Under the Influence

Was it the free love, the politics, or the acid that made films of the '60s so trippy?

The academic equivalent to Invocation of My Demon Brother is Larry Jordan's The Sacred Art of Tibet (1972), a commissioned film, in which electronic growling overwhelms explanatory voiceover and the artworks themselves are "animated" through aggressive zooming and flash-frame superimposition. Reality is a "magic show," the narrator informs us. And magical thinking was then perceived as a form of political action. (The Summer of Love was actually the Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Newark and Detroit burned while the Haight preened in the klieg lights of total media attention.) Thus the Whitney's "War, Protest, and Counterculture" program includes Piece Mandala/End the War as well as the show's preeminent mind-fuck acid-flashback, Third World Newsreel's classic rabble-rouser cf1 America (1969).

James Whitney's Lapis (1963-1966), 16 mm film transferred to HD Digital Cinema, color, sound; 10 mins.
image: Estate of John and James Whitney, copyright 2007
James Whitney's Lapis (1963-1966), 16 mm film transferred to HD Digital Cinema, color, sound; 10 mins.


Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era
Through September 16, Whitney Museum

The apparitions in this rough and ready riot-compilation, racing through classic rock chestnuts "Gimme Shelter" and "Fortunate Son" to climax with the keening crescendo of Steppenwolf's heavy-metal concerto dirge "Monster/Suicide/America," are more fantastic than the monsters of Tibet Buddhism. Not just Black Panthers but ultra-left Viet-vets proclaim themselves "hip to imperialism." Those gyrating chicks are in the street. And who are the white high school revolutionaries earnestly rapping about "capitalist run-of-the-mill bullshit"? What pill made them say that?

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