The V&A’s blockbuster exhibition You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 is now open to the public, and should be at the top of everyone’s must see list this season. Taking visitors on a psychedelic trip through the era defining years of 1966-1970, this exhibition is a multi-sensory feast for the eyes and ears. Exploring the significance and impact of the epoch upon our life today the exhibition successfully engages everyone, from those who were there at the time to those who were born this side of the millennium.
Its aim is to investigate the upheaval, the explosive sense of freedom, and the legal changes that took place resulting in a fundamental shift in the mind-set of the Western world. As you enter the exhibition you are given your Sennheiser (one of the lead partners of the exhibition, alongside Levi) headset, which using innovative audio guide technology adapts the sound depending on your position within the gallery. Setting the scene for a wonderfully immersive experience this type of technology juxtaposes the retro memorabilia found within.
Video and moving image are an integral part of the exhibition, including interviews with key figures from the period such as Yoko Ono and model of the moment Twiggy. Psychedelic light shows and seminal films are also used to create a fully immersive and all-encapsulating audio-visual experience. Along with over 350 objects encompassing photography, posters, literature, music, design, film, fashion, artefacts, and performance, these elements come together to define the counterculture that existed and to illustrate the way a whole generation shook off the confines of the past and their parents, radically revolutionising the way they lived their lives.
Martin Roth, Director of the V&A, says, “This ambitious framing of the late 1960s counterculture shows the incredible importance of that revolutionary period to our lives today. This seminal exhibitions sheds new light on the wide-reaching social, cultural and intellectual changes of the late 1960s which followed the austerity of the post-war years, not just in the UK but throughout the Western world. Our collections at the V&A, unrivalled in their scope and diversity, make us uniquely places to present this exhibition.”
A very broad exhibit, there is so much to see and experience it is almost impossible to single out any favourites or highlights, almost. There are the shards from Jimi Hendrix’s guitar, the suits worn by John Lennon and George Harrison on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and handwritten lyrics for Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by the Beatles, an Ossie Clark costume for Mick Jagger, a very rare Apple 1 computer and a moon rock on loan from NASA, these are just a few of the fantastic objects to be enjoyed.
Pieces have been drawn from the breadth of the V&A’s varied collections, alongside important loans to highlight connections between people, places, music and movements across the UK, Europe and the USA. Carnaby Street in London, clubs and counterculture, the Paris protests of May 1968 , the Woodstock Festival of 1969 and alternative communities on the West Coast of America; these are just some of the particular events and environments that the exhibition particularly focuses upon.
Amongst the political uprisings and era-defining music and fashion the exhibition also showcases some of the stand-out design pieces of the time. Just like the cultural shift, the design industry was also experiencing a seismic movement, in style as well as in production methods and accessibility. From the iconic prints of Christine Keeler astride the Arne Jacobsen replica chair, to the Globe Chair by Eero Aarnio and Up 3 Chair by Gaetano Pesce, the exhibition showcases these stand out moments in design and the iconic pieces that marked the era. The burgeoning space exploration was a key influence in the emergence of new materials and new designs that helped move everything into a more contemporary light, from chairs to knee-high boots.
There is a section of the exhibition dedicated to the ‘60s movement of consumerism and the exploding advertising industry. The first credit card was launched in the UK in 1966 which catapulted the new found personal wealth of the masses. This area is constructed almost like a hall of mirrors, with the mirrored walls serving as a dizzying metaphor for the all-encompassing advertising and consumerism nature of the modern world.
This fantastic new exhibition from the V&A stands as a staunch reminder of not only where the world has come from but where it is heading. Ideological connections are made to the world of today, from the election battle to appoint the new president of the most powerful nation on earth to the rights of individuals everywhere to make a difference. You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1980 is curated by Geoffrey Marsh, Director of the V&A’s Department of Theatre and Performance and Victoria Broackes, a curator in the Department of Theatre and Performance and Head of Performance Exhibitions.
The V&A are running alongside this exhibition a programme of complementing events, including Revolutions Weekender: A Festival of Peace, Love and Music, Friday 4- Sunday 6 November, 11.00-16.30. This is set to include a weekend of events and activities inspired by the Swinging Sixties including live music, DJs, special talks, tours and film screenings. There will be a special performance by a group of students participating in the Levi’s Music Project, which has been launched in partnership with the artist Skepta, who will attend. Other highlights include a Revolutionary Reading Room, a performance by Baldynoggin Productions and Synergy Theatre Project.
You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1980 is now open to the public and will run until 26 February 2017 , for tickets and more information head to the V&A website.