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Is it Time for Hippie Modernism Again?
Turn on, tune in, drop out, but read on about how Hippies and Hippie Modernism might rise again.
Before Hipsters, there were Hippies. Whereas Hipsters in our age live a gentrifying, alternative lifestyle, Hippies dug into a whole counterculture of rebellion in search of a utopian “Age of Aquarius.” A new exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, titled Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia revisits the search of the ‘60s and asks if it has any meaning for 2015 and beyond. In an era where Whole Foods replaces Whole Earth, can we make the ideals of the Hippie generation sing again and “let the sunshine in”?
What exactly is “hippie modernism”? Andrew Blauvelt, the exhibition curator, explains in his preface to the catalog: “Hippie modernism marks the tension between the modern characterized as universal, timeless, rational, and progressive, and its countercultural other, which adopts a more local, timely, emotive and often irreverent, and radical disposition.” In other words, hippie modernism takes modernism’s composed futurist hope and applies it to the present, losing none of those dreams while passionately thumbing its nose at the establishment status quo. Blauvelt sees the late 1960s as “a momentary reconciliation of these seemingly opposed values as a way of resolving the impasse that faced postwar cultural modernity.” Unfortunately, that “reconciliation” of the hippie years ran into the conservatism of the post-Watergate 1970s and Reaganite 1980s. Fortunately, however, that hippie modernist reconciliation might rise again today.
Blauvelt arranges the show along the lines of ‘60s guru Timothy Leary’s famous directive to “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.” It’s as good as any start for the dizzying assemblage of experimental furniture, alternative living structures, immersive environments, media installations, alternative magazines, experimental books, printed ephemera, and archival films. In Turn On, Hippie Modernism hopes to blow your mind by examining the hippie fascination with expanding individual consciousness and the struggle to visualize it in images such as Ira Cohen’s 1968 photograph of Jimi Hendrix taken in a mylar chamber to distort and bend reality like a drug trip.
Once you’re “experienced,” you move on to Tune In, which tackles the social consciousness of the hippie movement in the face of global war and pollution. In the final section, Drop Out, Blauvelt examines how hippies “dropped out” of mainstream society to form their own social structures that blurred boundaries between art and life, specifically the politics ruling over their lives. Starting with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters’ 1964 cross-country acid trip (that got things going) and ending with the 1973-1974 OPEC oil crisis (that stopped the long, strange trip of Western progress), Hippie Modernism packs a lot of ideas into a small window, like the time period itself.
Although hippie modernism’s most striking form — psychedelic art — has won attention from its beginnings, it hasn’t always won respect. Blauvelt counters that “psychedelia follows Impressionism, not chronologically but philosophically, as the artist depicts an altered sense of reality and the objects and spaces within it.” If Impressionism belongs at the beginning of modern art, then ‘60s-style psychedelia belongs right beside it. With that in mind, much of the puzzling art of the period snaps into conception clarity. For example, Haus-Rucker-Co’s Environment Transformer/Flyhead Helmet (shown above), one of the many bubble-related (sometimes inflatable) designs of theirs, transforms from an elaborate joke into a symbol of a new way of seeing. Esther Choi sees these bubbles as “a more nuanced and pliant framework for resistance” in keeping with the peace and love times and the hoped-for “Pneu world.” “Operating like a meme,” Choi argues, “the inflatable’s elastic configuration could absorb a range of intents, associations, and purposes evolving and self-replicating virally across genres, periods, and geographies.” Inside the bubble of hippie modernism, the whole world could unite as one.
For many, hippie imagery consists mainly of the trippy concert posters crammed to the borders with text and symbolic imagery. In their essay “Agency and Urgency: The Medium and Its Message,” Lorraine Wild and David Karwan argue for a method behind that hippie madness. They see hippie modernism’s graphic design as content-driven into content-overdrive and “focused primarily on the urgency of their communication (and not, for the most part, on contemporary professional graphic design).” Underground graphic artists shunned by the “professionals” found themselves with too much to say in too little room and broke all the rules in the name of message. (The exhibition catalog designers copied this aesthetic in their choice of font, paper, etc., to convey its jam-packed messages.) Corita Kent’s yellow submarine (shown above) belongs to this order. Kent, a Catholic nun, took the Beatles’ song and turned it into an “infographic” of love full of text that makes you scurry visually about the page. “The revolution could not be boiled down to a corporate-style logo or a simplified presentation,” Wild and Karwan conclude. “The ideas were multivalent, hypothetical, experimental, and the visual ‘argument’ of underground graphics signifies all that tumult.”
