Cathy Akers, Photograph/Collage
“What I think has emerged here is a very valuable pilot study in the lifestyle of the future… What is really essential about the hippies is that they do constitute the first wave of the technologically unemployable” – Lou Gottlieb, founder of the Morningstar commune, from a 1968 interview with the CBC television program The Way It Is.
“Open Hearts, Open Land” Cathy Akers June 11th – July 9th 2011
For Los Angeles based artist Cathy Akers, the time is now to revisit and re-examine certain utopian ideals embraced by hippie commune dwellers living in 1960s Northern California through the creation of a site-specific installation encompassing sound, collage and photographic murals at EmmaGrayHQ. Akers focuses in on the unique historical moment that gave rise to so many countercultural cooperatives during the Vietnam era by reminding us how much these short-lived communities were able impact the mainstream by rejecting the status quo.
Akers’ interest focuses on the history of Morningstar Ranch and Wheelers Ranch, two short-lived Northern California communes that attracted visitors and residents from the broad spectrum of the countercultural movement, from winos and Hells Angels to yoga enthusiasts, teenage runaways and young hippie mothers. The governing rule for both sets of communards was that the land was open to everyone— with one of Morningstar’s operational tenets being the motto “Open Hearts, Open Land”. The communes ultimately exposed the best and worst of human nature, functioning as a kind of psychic release valve from the pressures building up in society during the tumultuous late ‘60s.
With hindsight being 20/20, the desire to replace mainstream society with a countercultural utopia did not last. If anything, the drive toward obsession with labor and consumer culture is more intense now than ever. Through “Open Hearts, Open Land”, Akers reminds us that the messiness and disorganization of life at Morningstar and Wheelers were also productive, with unplanned interactions yielding unexpected results.