Wolfson Research Fellow, Dr James Riley, will address the next meeting of the Countercultural Studies Group on Friday 11 November at 4.00pm in the Gatsby Room (Chancellor's Centre). He will consider "The Bad Trip: Neo-Psychedelic Art and the 'End of the Sixties'". All welcome!
Abstract: In 2003 Loog Records released Panic Movement by the American rock band, The Hiss. The title was a reference to Mouvement panique, a performance collective active between 1962-1973 that involved the artists Fernando Arrabal, Alexandro Jodowrowsky and Roland Topor. Mouvement panique devised confrontational 'happenings' designed to affront the petit bourgeoisie sensibilities of Surrealist art. The group performed throughout the sixties before developing their ideas into other media, notably Jodowrowsky's films El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973). Whilst the conventional, college rock of The Hiss failed to conjure the creative chaos of panique, the album's cover art with its swirling collage of snakes, bikers, skulls and military insignia offered an accurate visual evocation of the group's performances.
Examination of the promotional artwork produced by associated post-millennial 'Neo-Psychedelic' bands reveals the use of comparable themes and imagery. Steve Quenell's cover for Heavy Deavy Skull Lover (2007) by The Warlocks and Rob Fitzpatrick's 'Space Skull' posters made for The Black Angels create a visual language of death, transformation and (oc)cult activity. Complimenting the musical pastiche executed by the bands themselves, these motifs accumulate reference points associated with the 'End of the Sixties', the micro-narrative of apocalypse and violence that permeates the representation and reception of certain late-sixties cultural events and artifacts, such as Jodorowsky's nihilistic 'acid westerns' and the enduring connection between 'Gimme Shelter' and Atlamont, 'Helter Skelter' and the Manson murders.
Through a close analysis of the distinctive visuals that characterise 'Neo-Psychedelia' as a sub-genre of contemporary rock 'n' roll, this paper seeks to map and interrogate the 21st century appropriation of iconic subcultural signifiers. If we are to see the sixties as a deeply resonant 'long decade', this paper considers some of the strategies motivating, and the implications emerging from, its persistent extension.