Victoria & Albert Museum
This exhibition looks at the counter culture from its origins in the 60s through to the late 70s. It links pop music, fashion, protest, the human rights movement, political protest and reaction through the Black Panthers, anti-Vietnam and alternative living through to the rise of Arpanet and the internet (with a facsimile of the first mouse – a little wooden box known then as the “X-Y Co-ordinates plotter”) into one narrative. There’s lots of music, and a “festival space” with fake grass, bean bags and the “Woodstock” film playing on a huge stage behind a faux band setup. As you wander there’s an old school record rack with a load of period albums you can flick through. Lots of video stuff, natch. The soundtrack on headphones is clever – it connects to each individual exhibit, so in the bit on early folk protest you get early Dylan and Woodie Guthrie…later you’re getting James Brown in the black awareness area. There are lots of period things which might not be considered art but are part of the narrative – early 70s “Playboy” sits next to a display about the Oz trial and a few feet from the contact sheets for Pink Floyd’s “UmmaGumma” cover.
Very mixed. Lots of tourists of course, but lots of younger people, plus grizzled old Baby Boomers getting a bit emotional. Really busy – midweek visits probably advised.
It made me think..
It was an amazing time. Seeing the way the whole thing is stitched together is very moving in many ways – the reiminder that many of the societal rights and norms which we take for granted now didn’t exist within my life time and had to, literally, be fought for in the streets made me stop and think. I haven’t really processed it all to be honest. There’s a really excellent mind map poster in the shop howing all the connections in which I bought, and a fine book which I didn’t (but I think I will order it). Important stuff. Don’t miss it.