Much of the 1960s debates raged over freedom, usually individual freedoms versus the “freedom” of the free market. As Craig J. Peariso points out, Hippies saw freedom as “something like an ethos” rather than a commodity that could be traded or, dangerously, assimilated. A theater group calling itself the “Diggers” staged “The Death of Hippie” when they felt the idea of the hippie had become too mainstream and just another pose of mass culture marketing. Another theater group, The Cockettes (shown above), took those freedoms even further, asserting the freedom of sexual orientation. The Cockettes “unapologetic amateurism, their emphasis on fun over profit, and their persistent rejection of the boundaries of normative genders and sexualities made them seem like the perfect distillation of the various countercultural forces and ideas that had come together in the Bay Area at the end of the 1960s,” Peariso writes. If one image captures hippie modernism at its purest, The Cockettes might be it.
But can we recover that fun, hopeful, boundary-busting hippie modernism today? When Sheila Levrant de Bretteville made Women in Design: The Next Decade (shown above) in 1975, she probably envisioned greater progress four decades later. Perhaps the greatest attribute of hippie modernism, and the one we need most now, is the hippie power of imagination, of thinking of the unthought. Felicity D. Scott points out that some of the earliest computer visionaries of the 1970s were the longhair hippies fighting to wrest control of early computer technology from the military-industrial complex to put it into the hands of the people.
“Countercultural engagements with computer research and communications media during the early 1970s were often motivated by a utopian faith that science and technology heralded a better and more united world,” Scott writes. Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia holds that we can find that faith once again. Social media can once again be more “social” than “media,” in the spirit of GlobalCitizen.org and like-minded, “hippie” movements. Hippie Modernism strikes you with stunning utopian images of the past, but should also inspire you to dream up your own utopias for the present. “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,” Blauvelt writes in defense of the often belittled hippie, “anymore than winning a battle constitutes winning the war.” Hippie Modernism calls us to pick up the hippie “freak” flag and let it fly once more.
The finding is remarkably similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect, which describes how incompetent people tend to overestimate their own competency.
- Recent studies asked participants to rate the attractiveness of themselves and other participants, who were strangers.
- The studies kept yielding the same finding: unattractive people overestimate their attractiveness, while attractive people underrate their looks.
- Why this happens is unclear, but it doesn't seem to be due to a general inability to judge attractiveness.
There's no shortage of disparities between attractive and unattractive people. Studies show that the best-looking among us tend to have an easier time making money, receiving help, avoiding punishment, and being perceived as competent. (Sure, research also suggests beautiful people have shorter relationships, but they also have more sexual partners, and more options for romantic relationships. So call it a wash.)
Now, new research reveals another disparity: Unattractive people seem less able to accurately judge their own attractiveness, and they tend to overestimate their looks. In contrast, beautiful people tend to rate themselves more accurately. If anything, they underestimate their attractiveness.
The research, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, involved six studies that asked participants to rate the attractiveness of themselves and other participants, who were strangers. The studies also asked participants to predict how others might rate them.
In the first study, lead author Tobias Greitemeyer found that the participants who were most likely to overestimate their attractiveness were among the least attractive people in the study, based on average ratings.
Ratings of subjective attractiveness as a function of the participant's objective attractiveness (Study 1)
"Overall, unattractive participants judged themselves to be of about average attractiveness and they showed very little awareness that strangers do not share this view. In contrast, attractive participants had more insights into how attractive they actually are. [...] It thus appears that unattractive people maintain illusory self‐perceptions of their attractiveness, whereas attractive people's self‐views are more grounded in reality."
Why do unattractive people overestimate their attractiveness? Could it be because they want to maintain a positive self-image, so they delude themselves? After all, previous research has shown that people tend to discredit or "forget" negative social feedback, which seems to help protect a sense of self-worth.
To find out, Greitemeyer conducted a study that aimed to put participants in a positive, non-defensive mindset before rating attractiveness. He did that by asking participants questions that affirmed parts of their personality that had nothing to do with physical appearance, such as: "Have you ever been generous and selfless to another person?" Yet, this didn't change how participants rated themselves, suggesting that unattractive people aren't overestimating their looks out of defensiveness.
