Culture Rover

#160 - Archiving and Referral Services (Infinity Goes Up On Trial Part II: Summer of Love Edition)

Continued from CR #155.

More new takes on Sixties nostalgia from the New York Times, this time in relation to the new exhibition, Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era, at the Whitney Museum.

In John Leland's "Welcome Back Starshine" (Arts and Leisure, 20 May 2007), artistic director Oskar Eustis described the Public Theater's plans to present hippie-informed Shakespeare in the Park and a musical performance of Hair.

"Nostalgia is a corrupting emotion," he said. "You're imagining a lack of contradiction in the past. You're imagining something that wasn't true. It's a longing to be a child again, to have magical thinking about the world."

But he added that nostalgia could also have a "progressive aspect" that pushes people to think forward rather than back, to "remember that you can imagine a world that is different, where money didn't determine value, where competition wasn't the nature of human relations."

"That imagination can be powerful," he continued. "The dream is real. The negative aspect of nostalgia is when we want that feeling that everything is possible, but we don't want to do anything about it. That's just narcissistic. That's longing to feel important again. Baby boomers are very good at that."

This seems to be the central issue in the current use of the Sixties: Can the nostalgia for something such as the Summer of Love, itself a strange kind of instant memorialization of a half-real, half-manufactured historical moment -- already historically conscious and oddly dated in the instance of its explosive birth -- be progressive, or is it only regressive?

Eustis ponders how it might be so, while in another New York Times review of the exhibition, Holland Cotter merely falls into recycled clich├ęs.

15 June 2007

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