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You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 - Exhibition at London's V&A Museum

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In the late 1960s, a period of immense unrest and huge social and political change, youth culture in the UK, Europe and the USA inspired an atmosphere of hopeful idealism where people challenged acknowledged power structures in every aspect of their daily lives. 

The key themes of the 1960s were environmentalism, consumerism and multiculturalism. In a period marked by communality and neoliberalist politics mass-communication became the norm.  

In 1968 The Beatles said: 

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world”. 

The Beatles, Revolution, 1968 [1]

You Say You Want a Revolution? You Certainly Got One!

In 2016, London's V& A Museum has responded with You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-70. This groundbreaking exhibition asks how these five revolutionary years continue to impact on our lives today. 

The exhibition explores those key themes of the late 1960s showing how they led to a basic shift in the ideas and attitudes of the Western world and how these are still relevant in the 21st Century. 

Writing in 1999 in Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order, Naom Chomsky said:

“Instead of citizens it produces consumers. Instead of communities it produces shopping malls. The net result is an atomised society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralised and socially powerless”. 

Is he right?

Revolution, Alan Aldridge, 1969
Credit: You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970, in partnership with the Levi's® brand: Sound experience by Sennheiser; With additional thanks to the Grow Annenberg Foundation, Fenwick and Sassoon, V&A (10 September 2016-26 February 2017). Im
Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties
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Highlights of the Exhibition

Through more than 350 items, including photos, posters, literature, music, design, film, fashion, artifacts and performance, we see how an entire generation escaped the confines of the past. Lifestyles and expectations changed radically. With so many iconic items to choose from it's almost impossible to pick out just a few pieces to give a real flavour of the exhibition. 

The display features items drawn from the V&A's comprehensive holdings alongside key loans from public and private collections. Revolution? looks at people, places, music and movements highlighting connections to our world in 2016. Your visit to the exhibition is accompanied by music of the 1960s played through Sennheiser headsets. The display also features video, films and light shows as well as interviews with key figures of the period such as Yoko Ono, Twiggy and Stewart Brand.

Iconic Designs on Display - Alan Aldridge's Revolution 

For me, one of the most distinctive items in the exhibition is Revolution, an illustration created in 1969 by Alan Aldridge (b.1943) for The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics. Dubbed “Beardsley in Blue Jeans” by the press, Alan Aldridge was a leading British graphic designer during the 1960/70s. He was known as the era's 'graphic entertainer and magician”.[2] The late John Lennon called him: “His Royal Master Of Images To Their Majesties The Beatles”.

Hapshash and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at UFO

Another interesting item is the poster for The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at UFO. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown was an English rock band formed in 1967 by singer Arthur Brown. The line-up included Vincent Crane (Hammond organ/piano), Drachen Theaker (drums), and Nick Greenwood (bass). Their song Fire released as a single in 1968 was a one-hit wonder in both the UK and the USA, selling over one million copies. 

The poster was created by Michael English and Nigel Waymouth, who worked together as Hapshash and the Coloured Coat. Hapshash were responsible for a remarkable range of psychedelic posters commissioned by well-known English bands of the time. Taking their inspiration from the decorative and erotic Art Nouveau period, they produced a wide variety of psychedelic artwork for a number of clients including London's short-lived UFO club, the Saville Theatre, the underground magazine Oz, and many others.

 

 

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at UFO. Hapshash
Credit: You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970, in partnership with the Levi's® brand: Sound experience by Sennheiser; With additional thanks to the Grow Annenberg Foundation, Fenwick and Sassoon, V&A (10 September 2016-26 February 2017). Im
Crazy World of Arthur Brown
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Whacky Designs of the 1960s - Djinn Chair by Olivier Mourgue

As a teenager during the 1960s I remember some pretty way-out designs. One particularly futuristic design, the Djinn chair, designed by Olivier Mourgue in 1963, featured in Stanley Kubrick's 1969 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”. 

According to the V&A's Collections website, the Djinn chair “appears to have been cut and folded from a single piece of material and this feature relates it to many other designs of chairs from the 1960s. Mourgue's innovation was to upholster the entire chair. The extremely low seat meant the Djinn chair was for lounging upon, rather than for more formal sitting, reflecting the increasingly relaxed social mores of the decade.”[3] 

I don't remember it being very comfortable!

Djinn Chair, Olivier Mourgue, 1963.
Credit: You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970, in partnership with the Levi's® brand: Sound experience by Sennheiser; With additional thanks to the Grow Annenberg Foundation, Fenwick and Sassoon, V&A (10 September 2016-26 February 2017). Im
Design of the 20th Century
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See the Exhibition

Revolution? is jointly curated by Geoffrey Marsh, Director of the V&A’s Department of Theatre and Performance, and Victoria Broackes, curator in the Department of Theatre and Performance and Head of Performance Exhibitions. 

The venture is created in partnership with the Levi’s® brand; Sound experience by Sennheiser; with additional support from the Grow Annenberg Foundation, Fenwick and Sassoon. 

A beautifully illustrated full-colour publication accompanies the exhibition. Edited by Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels, 1966-1970, is available in both paperback and hardback formats at £25 and £40 respectively. 

Exhibition Assistants Preparing for ou Say You Want a Revolution?

As with all V&A exhibitions, a lot of very hard work has gone into this fully immersive and dramatic audiovisual experience.

This not to be missed exhibition is open from 10th September 2016 until 26th February 2017. Tickets, books, and future information are available from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

 

 

Finding the V&A

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Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London, UK
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Bibliography

  1. Geoffrey Marsh et al You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970. London: V & A Publishing, 2016.
  2. David Wootton The Illustrators The British Art of Illustration 1837-2011. London: Christ Beetles Ltd, 2011.
  3. V&A "Djinn Chair." V&A Collections. 8/09/2016 <Web >

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