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Exhibition at Royal Saltworks celebrates 50 years of Woodstock
Installation view.

ARC-ET-SENANS.- Following on from utopian architect Luc Schuiten’s Cités Végétales exhibition, in 2019 the Royal Saltworks are celebrating 50 years of another utopic vision. This one was shared by an entire generation and it came into full expression at New York state’s Woodstock Festival in August 1969. Young people flocked to it in huge numbers to soak up its pop, folk, rock, soul and blues performances. This was a unique moment for a generation that had just experienced an eruption of protest in 1968, as well as the Apollo 11 mission in which humankind set foot on the moon for the very first time.

Woodstock marked the highpoint of the hippy movement, with its “flower children” opposing the Vietnam War and violence in all its forms whilst celebrating peace and love with slogans such as “make love not war”.

The psychedelic Woodstock Spirit 1969-2019 exhibition retraces the event with guidance from the original festival’s organiser, Michael Lang. The garden festival uses its Flower Power theme to explore the era’s musical, social and aesthetic output.

The exhibition
The exhibition aims to go beyond the hippy stereotypes of the 1960s and 70s to shine a light on an event that was simultaneously universal and unique. In an immersive sensory space, the exhibition takes a poetic, contemplative vision of the aspirations, hopes, dreams and imaginings shared by the festivalgoers and artists who made it to the hillside in Bethel, New York state, in August 1969. The second, more educational part of the exhibition focuses on the event’s historic value and the special context it existed in, revealing as it does so why Woodstock still has timeless, contemporary value.

An Immersive Space
The exhibition’s immersive space takes visitors on a poetic journey through music and image over the course of roughly 25 minutes. It has a simple, joyous message about encountering otherness in all its diversity. Visitors are handed a pair of mirror-effect glasses which conjure up the illusion that the ceiling decoration is on the floor, giving them the double impression that they are traversing solid materials and walking on air. The aim here is a playful one, but the exhibition also seeks to create a cultural experience and bring the event’s psychedelic vibes to the fore.

The Museum Space
This space focuses on Woodstock’s historical context within the wider world, and on France and Franche-Comté in particular. Woodstock was a singular moment for a generation living in a decade rocked by the 1963 assassination of JFK, the injustices of racial segregation in the United States, the killing of Martin Luther King, the Chicago riots of 1968, the May ‘68 protests in France, the Cold War and the bloodshed of the Vietnam War, to name a few examples. This was a historic decade in every regard, and Woodstock was its artistic and musical apogee.

Flower power, a Woodstock garden
Flowers became emblematic of a movement that believed deeply in returning to nature. They have bloomed in profusion in the 19th Festival’s gardens, creating contrasting and colourful worlds for visitors to explore, from a wildly shaggy garden to a kaleidoscopic world and decor inspired by The Who.

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