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Fred Turner

Curating Culture: How to Communicate “The Whole Earth“, Lecture & Open Forum (11.06.2014)


This event addresses the field of Science Communication, as one guiding topic in the study of culture, with a closer view on exhibition practices and curation. The GCSC therefore invited two renowned specialists and scholars: Fred Turner (Stanford University) gives a lecture drawing on essential links between cold war exhibition practices and the psychedelic counterculture and thereby sets the stage for discussing present practices of curation in the open forum with the curator Anselm Franke (Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin). Further, according to Anselm Franke as one of the curators of the exhibition and conference “The Whole Earth. California and the Disappearance of the Outside“ in 2013 at HKW, with Fred Turner as Keynote Speaker, the open forum gains from their former collaboration, addressing questions of bringing complex scientific fields into the public discourse.

A project conceptualized and organized by Vera Fischer; supported by Research Area 4, sections Oikos, Museumskultur, and Kulturmanagement.


The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and the Politics of Attention in Cold War America

In the early 1960s, young bohemians swayed together under the swirling lights of psychedelic slide shows, surrounded by walls of amplified sound, in dance halls and art galleries from Greenwich Village to San Francisco. For a generation of historians, their tribal rites have long represented a sharp break with a vastly more conservative early cold war media culture. This talk makes a very different case. It first returns to World War II, to explore the widespread fear that mass media technologies might turn Americans into authoritarians. It then recounts how, as the fighting began, American social scientists and Bauhaus refugees collaborated to produce new multimedia environments with which to turn the senses of their fellow citizens in explicitly democratic directions and so bolster their will to fight fascism. The talk shows that this turn became the basis of both two decades of cold war American propaganda and the multimedia utopianism of the 1960s. As it traces this history, the presentation reconnects the immersive, multi-mediated environments of the 1960s to those of the decades that preceded them. In the process, it reveals the long-forgotten links between the counterculture and mainstream, cold war America – as well as the long-hidden roots of our contemporary, multiply mediated social world.

Open Forum: Fred Turner & Anselm Franke (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin),

Chair: Vera Fischer (GCSC, Giessen):

After the lecture a transition by Anselm Franke and the discussion in the open forum provide space to draw on present practices of curation that can not only be linked to a historical view but set the focus on these practices as a means of communicating science.

Anselm Franke

Curator and Head of the Visual Arts and Film Department at HKW Berlin.

Publications (selection):

  • The Whole Earth. California and the Disappearance of the Outside (editor with Diedrich Diederichsen). Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2013.
  • Animism, Volume 1 (editor). Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2010.
  • Death and Life of Fiction. Taipei Biennale. Taipei Fine Arts Museum, 2012.

Fred Turner

Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University and Director of Stanford’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society.

Publications (selection):

  •  The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties. University of Chicago Press, 2014.
  • From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. University of Chicago Press, 2006.
  • Echoes of Combat: The Vietnam War in American Memory. Anchor/Doubleday, 1996; 2nd ed., University of Minnesota Press, 2001.