The studies kept yielding the same finding: unattractive people overestimate their attractiveness. Does that bias sound familiar? If so, you might be thinking of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which describes how incompetent people tend to overestimate their own competency. Why? Because they lack the metacognitive skills needed to discern their own shortcomings.
Greitemeyer found that unattractive people were worse at differentiating between attractive and unattractive people. But the finding that unattractive people may have different beauty ideals (or, more plainly, weaker ability to judge attractiveness) did "not have an impact on how they perceive themselves."
In short, it remains a mystery exactly why unattractive people overestimate their looks. Greitemeyer concluded that, while most people are decent at judging the attractiveness of others, "it appears that those who are unattractive do not know that they are unattractive."
Unattractive people aren't completely unaware
The results of one study suggested that unattractive people aren't completely in the dark about their looks. In the study, unattractive people were shown a set of photos of highly attractive and unattractive people, and they were asked to select photos of people with comparable attractiveness. Most unattractive people chose to compare themselves with similarly unattractive people.
"The finding that unattractive participants selected unattractive stimulus persons with whom they would compare their attractiveness to suggests that they may have an inkling that they are less attractive than they want it to be," Greitemeyer wrote.
Every star we can see, including our sun, was born in one of these violent clouds.
This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.
An international team of astronomers has conducted the biggest survey of stellar nurseries to date, charting more than 100,000 star-birthing regions across our corner of the universe.
Stellar nurseries: Outer space is filled with clouds of dust and gas called nebulae. In some of these nebulae, gravity will pull the dust and gas into clumps that eventually get so big, they collapse on themselves — and a star is born.
These star-birthing nebulae are known as stellar nurseries.
The challenge: Stars are a key part of the universe — they lead to the formation of planets and produce the elements needed to create life as we know it. A better understanding of stars, then, means a better understanding of the universe — but there's still a lot we don't know about star formation.
This is partly because it's hard to see what's going on in stellar nurseries — the clouds of dust obscure optical telescopes' view — and also because there are just so many of them that it's hard to know what the average nursery is like.
The survey: The astronomers conducted their survey of stellar nurseries using the massive ALMA telescope array in Chile. Because ALMA is a radio telescope, it captures the radio waves emanating from celestial objects, rather than the light.
"The new thing ... is that we can use ALMA to take pictures of many galaxies, and these pictures are as sharp and detailed as those taken by optical telescopes," Jiayi Sun, an Ohio State University (OSU) researcher, said in a press release.
"This just hasn't been possible before."
Over the course of the five-year survey, the group was able to chart more than 100,000 stellar nurseries across more than 90 nearby galaxies, expanding the amount of available data on the celestial objects tenfold, according to OSU researcher Adam Leroy.
New insights: The survey is already yielding new insights into stellar nurseries, including the fact that they appear to be more diverse than previously thought.
"For a long time, conventional wisdom among astronomers was that all stellar nurseries looked more or less the same," Sun said. "But with this survey we can see that this is really not the case."
"While there are some similarities, the nature and appearance of these nurseries change within and among galaxies," he continued, "just like cities or trees may vary in important ways as you go from place to place across the world."
Astronomers have also learned from the survey that stellar nurseries aren't particularly efficient at producing stars and tend to live for only 10 to 30 million years, which isn't very long on a universal scale.
Looking ahead: Data from the survey is now publicly available, so expect to see other researchers using it to make their own observations about stellar nurseries in the future.
"We have an incredible dataset here that will continue to be useful," Leroy said. "This is really a new view of galaxies and we expect to be learning from it for years to come."
Tiny specks of space debris can move faster than bullets and cause way more damage. Cleaning it up is imperative.
- NASA estimates that more than 500,000 pieces of space trash larger than a marble are currently in orbit. Estimates exceed 128 million pieces when factoring in smaller pieces from collisions. At 17,500 MPH, even a paint chip can cause serious damage.
- To prevent this untrackable space debris from taking out satellites and putting astronauts in danger, scientists have been working on ways to retrieve large objects before they collide and create more problems.
- The team at Clearspace, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, is on a mission to capture one such object using an autonomous spacecraft with claw-like arms. It's an expensive and very tricky mission, but one that could have a major impact on the future of space exploration.
This is the first episode of Just Might Work, an original series by Freethink, focused on surprising solutions to our biggest problems.
Catch more Just Might Work episodes on their channel: https://www.freethink.com/shows/just-might-work