Yesterday's Future


Walker Art Center

"Hippie modernism" may sound like a contradiction in terms. But it's not a bad description for a certain sensibility of the 1960s and '70s, when the counterculture's utopian dreams found room for cybernetic technology, experimental architecture, new media, and avant-garde art.

Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia (Walker Art Center), a mammoth book pegged to an exhibition now touring the country, aims to illuminate that era of Fuller domes and Be-Ins. Its essays are a mixed bag: There is interesting history here, and sometimes there are thoughtful critiques, but there is also a lot of jargon and ideological ax-grinding. (Inevitably, someone links the Whole Earth Catalog to "the dawn of neoliberalism.")

But it's always great to look at—not just for the old art and artifacts that it reproduces but for its own retro hippie-modernist design, with pages that look like they were torn from the Catalog or Radical Software or, for that matter, an early issue of reason.