The Schwarz Foundation is pleased to announce its exhibition for summer 2017, entitled Summer of Love. The exhibition borrows its title from the sociocultural phenomenon that took place fifty years ago in the summer of 1967. While in Europe 1968 might have more of a legendary status due to the student uprisings in Paris and the Prague ‘Spring’, 1967 was in many ways a more seminal year in terms of geopolitical, cultural and intellectual developments. It was the year of the Six-Day War, which irrevocably changed the landscape in the Middle East; the effects of this are still being felt today. In Greece it was the year that marked the beginning of the seven-year military dictatorship. Ironically, it was also the year that the UK applied for EEC membership. In the US, 1967 also saw the first major political protests by young people against the war in Vietnam. At the same time the outburst of new popular and subcultural music was also one of the defining features of the ‘Summer of Love’.
It was also a year of significant intellectual production. Critical theorist Guy Debord published his Society of the Spectacle, while the Belgian philosopher and key Situationist International member Raoul Vaneigem published The Revolution of Everyday Life. While Debord’s Society of the Spectacle was concerned with how the mechanisms of capital and consumption generate alienation, Vaneigem’s book proposed the possibility of revolutionary changes in everyday life. He imagined a new society that ‘promotes the participation of everyone in the self-realization of everyone else’, based on ‘[c]reativity, love and play’. In today’s regressive climate of fear and xenophobia, Vaneigem’s thesis seems ever more pertinent.
Summer of Love aims to reflect on this seminal year on its fiftieth anniversary, drawing attention to an era when both the concept of politics and love possessed a real sense of urgency. The ‘Summer of Love’ was one of the many expressions of the counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s. It was an era of civil disobedience, of anti-authoritarianism, of political protest and ‘flower power’. Political activism translated into socio-cultural activism, alternative lifestyles (sexual freedom communes, shared property). Most young people at the time grew up in modest post-war circumstances and didn’t care much about money, property or financial success. Young people were politicized. There was hope for a new and different world, filled with love and mutual understanding, which in retrospect might appear idealistic and naïve. Yet there is perhaps something to be learned if we reflect on this period and compare it to the staunchly individualistic, competitive era of today. It is no coincidence that most people who have memories of this era mostly prefer the naïve idealism of then in comparison to the heartless cynicism of today.
The exhibition Summer of Love will reflect on the unlikely liaison of love and politics, connecting the summer of 1967 to the world in 2017, where the idea of love – at least in intellectual but also political circles – is dismissed as naïve and sentimental. Perhaps the most interesting recent ideas advocating a different understanding of love come from literary theorist and political philosopher Michael Hardt (b. 1960) who advocates a political idea of love. Hardt argues that love has to be expanded beyond the limits of the couple (and the psychoanalytic limits of coupling) as a force that also contributes to the constitution of community. He credits love for the ‘collective transformation’ that one experiences in certain kinds of political action. Hardt advocates a form of love that does not originate in a love based on identification with someone or something that is the same as you/us, but a love ‘that functions through the play of differences, rather than the insistence on the same’.
The exhibition Summer of Love will draw on these ideas and weave a web of cultural and historic reference points in order to link the ideas of fifty years ago to the present European crisis point, and perhaps inspire us to imagine a way out of the current political impasse. It will also reflect on the legacy of the Summer of Love in terms of sexual politics, a legacy whose benefits we are reaping today. It is an opportune moment to do this. Fifty years have gone by; the postwar baby boomers are ageing and dying, and their youthful ideals have largely died out. We might ask: what went wrong, when and why? What lessons can we learn from that time? Should we rethink these ideals? Can we learn from the experiences and disappointments of the generation of 1967? In a world that rapidly seems regressing, it is time for checks and balances in order to learn from history and to avoid making the same mistakes again. But it is also an opportune moment to re-visit the sense of communality, openness and freedom that the Summer of Love engendered. Finally, a Greek island in the summer – in this case, Samos – is an ideal setting to talk about both those issues. Against the backdrop of an economic meltdown and an ongoing crisis, what seem to be keeping things together are strongly forged social relations in a society that still hasn’t been totally atomized.
The exhibition features work newly commissioned as well as existing work by nine artists and one collective: MELANIE BONAJO (NL, 1978) / JOHAN GRIMONPREZ (BE, 1962) / INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL HISTORY (Est. 1935, NL) / TOMOMI ITAKURA (US, 1976) / MIKHAIL KARIKIS (GR/UK 1976) / NICOLAS KOZAKIS & RAOUL VANEIGEM (BE/GR, 1967 & BE, 1934) / MARKO MÄETAMM (EE, 1965) / MARGE MONKO (ΕE, 1976) / URIEL ORLOW (CH, 1976)
More information: http://www.schwarzfoundation.com/en/art-space-pythagorion/2016/summer-of-love.html