We will be taking the Farm to Pittsburgh this week! Anna and Robbie are traveling to discuss the Farm at a conference on histories of display at the Carnegie Museum of Art, adding California, counterculture, and the 1960s to the mix.
Learning by Doing featured in the Daily Pilot.
Learning by Doing in the news
Learning by Doing at the Farm got a visit from LA Magazine reporter Marielle Wakim last week. Check out her write-up of the exhibition here!
Thanks to all who joined us for the opening of Learning by Doing at the Farm! We had a great crowd and heard fascinating commentary by UCI professors Julia Elyachar and Catherine Liu, who connected the story of the Farm to broader contexts of Cold War and counterculture and learning through apprenticeship in the face of current economic problems. If you missed the opening, please come visit us Tuesdays and Thursdays through July 20th!
Just one week remaining until our opening on June 7th. Please join us for commentary by Julia Elyachar and Catherine Liu, a viewing of the exhibition, and refreshments! The night will begin in the courtyard of the Contemporary Arts Center.
What we’ve been reading
Our research on the Farm has led us to a lot of great sources on California modernism, counterculture, and the history of the social sciences. Here are a few titles for further reading, many of which would go well with a day at the beach!
Joan Didion: Where I Was From and Slouching Toward Bethlehem
Didion’s two volumes offer insightful narrations of California history, providing a rich understanding of the settlement of California, the countercultural movement, speculative real estate development, and a host of other moments in the state’s cultural history. Where I Was From speaks to the development of Orange County and related Cold War speculation in addition to Didion’s reflections on her own family’s history as Californians, while Slouching Toward Bethlehem offers one of the most incisive accounts of counterculture and the 1960s in California available. Didion mixes a blunt relation of the facts with a personal touch and masterful writing that make these histories allegories, and delightful reading.
Tom Wolfe: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
Wolfe’s book details the psychedelic, cross-country, acid-fueled bus trip of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters in 1964. Through their trip on their Day-Glo bus “Further” and other projects in communal and alternative living, the group spread awareness and promoted the use of LSD, and were also central to the elaboration of a uniquely “Californian” brand of counterculture. Kesey’s story, from writing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and maintaining friendships with Kerouac and the usual Beat characters to ushering in the age of the psychedelic through acid-inspired performances, witnesses a key transition in artistic and alternative culture in the mid-1960s. As usual, Wolfe’s account of his time following the Pranksters is a great read.
Fred Turner: From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
Turner’s account of Stewart Brand’s peculiar Californian entrepreneurial form of countercultural production gives greater dimension to histories of countercultures and leftist politics. Brand’s survivalist communalism was oriented around questions of liberty(or perhaps libertarianism) and lifestyle. His Whole Earth Catalog of 1968 addressed a communalist audience, offering “access to tools” through a hodgepodge of instructional books, outdoor gear, and gadgets. While Brand boasts classic countercultural credentials(hanging out with Kesey and the gang, taking LSD, etc.), Turner argues that his notion of the “whole earth” or whole systems and his interest in interdisciplinary collaboration actually shares a kinship with the models,methods, and values of the Cold War academy and military industrial complex. Turner’s argument is provocative and compelling and particularly useful in considering the proximity of technocracy and counterculture at the Farm, along both spatial and methodological terms. Thinking about the commune at the Farm and the University as utopian projects taking advantage of new organizational models and methods allows for some productive unpacking of romantic notions of the counterculture as well as making room for the acknowledgement of the frightening ingenuity of technocracy.
Nicholas Schou: Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World
Stories of California’s 60s counterculture typically emanate from Northern California, however as Schou’s true life account reveals that SoCal played host to its own sprawling and peculiar form of countercultural energies. The Brotherhood of Eternal Love started as a band of unaffiliated petty criminals and burnout surfers. These OC misfits discovered the transformative and at times reforming power of LSD and formed the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood settled in Laguna Beach and Modjeska Canyon, taking advantage of the woods, mountains, and beaches for their weekly communal spiritual explorations. From these divine and ecclesiastical beginnings, the Brotherhood would go on to become a massive drug smuggling operation. Schou’s book offers an entertaining and insightful window into SoCal peculiar countercultural configuration. It is really fascinating to read about this band of hippies fending off the police through ritual incantation in the middle of Laguna Beach or to hear about LSD booster Timothy Leary addressing the student body at UCI or the countless hash-stuffed surfboards making their way onto the South Coast, as these scenes seem, in some ways, so distant from the current OC scene. I wonder if any of the communalists from the Farm made their way to spend time with the Brotherhood!
Evon Zartman Vogt: Fieldwork Among the Maya: Reflections on the Harvard Chiapas Project
Vogt’s book details the history of the Harvard Chiapas Project, a thirty-five year experiment in ethnographic training and research. Beginning in 1957, Harvard faculty and students created a center for anthropological fieldwork in the highlands of Chiapas, and attempted to use group fieldwork as a means of comprehensively documenting the culture and history of the Tzotzil Maya. While the Project preceded and survived the experiment at the Farm, this has been an interesting point of comparison for the activities that took place there.
Jean Lave: Apprenticeship in Critical Ethnographic Practice
We’ve already mentioned Lave’s book here on the blog, but her volume is really worth reading both for its reflections on the early years of UCI and for Lave’s sensitive account of her own transformation from a social scientist attempting to use mathematics to achieve universal models of human behavior into an anthropologist highly attuned to history and practice. She does so through an account of her study of the knowledge and skills of tailors in Liberia, an early project of Lave’s that she now considers central to the redefinition of her own approach to ethnography. Her book offers an intimate narration of how ethnographic materials and unexpected collaborations can meaningfully change theoretical perspectives.
