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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Revisiting the Global 1960s

Widely recognized not just as a decade but as a cluster of experiences that stretched over a period of time, the sixties as we now know it drew into its fold, radical politics, Black power, sexual liberation, youthful rebellion, feminism and more. Intellectual currents flowered all across the world alongside a powerful critique of cultural and political authority. The fourteen day strike by students and workers in Paris in the summer of 1968 acquired a mythical after life. The American war in Vietnam triggered a force field of protest and danger all over the world. The spirit of counterculture led to a critique of the family, the creation of alternative lifestyles and drug culture. Latin American experiences of revolutions, military terror and violence; colonialism, anti-colonialism and racial oppression in Africa; the resonance of the Cultural Revolution in China – these reverberated locally and globally. A series of political assassinations rocked the decade. All theories of civilization, race,history, politics, culture and identity were put to test.


It would not be incorrect to suggest that cultural creativity was never quite the same after the sixties. Music, fashion, design, art, architecture, cinema,theatre and performance bear the marks and the traces of this turbulent period of global upheaval. If Minimalism in art practice emerged as a challenge to Pop Art then Conceptual Art posed a critique of formalism. Modernism and the Avant-garde faced a crisis with the rise of Postmodernism while in India, the dominance of the Progressives began to be challenged by an alternative modernism that had a polemical take on indigenism; one aspect of this developed into neo-Tantric abstraction. This decade also saw the first explorations of kitsch and popular culture that later provided the point of rupture with modernism itself. Political theatre acquired a powerful force and Brecht emerged as a new icon for both the West and the post colonial world. Beatlemania and the events of Woodstock transformed the future of rock music as technology reinvented the aesthetics of performance and reception. All Institutions of art faced political criticism even as cinephilia energized a renewed global art cinema movement. Michelangelo Antonioni captured the world of swinging London in Blow-Up, Jean Luc Godard playfully moved the camera to mount his critique of Hollywood, and the release of the first James Bond film gave rise to a new territorial and technological imagination. Latin America gave birth to the Third Cinema Movement and a politically charged Aesthetics of Hunger while in India the New Wave presented a challenge to mainstream film forms and practices.

The 1960s remains an under studied area despite two wars, the crisis of Nehruvian nationalism and modernization programmes, the genocide and traumatic birth of a new nation (Bangladesh) and revolutionary upsurges.

----Adapted from the pamphlet of conference on Revisiting the Global 1960s and its Cultural After life;

Quotation : "The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn't the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility." — John Lennon

1 comment:

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