You Say You Want A Revolution?

The V&A’s look at “records and rebels” 1966-1970 is an amazing journey into the past for those of us whose world view was cultivated by and in that remarkable lustrum. It is also a surprisingly objective examination of the titanic events of those times – the Vietnam bloodbath, the Cold War, black power, feminism, gay rights, Mao’s cultural revolution – as well as the cultural impact on literature, fashion, design and, most of all, music. Little on show will be unfamiliar even to visitors with no direct experience of the era. Yet the way it is brought together proves the sum is greater than its parts by creating a wonderful impression of the hopelessly naive optimism of the time while also acknowledging its long-term and massive failures – war is still commonplace (and altogether more horrifying) and the Utopian dream of returning the planet to some kind of prelapsarian ideal are farther away than ever thanks to half a century of industrial pollution, much of it perpetrated by turncoat one-time hippies. The exhibition has rightly drawn large and enthusiastic crowds and I recommend it unhesitatingly. It’s by no means comprehensive – but it does make a significant contribution to our general comprehension of what has become a hugely mythologised period.

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