What is counterculture?
A countercultural action or expression communicates disagreement, opposition, disobedience or rebellion. A counterculture rejects or challenges mainstream culture or particualr elements of it.
This might mean:
- Protesting against a particular situation or issue
- Rebelling against the accepted or acceptable way of doing things
- Struggling for liberation when you are oppressed or marginalised
- Finding new ways to represent yourself when you are misrepresented or simply not represented
- Creating your own culture when you are dissatisfied with the culture that is made for you
In the 20th century, countercultural points of view were commonly expressed as action. The countercultural pamphlets, flyers, posters, newsletters and independent newspapers, fanzines or magazines are therefore the ephemera or 'remains' of a larger active expression. Often they were originally meant to serve immediate, sometimes urgent, purposes: to promote action, gather support or inspire change.
The 'unacceptability' of any countercultural expression is always short-lived. Sooner or later avant-garde aesthetics are embraced by the producers and consumers of mainstream culture and abosrbed into the 'normal'.
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Publications, symbols and songs helped to promote the public meetings and marches at which peace campaigners physically 'demonstrated' their opposition to nuclear weapons and war.
Learn about the methods of disruption and trepass used by the 'Committee of 100' and 'Spies for Peace' to draw attention to the peace campaign.
Squatting is both symbolic and practical: a form of demonstration and a do-it-yourself solution to homelessness. Find out about the Vigilantes, The Friends of King Hill and the London Squatter's Campaign.
Treehouses, tunnels, guerilla gardening, street parties and the critical mass were popular methods of disruptive action in the 90s. How did these protesters communicate with one another and with the outside world?
The UK underground press of the 60s and 70s mirrored the emerging counterculture. New forms of expression, publication and distribution were used to report on an active counterculture.
In the 60s and 70s, the Black Panther Party, the Gay Liberation Front and the Women's Liberation Workshop produced publications that challenged misrepresentation, or non-representation, in the mainstream press.
Modern iconoclasts have borrowed the slogans and gestures of revolution and the language of war to make way for new forms of expression at times of 'violent boredom' and social change.
Stop consuming the culture that is made for you. Make your own culture. Punk and Riot Grrrl fanzines express a do-it-yourself ethos, rejecting the forms of expression and consumption available to them.