At The NYPL Exhibit “You Say You Want A Revolution”

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The “Free Love” Section

Text and photos by Ernest Barteldes (except where noted)

“You Say You Want A Revolution” 

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building through Sept. 01, 2018 

Free 

 Although I did not live through the era, the 60s have always fascinated me: it was the time of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Summer of Love, Woodstock and many other transformative movements, going from the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation, the early days of the LGBTQ movement (which my late friend Jack Nichols was an integral part. 

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Patty Hearst 

The era, of course, had its dark side with the escalation of the war in Vietnam, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, President Kennedy and his brother Robert and the election of President Nixon, which would turn out to be one of the most polarizing presidential figures in recent history and of course the military coup that ousted a democratically elected president in Brazil and began a cruel military regime that would remain in power for twenty years. In music, a free concert in Altamont ended in tragedy when a man was murdered by a member of the Hell’s Angels, who were providing security at the event. 

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A Portrait of Bob Dylan, with original lyrics below it (E. Barteldes)

One of the most turbulent years of that decade was 1968, the year I came into this world. That was when student protests erupted around the globe that almost cancelled the Olympic Games in Mexico City and also, when Dr. King and Robert Kennedy, as mentioned before, met the end of their lives by an assassin’s bullet.  

To commemorate that year, the New York Public Library is holding a multimedia exhibit that highlights the many events of the decade (and also some of the consequences that spilled into the 70s) that looks into all its nuances – the music, the politics, the films and much more.  

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Walter Bredel, Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, Bethel, NY, 1969. NYPL, Music Division.

As you enter the Gottesman Exhibition Hall at the  Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, a sign warns that some of the material might “not be appropriate” for viewers. They’re not kidding. One of the first exhibits deals with the Summer of Love and its many branches – the Hippies that came together at San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury with a graphic photo of the members of the Cockettes – an underground theater group that often performed in the nude – with uncensored pictures to prove it.  

You Say You Want a Revolution

Exhinit (photo by NYPL)

Further down are examples of the several underground anti-government groups that formed during the era, including a detailed record of the abduction and conversion of heiress Patty Hearst to a participant of the Symbionese Liberation Army (recently made into a documentary film on CNN). On two screens there are looping videos of the 1969 Woodstock Concert (again uncensored) and moments from the musicals Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar.  

Each section is divided by names of popular songs from the era – the name of the exhibit itself is taken from The Beatles’ Revolution (single from 1968), and other tunes include Stephen Stills’ “Love The One You’re With,” Bob Dylan’s “The Times Are A-Changing” and others. In two listening booths decorated with album covers you can listen to tunes from the era divided into the categories of love, political change and sexual liberation.  

I visited the exhibit accompanied by four students from one of my classes at the college where I teach English as a second language, and it was interesting to see the reactions on the faces of these twenty-somethings that had little or no idea about those times. One student was shocked by a random picture taken at Woodstock of a young lady dancing completely in the nude (I think the title was “Nude Girl at Concert”), while others seemed surprised at how things were different five decades ago.  

We later sat at the café inside the library and chatted about it. Many expressed surprise at what they saw and heard, and the conversation then went into a different era – the mid-80s and 90s, when AIDS brought a counter-revolution of sorts as a more conservative attitude about general behavior seemed to take hold even as many today enjoy the benefits brought on by the changes the came during the 60s.  

But that’s another story.  

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Photo Exhibit: The Ugly Face of Institutionalized Homophobia

Photo Exhibit

“The Condemned: In My Country, My Sexuality

Is a Crime”

Espaço Cultural Correios Fortaleza

Rua Senador Alencar, 38

Fortaleza, Brazil

From May 15 to July 16

Free Admittance

By Ernest Barteldes

With all the advances we have seen in western countries towards gender equality, we might forget that not many LGBT people around the world have enjoyed the same conquests. As attitudes quickly change around us, we must not forget that thousands are still suffering just because they were not born within the expectations of their societies.

In a quiet room inside Fortaleza’s main post office there are pictures of men with their faces covered by their hands, masks or other objects. They cannot show their faces because they are all homosexuals living in countries where being gay is not just something that might be looked down upon – if discovered, they might face not only shame, imprisonment or fines – laws in the books allow them to be killed because of their sexual orientation.

Renata and I stumbled into the show while walking through Fortaleza’s city center – we had been shopping for a few things only found in that area, and then we went in to buy a few stamps. As we were about to leave, we noticed the show and decided to take a look. What we saw was heartbreaking:  along with the pictures were personal statements in Portuguese and English from each individual and the letter of the law for each country – including most of the Middle East and Africa. Surprisingly, there were also pictures of folks from Caribbean nations like the Bahamas and Jamaica, which still have homophobic laws in the books to this day.

The exhibit was curated by French-born Phillipe Castetbon, who published a book on the topic in France in 2010. Using the Internet, he reached out to these people online and asked them to participate in this project, which sought to “create awareness of the horrible threats that many of these gay men and women face through the pictures, from personal statements and by the laws that are still in effect in these countries” according to the brochure handed out at the show

It was heartbreaking to read what these human beings have to go through – to live in hiding and in fear or be forced to leave their own countries because of the imminent danger to their lives. The program for this show also includes a series of panel discussions and lectures to broaden the idea that yes, homophobia is a terrible thing, and it is worse when it had been institutionalized.