Samos YoungArtists Festival

Art Space Pythagorion Summer Exhibition

Summer of Love

 Opening: 3 August 2017

 

The Schwarz Foundation is pleased to announce its exhibition for summer 2017, entitled Summer of Love, curated by Katerina Gregos. The exhibition borrows its title from the sociocultural phenomenon that took place fifty years ago in the summer of 1967.1 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’.2

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’.3 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 freedomcommunes, 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, cut-throat 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. It is a mystery why, since love is one of the most potent – and complex - forces of human life. 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.4 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’. Criticizing the idea of love as a ‘merging into one’, Hardt advocates love ‘as a proliferation of differences, not the destruction of differences. Not merging into unity, but a constructing of constellations among differences, among social differences.’5 As he wrote together with Antonio Negri, in the seminal book Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire “People today seem unable to understand love as a political concept, but a concept of love is just what we need to grasp the constituent power of the multitude. The modern concept of love is almost exclusively limited to the bourgeois couple and the claustrophobic confines of the nuclear family. Love has become a strictly private affair. We need a more generous and more unrestrained conception of love.”6 Following on these thoughts, one could argue that there is a lot of love missing from the practice of politics today, in which politics is manifest as the technocratic, administrative bureaucracy furthering the neo-liberal agenda. One could conceive of politics differently if one imagined love as a more generous and positive political concept, as Hardt does.

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 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? 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.

The exhibition will feature the international premiere of the tetralogy of videos made by Greek artist Nicolas Kozakis together with the philosopher Raoul Vaneigem, who look at Greece to re-consider contemporary Western values. Vaneigem’s transformative ideas from 1967 resonate in the current political climate, while Kozakis’ images ask us to consider a different way of living, inspired by a particular kind of ‘practice of everyday life’ in Greece that perhaps still has something to teach us in relation to our increasingly current frenetic modi operandi. The exhibition will also feature award-winning filmmaker Johan Grimponprez’ video Everyday Words Disappear (2016), an interview with Michael Hardt with found footage from Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville (1965), in which a computer system has taken control of the city and outlawed concepts like love, poetry and emotion. In addition, artists Mikhail Karikis, Mäetamm, Marge Monko and Uriel Orlow, among others, will create new works that reflect on the quinquagenary of 1967, and the notions of love and politics in an area of the world (Greece, South-Eastern Europe and the Middle East) which is experiencing economic, social, and humanitarian meltdown, and where a political concept of love is urgent.  Finally, a Greek island7 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.

 

Notes

 

1. During the ‘Summer of Love’ 100,000 hippies and young people converged on the streets of San Francisco, in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood. What united them was a set of anti-authoritarian values: they were suspicious of government, rejected consumerism and opposed the Vietnam War. Some were interested in politics, others in art and alternative lifestyles. The ‘Summer of Love’ ushered in a wave of liberations and awakenings that changed the way of life.

 

2.  Musically, 1967 was very fruitful seeing the release of albums such as The Velvet Underground’s ground-breaking first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut album, Are You Experienced while the Beatles release Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was number one on the albums charts throughout the summer.

 

3. Raoul Vaneigem, quoted in The Revolution of Everyday Life, 1967; Chapter 23, “The Unitary Triad: Self-Realisation, Communication and Participation”

http://library.nothingness.org/articles/SI/en/display_printable/212

 

4. Leonard Schwartz, “A Conversation with Michael Hardt on the Politics of Love”,

Interval(le)s II.2-III.1 (Fall 2008/Winter 2009).

 

5. Ibid

 

6. Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, Penguin Books, New York/London, 2004. p.351.

 

7. Incidentally, Greece and the Greek islands were a favourite European travel destination for hippies in the 1960s.  Today, on the island of Samos one can still visit Hippy’s beach bar, restaurant and café, situated in Potami beach where, since the 1960s, locals and campers enjoyed the Greek lifestyle.