Peter Bacon Hales

Chapter Fourteen--Counterlandscapes: Color Images, Added Illustrations, and Outtakes

Outside the Gates of Eden:  The Dream of America from Hiroshima to Now

alt. to 14.1. Brian LankerFurthur​the Kesey/Prankster bus

The culmination of the Pranksters' excursion was to be the "liberation" of the 1964 New York World's Fair-- an extrapolation of a number of Haight-Ashbury "actions" or "interventions" meant to reclaim or redefine public spaces, public events, and public rituals. As the movie reveals, the Prankster's were no match for the massive orchestrations of modernity massed behind the Fair, from Robert Moses, New York's master planner, to Victor Gruen, "father of the shopping mall.  The World's Fair saw the introduction of the Ford Mustang, and of Disney's mechanical puppetry, known as Animatronics, and the unfortunate release into the atmosphere of that most toxic of gases, It's A Small, Small World​. Everything about the Fair was at odds with the Prankster ethos-- planning over spontaneity, gigantism over intimacy. Michigan Governor George Romney toured with his family, including son Mitt Romney; Romney had previously been head of American Motors and was one of the most devoted advocates of the automotive industry, which dominated the Fair with everything from the Ford Mustang to the Uniroyal Ferris Wheel in the shape of a giant tire, to the GM Futurama ride that promised life on the moon and under the Antarctic and deep in the "kingdom of the sea," and a future America that "invites communal living in a world of awesome beauty." But this clash of cultures was perhaps the emblematic kickoff of the counterculture movement on a national scale. 

Michigan Governor George Romney and his son Mitt survey the World's Fair.

This "communal living in a world of awesome beauty" was already taking place, but it belonged not to the future or the futurama, but to a backward-looking, technophilic counterculture in spots like Libre and New Buffalo and Tolstoy Farm. 

​Amateur Charles Cushman was a more bemused chronicler of the Haight.  He had been photographing all over the world since the later '30s, and his pictures of the counterculture of Haight-Ashbury were among his last.  His archive is held by Indiana University, a trove that has yet to be appreciated or properly mined.

Cushman didn't just photographed the street life and its types.  He also had the sense to risk taking photographs of the artwork displayed in Ron Thulin's Psychedelic Shop, which closed soon after, overwhelmed by the influx of unruliness in the Summer of Love.

Cushman's sharp, ironic observations of the Haight were made at the site of the Diggers' Intersection Game, just a few months after it had managed to successfully liberate the Haight's streetscape, if only for a short while. 

Photographer Bill Owens is best known for a seminal  documentary photo-book, Suburbia.  But those pictures were made while he was employed as a photojournalist in the Bay area, and was living in Hayward.  He went to Altamont;  his photographs of the event include his typically sardonic point of view, and some of the most harrowing pictures of the Angels riot.

​After the Kent State inquiries and the publication of a blistering indictment of the university, the campus police, the National Guard and even the Governor, there was a brief period of reconciliation and remembrance;  during that time the architect Bruno Ast won a competition to produce a memorial at the site of the killings.  But the contrition was short-lived, and the project was shrunk beyond recognition.  Here is the lovely, meditative memorial he originally designed, in the maquette that was as close as it came to serving its function healing a riven community and nation.

In 1969, Life sent two young, hip staff members-- writer John Stickney and photographer John Olson-- to the Family of Mystic Arts Colony ​in Sunny Valley, an unincorporated hamlet in central Oregon.  To be allowed to photograph, the pair agreed not to reveal the name or location of the commune-- already, counterculture communes were deeply wary of the effect of publicity on the complex social and economic ecosystems they were seeking to enact-- and the cover feature emerged out of a period of some days of participant-observation. That didn't prevent the result from looking both patronizingly quaint and absurdly romantic, even sentimental; Life's editorial staff was far too entrenched in the late-stage visual and conceptual ethos of the magazine to venture outside its well-worn visual and journalistic platitudes. 

Roberta Price, Peter [Rabbit] and Nancy's zome​, Libre Commune, probably 1969 or 1970