So it seems every critic alive has panned the Whitney’s Summer of Love show. Right now I just want to focus on a single work. It’s way in the back, part of a small section on Hippie Architecture, a 4-minute video of Ant Farm’s Inflatables.
The inflatables were dome-like structures made from air and soft plastic. They were cheap, transportable, transparent, organic, and participatory, countercultural and free. Ant Farm preferred to call them “pillows.” They drove them around California in their “Media Van,” inviting whoever wished to climb into or onto them, and giving workshops on how to make them at home.
If that feels warm and utopian, the video reinforces that notion, filling the inflatable with children and adults playing and hanging out. But the work’s caption adds a layer of dark context: it was filmed in December 1969, at the Altamont speedway in California. The inflatable was an attraction that day for crowds awaiting the infamous free Rolling Stones concert. After the filming, but before the Hells Angel security team murdered a deranged concertgoer in front of the stage, the inflatable was transformed into a medical tent to care for the day’s psychedelic casualties.
None of that is in the Whitney video. The only nod toward that day’s events is its soundtrack, the Stones’ Gimme Shelter.