Talk: Peace and War: Assessing the Legacies of Sixties Activism Today

March 5, 2013
4:00 pm

Library, W.E.B. Du Bois

Room: 2601

UMass Amherst Campus

Handicap access available
Free admission
Contact:
Rob Cox
413-545-6842

Author Tom Fels and media artist Mark Tribe will give a talk at the eighth annual Social Change Colloquium.

Longtime independent writer and researcher Tom Fels’ new book Buying the Farm: Peace and War on a Sixties Commune (UMass Press, 2012) explores the long history of Montague Farm, north of Amherst, one of the era’s iconic experiments in social change.  Before drawing his own conclusions about it in the book, he recounts the farm’s many early contributions to the counterculture, and later the farm’s devolution at the hands of competing farm-family factions, inviting us to question the balance between idealism and effectiveness.  “For today’s young,” says Tom Hayden, author of The Long Sixties, “the economic future is far more bleak and global warming an unprecedented threat. Out of necessity, many will be searching for meaningful forms of communal self-sufficiency, healthful food, and renewable energy. Tom Fels’ captivating and profound reflection on one earlier commune, Montague Farm, founded in the 1960s, offers hard-learned reflections, some practical, some eternal, from a time when communes were the chosen path of many.”  In the first hour of the colloquium Fels will read from Buying the Farm.  There will be a question and answer period following the reading.

Mark Tribe is part of the next generation to be inspired by sixties activism.  His Port Huron Project (2006-2009) is a series of reenactments of protest speeches from the New Left movements of the Vietnam era.  Enacted at the site of the original event, each speech was delivered by an actor or performance artist.  Videos of these performances have been screened on campuses, exhibited in art spaces, and distributed online as open-source media.  As Julia Bryan-Wilson wrote in Artforum, in January 2008, “More than just recovering the past, these re-speaking projects use archival speeches to ask questions about the current place of stridency and forceful dissent, and the possibilities of effective, galvanizing political discourse.”  In bringing the words of Cesar Chavez, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, and others to the public through contemporary media, Tribe, in this portion of his work, creatively recycles earlier activism to relate it to issues of today.  In the second hour of the colloquium, Tribe will show and discuss some of his work.

Tom Fels was for 25 years an independent curator and writer. Some of his many exhibitions have appeared at the J. Paul Getty Museum in California and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.  He is the author of numerous articles and several books.  In 2008, his lengthy research on the 1960s, and his years at the Montague Farm commune north of Amherst resulted in Farm Friends: From the Late Sixties to the West Seventies and Beyond, and in 2012 in his new book Buying the Farm: Peace and War on a Sixties Commune.  He lives in Vermont.

Fels is interested in the long-term trajectory of the idealism of the 1960s – can the benefits of altruistic enthusiasm be preserved and extended to be of ongoing use? Can the ideals and commitment evident in the early years of the Post-World War II generation be re-aroused to counteract the strong conservative reaction to those times? Such are the thoughts raised by his Buying the Farm, recently published by the University of Massachusetts Press.  Fels is also, with archivist Rob Cox, co-founder of the Famous Long Ago Archive at the Du Bois Library: http://bit.ly/famouslongago.

Mark Tribe is an artist whose work explores the intersection of media technology and politics. His photographs, installations, videos, and performances are exhibited widely, including recent solo projects at Momenta Art in New York, the San Diego Museum of Art, G-MK in Zagreb, and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. Tribe is the author of two books, The Port Huron Project: Reenactments of New Left Protest Speeches (Charta, 2010) and New Media Art (Taschen, 2006), and numerous articles. He teaches courses on radical media, the art of curating, open-source culture, digital art, and techniques of surveillance, at Brown University, where he is an Assistant Professor of Modern Culture and Media Studies. He also teaches in the Art Practice MFA program at School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 1996, Tribe founded Rhizome, an organization that supports the creation, presentation, preservation, and critique of emerging artistic practices that engage technology.  He lives in New York City.

The colloquium is sponsored by the UMass Amherst Libraries Department of Special Collections and University Archives, the University of Massachusetts Press, and the Famous Long Ago Archive. UMass Press books relevant to the history of the 1960s will be on display and available for sale.

For more information on Tom Fels, visit http://www.famouslongago.org/.   For more information on Mark Tribe, visit: http://www.marktribe.net/bio-cv/.