Our work on this exhibition has been about piecing together the story of the Farm – from documents, to photographs, to interviews with people who worked or lived there. One of our more exciting discoveries was that one of the art students pictured at the Farm is still a working potter. We found Bruce Green through his Etsy store. He
learned pottery at UCI and in collaboration with Alfredo Tzum, a Yucatec potter who visited the Farm, and appears in many of the photographs we have found in UCI Special Collections and Archives.
Bruce has since connected us with some of his friends from the commune at the Farm, a group of students and non-students who found it a liberating site for living and learning. The commune was home to nineteen people, a group that has stayed in touch over the decades since they lived there. We recently spoke with Bruce’s friend Cindy, who lived in a chicken coop on the Farm and went on a month-long trip to the Guatemalan village that was home to many of the visitors to the Farm. She shared a number of fond memories of her time at the Farm, as students built their own homes out of farm structures and found materials, collaborated with faculty and visiting experts, explored a then-rural Orange County, and engaged with student and anti-war movements of the time. Both Cindy and Bruce told us how their time at the Farm continues to frame their beliefs.
These conversations have greatly enriched our understanding of the Farm and yielded exiting new materials for our exhibition. Bruce passed along a newspaper article written about the commune and its residents at the time (pictured here). And Cindy has recently found examples of Guatemalan weaving she collected during her time abroad and a journal reflects on life at the Farm. We are so excited to have spoken with Bruce and Cindy and to include these and other materials in Learning by Doing at the Farm.
So what was happening in California in the 1960s? Take an early look at our exhibition timeline to learn more about the development of UCI and the Farm, as well as important moments in 1960s cultural and political history.
Robbie and I are very excited to announce that LA based maker and doer Adi Goodrich will be lending her creative energies to Learning by Doing at the Farm. Adi and I have known one another for years. We worked together back in Chicago at a remarkable bakery, remarkable for both its baguettes and the amazing folks who all somehow ended up working there. Adi and I we were both working our way through our studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Adi was doing incredible work in drawing and fibers while I pursued art history, theory and criticism. Adi went to Paris for a spell, while I relocated to Texas. A few years back, it just so happened both of us found ourselves living in Southern California. Adi has been incredibly active since moving out to LA. From her work as the art director for the Sirocco Research Lab, a Portland and LA based film collective, to her enchanting house portraits, Adi’s work combines attentiveness to the effervescent details of everyday experience and a commitment to collaboration and craft in all of their myriad forms. I had a chance to work with Adi and one her collaborators, Jimmy Marble, on a project just last month. I was gratified to get a look at their creative process and to be a part of such a fantastic undertaking. I chatted with Adi about Learning by Doing as Robbie and I worked on our grant application back in December. When we learned we were funded and sat down to think about how to bring in modalities other than the archival basis of the show, Adi’s work and approach immediately came to mind. All three of us sat down this past weekend and, needless to say, we can’t wait to see what Adi will create!
Anna and I have just returned from a road trip to northern California, where we got to talk to two former UCI Social Sciences faculty members, Professors Jim March and Jean Lave. The stories they shared with us were certainly worth the drive!
Professor March (Stanford), pictured here teaching a class with the aid of Samoan visitors, was the first dean of the UCI Social Sciences. A prominent theorist of organizations, he came to help found the the School of Social Sciences after teaching at the interdisciplinary Carnegie School. As we will explore in the exhibition, the Social Sciences were themselves an experiment in organizational design. March offered reflections on the excitement and surprises of starting a School without departments at a brand new university. He also shared fond memories of the experiments that took place on the Farm, especially of the countercultural commune that students built there which will be discussed in our exhibition. (March also reminisced about the beautiful furniture UCI used to have…)
Professor Jean Lave (UC-Berkeley) was also at UCI in its early years. She was one of roughly thirty people who formed the original Social Sciences faculty of whom an unprecedented six were women. She impressed upon us both the excitement and the uncertainty of those times. The interdisciplinary environment inspired faculty but also meant a great deal of work – learning statistics and modeling, advising students on self-directed programs of study, and trying to sustain fruitful conversations across disciplines were not easy tasks. There were even more challenges for female faculty at a time when academia was decidedly male. She told us about the fight for childcare at the university (the first daycare at UCI was at the barn on the Farm) and the uncertainty female academics faced having children in a time before maternity leave.
Lave reflects on the early Social Sciences and their role in the development of her own work in her recent book Apprenticeship in Critical Ethnographic Practice. As our exhibition will explore, the early Social Sciences were premised upon a radical interdisciplinarity held together by a belief in mathematical modeling as a lingua franca and as a means of arriving at universal understandings of culture and cognition. Lave, however, has become famous as a theorist of history and practice. From a space dominated by the formal model, she has come to explore the informal, apprenticeship, and craft in order to call attention to the kinds of everyday activities that often fall outside of academic thought.
We are so grateful to have had the chance to speak with Jim and Jean! And hope to do their stories justice in Learning by Doing at the Farm.
Our dates have been set and our space reserved! In the coming weeks we will be digging in the archives, collecting oral histories from students and faculty from the Farm, and printing and framing. We are making plans to partner with local museums and institutions and inviting an artist to do some Farm-inspired work. Please put our opening, June 7, 5-8pm, in your calendars.