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New show revisits the revolutionary late 1960s - with a Belgian touch
A new exhibition opening in Brussels this week lets you discover - or relive - the effervescent, paradigm-shifting, multi-faceted world of the late 1960s, from Swinging Sixties London to San Francisco's Summer of Love, Woodstock and the May 1968 Paris protests.
Revolutions: Records & Rebels 1966-1970 takes a comprehensive look at the cultural, social, artistic and technological revolutions that occurred during those five years. Created by the Victoria and Albert Museum, and after stops in Montreal and Milan, it has now come to the ING Art Centre.
"To give you an idea of the breadth of material on display, it took three weeks of cable laying to power the many interactive and other displays," says curator Anne Petre. "There is even a photo op in which the visitors can immortalise themselves on the Abbey Road pedestrian crossing."
The show features 350 objects, including fashion, design, graphic design and photography, divided into seven themes: the Swinging Sixties, the Counterculture, Consumerism, Protests, the emergence of counter cultural communities, the environmental movement and the beginning of the computer age.
Provided with special headphones that offer 3D sound, the visitor will be immersed in the iconic sounds of the times (The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell and more).
Included in the exhibit are Mick Jagger’s stage unitard, John Lennon’s jacket, washable paper dresses, and the ladder from the Ladder Piece by Yoko Ono which was the object that caused John and Yoko to meet.
There are displays on Ken Kesey’s acid test, as well as photos and videos highlighting the protests against the war in Vietnam, the cultural revolution in China, the effect of the pill on relationships, the growing liberation and environmental movements and many more people and events of the era including Twiggy, Mary Quant, Vidal Sassoon, music festivals, Che Guavara, Carnaby Street and hippie communes.
The Belgian version of the exhibition includes specifically Belgian personalities such as Ann Salens and her crochet dresses, Yvette Lauwaert and her pioneering use of materials such as her see-through mac that contained coloured water, and Herman Selleslags’ photos of all the international music stars who came through Brussels.
Additionally, there are items from Belgian collections of American objects. First we have the Nudie suits. Nudie Cohn was famous for his over-the-top rhinestone studded suits and jackets that were worn by countless stars of the period from John Lennon to John Wayne, Elvis Presley, Elton John, Graham Parsons, Ronald Reagan and Cher. Belgian entertainer Bobbejaan Schoepen has the largest collection of Nudies in Europe and a selection is on display. There is also a look at the specifically Belgian events of those years such as the Amougies Festival, the "first European Woodstock".
"The prologue introduces us to the key characters in everything that will take place in the late 1960s," says curator Anne Petre. "They are the spiritual fathers of the great changes which will occur.
"We start way back with Thomas More and Utopia. Also we have Raoul Vaneigem whose The Revolution of Everyday Life, published in 1967, preached for spontaneity and creativity above all things and a questioning of authority. Vaneigem is Belgian."
She adds: "There are dozens of screens with famous and newly found footage of the era and such iconic movies as Jean-Luc Goddard’s Two or three things I know about he. When we were putting the show together, we discovered in the archives of the Lambert collection, now in the Royal Archives in Brussels, a trove of original Fillmore and Avalon psychedelic posters and a selection of these is part of the exhibit."
Revolutions: Records and Rebels 1966-1970, 24 October-10 March, ING Art Centre. Guided tours available