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Hippie modernism: Curation and knowledge production


The provocative notion that hippies constituted a twentieth-century architectural avant-garde was implied in the exhibition title: Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia. This chapter examines how contemporary curatorial practices of material culture research and knowledge co-production informed the exhibition’s 2017 restaging at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). It recast the museum as a laboratory in which Bay Area public discourse about its counterculture heritage was mediated through the curatorial mediation of objects, texts, and creative acts. Do-it-yourself (DIY) practices and its synergies across creative media ranging from ‘underground’ printing to ‘outlaw’ building. Both invoked an assemblage sensibility that went beyond mere style to invoke what Jane Bennett calls the “agency of assemblages,” that is, the collectivity of people and things in ad-hoc collaboration. When artifacts of the counterculture’s outlaw production are assessed, expressions of an alternative sociotechnical imaginary, the hippie builder emerges as an architect of liberated territory: Enclaves dedicated to self-reinvention, in which non-conforming relationships, values, epistemologies, emotional regimes, and belief systems could be tested within a supportive communal setting.

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