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I have chosen to base my personal study on psychedelic art and music during the 60s and 70s because I am extremely passionate about the art that came out of this time period, in the form of audio and visual work. I have grown up with a wide variety of music of all different genres being played 24/7, as both my mum and dad are very passionate about music and the art of live performance. I have attended Glastonbury Festival every year since I was born (minus the gap years) and have witnessed such a huge variety of legends perform in front of me, including Amy Winehouse, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and many more.
My mum was very into reggae in her late teens and early 20s, and spent a lot of her time going to see live performances with friends. My dad has always had such an eclectic taste in music, not writing of any genre as bad and being very open minded. With this upbringing and constantly attending festivals and concerts, I think I have developed a very interesting and unique taste in music of my own, and my family and I are constantly showing each other new bands and visiting concerts every week. Choosing this topic has allowed me to discover so much more about the art and music that I love, and gain even more appreciation for it, if that’s possible.Early Influences of Psychedelia Looking through psychedelic art, you can see huge influences from earlier 20th century European art movements such as Art Nouveau and Surrealism. Many of the psychedelic artists were educated in art history, so therefore it makes sense that they would draw inspiration from the greats to create their work. If you break down Psychedelic Art, you have: fantastic subject matter, kaleidoscope and spiral patterns, bright colours, extreme detail and hippie typography.
All of these elements can be found in Art Nouveau and Surrealism. Although psychedelia is very much a movement of its own in the sense that all the art work was very unique and different from what we have seen before, there are direct influences from older movements. Art Nouveau typically features flowers and natural images and a stylised and detailed drawing of a women. You can find exactly this is hundreds of 1960-70s posters, but with a twist. The psychedelic posters tended to include very garish and contrasting colours, and have more of a trippy feel, including hippie typography. Above ^ Direct comparisions of psychdelic art influences from art Nouveau.Surrealism also majorly affected the flower power and hippie movement. Many psychedelic artists drew their art based on psychedlic drugs or experiences that they’d had. Doing these mind altering substances allowed them to see things that they wouldn’t normally be able to experience, therefore creating really interesting and trippy work. Looking at Salvador Dali’s work, you may presume that he took drugs too, as his work was so strange and halloucogenic. However, Dali denied all drug use, saying ‘I don’t do drugs. I am drugs’. Despite this, he did use a few tricks to enter a different reality temporaily.
For example, Dali would sit in a chair holding a spoon above a plate until he fell asleep, and the spoon would fall onto the plate creating a sudden noise just as he’d dosed off, creating this almost lucid affect. He would then jot down the things he saw and create art from them. He would even stand on his head until he almost passed out, allowing his brain to alter the things in front of him. There is a theory that humans only use 10% of their brains during their everyday lives. The whole concept of psychedelia is to expand this brain usage and to be able to see what others can’t, whether this means taking halloucigenic drugs or standing on your head until you enter a semi-lucid state. Dali had such a huge influence on the psychedlic art movement because of his use of vivid surrealism. In July 1968, The Beatles released an animated video for ‘Yellow Submarine.’ This included very psychedlic visuals, with a few scenes featuring a melting clock, directly inspired by Dali himself. 1955 marked the beginning of the Vietnam War, and the beginning of the hippie movement shortly after. So many people opposed the use of nuclear weapons and violence, and they came together to protest about it. This group of people had very similar ideals, and as the movement grew larger, they gained a stereotype.
The official definition of a hippie is ‘A person of unconventional appearance, typically having long hair and wearing beads, associated with a subculture involving rejection of conventional values and the taking of hallucinogenic drugs.’ Although you can’t sum up a whole group of people with one sentence, this was a pretty accurate description. Hippies fought for equality, whether this was in the form anti-racism, anti-homophopia or anti-war.Because footage of the Vietnam War was shown on TV, people were witnessing the awful things that were happening and couldn’t comprehend why this was the answer that the country had come to to solve it’s problems. There are many reasons hippies were resistant to the Vietnam War, with one being that it was immoral like many other wars. The big question on everyone’s mind was “Why did the U.S. intervene?” Yes the North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the two U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin, but it seemed like the U.S. had gotten its revenge after bombing them back. So why would President Johnson order regular bombings of North Vietnam? It seemed to many that the U.S. had ulterior motives. Did they really want to help or was it simply to gain power? The U.S. stated the domino theory as well as the threat of communism as reasons to involve itself in a dispute that many thought should have been resolved between the people of vietnam. In addition to the question of “why get involved?” was the fact that many civilians were getting killed. Obviously hippies were for peace so innocent people and even those not innocent losing their lives was reason enough to protest.
Another reason hippies were protesting the war was because of the draft. The draft was a problem for hippies because they felt that it was specifically targeted to those in the lower and middle classes making it unfair to the average person. As more and more troops were being sent to Vietnam only to be wounded or killed, more and more people were joining the movement against the war. Some veterans even participated, and went as far as throwing away any medals they had won during their time fighting at war. An end to this war was nowhere in sight but neither were the protests.The popularisation of psychedelicsIn 1962, the Thalidomide epidemic caused the FDA to tighten up it’s IND regulations and many states outlawed LSD. These new laws actually icreased he amount of LSD avaliable on the black market and made it more readily avaliable. Timothy Leary, an advocate of drug research and use had made LSD famous for it’s spiritual benefits. He popularized catchphrases that promoted his philosophy, such as “turn on, tune in, drop out”, “set and setting”, and “think for yourself and question authority”. He also wrote and spoke frequently about transhumanist concepts involving space migration, intelligence increase, and life extension. Many hippies believed that the government were controlling, and churning out a closed minded society that they wouldn’t be able to break out of. They belived that doing these psychedelics expanded their minds and allowed them to be more creative, and in many ways it did. During the 60’s, Oscar Janiger, an experimental psychiatrist, conducted an experiment where he took a tab of LSD, and tried to recreate the same portrait at certain intervals during his trip. The results were insane, and 2 hours and 45 minutes into the trip the drawing became un-recogniseable.
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