen and Anselm Franke, eds., The Whole Earth: California and the Disappearance of the Outside (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2013).

  23. For a historical account of the counterculture’s role in the formation of networked culture, see Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).

  24. For an account of the Open Land philosophy that guided the development of communes such as Wheeler’s Ranch and Morningstar, see Felicity D. Scott, “Bulldozers in Utopia: Open Land, Outlaw Territory, and the Code Wars,” in West of Eden: Communes and Utopia in Northern California, ed. Iain Boal, Janferie Stone, Michael Watts, and Cal Winslow (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2012), 57–71.

  25. Charles Jencks and William Chaitkin, Architecture Today (London: Academy Editions, 1982), 220.

  26. The reference is to Art Boericke and Barry Shapiro’s Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher’s Art (San Francisco: A&W Visual Library, 1973). See also Lloyd Kahn’s important survey of such structures, Shelter (Bolinas, CA: Shelter Publications, 1973), written after he forsook the kind of dome building he publicized in Domebook One (1970) and Domebook 2 (1971).

  27. Peter Selz, “Notes on Funk,” in Funk (Berkeley, CA: University Art Museum, 1967), 3.

  28. Jencks and Chaitkin, Architecture Today, 298.

  29. Ibid.

  30. Ibid., 16.

  31. Ibid., 220.

  32. Felicity D. Scott, “Introduction: The (Second) Machine Age and After,” in Architecture or TechnoUtopia: Politics After Modernism (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007), 3.

  33. See Jencks and Chaitkin, Architecture Today, 221.

  34. See Peter Bernstein and Michael William Doyle, eds., Imagine Nation: The American Counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s (London: Routledge, 2002), which offers an antidote to the commodification and failure narrative of the 1960s.

  35. See Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (Boston: Beacon, 1964).

  36. For instance, see Murray Bookchin’s Post-Scarcity Anarchism (San Francisco: Ramparts Press, 1971) in which the pioneering ecologist outlines the liberatory potential of technology to radically transform society.

  37. Herbert Marcuse explicates the idea of democratic unfreedom is his book One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964).

  38. See Marcuse’s essay “Repressive Tolerance,” in A Critique of Pure Tolerance, ed. Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore, Jr., and Herbert Marcuse (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965).

  39. Herbert Marcuse, An Essay on Liberation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), 25–26.

  40. For a reappraisal of such countercultural actions by groups such as the yippies, the Black Panthers, and the Gay Activists Alliance, see Craig J. Peariso, Radical Theatrics: Put-Ons, Politics, and the Sixties (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014).

  41. Herbert Marcuse, “Liberation from the Affluent Society” (lecture at the Dialectics of Liberation Conference, London, England, 1967), transcript.

  42. Julie Stephens, Anti-Disciplinary Politics: Sixties Radicalism and Postmodernism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 4.

  43. Ibid., 101.

  44. Andreas Huyssen, After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 190.

  45. Ibid., 193.

  46. Stuart Hall, “The Hippies: An American ‘Moment,’” in Student Power, ed. Julian Nagel (London: Merlin Press, 1969), 194.

  47. Ibid.

  48. Ibid., 196.

  49. Ibid., 197.

  50. Ibid., 199.

  51. Peter Coyote, interview with Etan Ben-Ami, Mill Valley, California, January 12, 1989.

  52. Hall, “The Hippies: An American ‘Moment,’” in Student Power, 202.