California Countercultures: Beat Notes: From the Rat Bastards to the Mission School with Natasha Boas


This opening lecture offers background to this year’s Big Ideas lectures by exploring the modernist avant-gardes that influenced the artistic and political language of California countercultures in the “long 1960s.” Looking closely at earlier twentieth-century movements such as Dada, Surrealism, Lettrism, and Situationism, Boas will discuss how artistic manifestos and practices such as collage, assemblage, détournement, and bricolage cast art and aesthetics as the primary discourse for radical social change and political engagement. We will consider how these older artistic “isms” directly influenced the Beats, hippies, Yippies, punks, and Machine artists, leaving their mark on the art, language, spaces, environments, and ecologies of the Bay Area.

Natasha Boas, PhD, is an independent international curator, critic, and scholar based in San Francisco and Paris. Trained in twentieth-century Modernist avant-garde movements, she has continued her investigations of subcultures, outsider artists, and emerging art movements with such original work as the essay “A Partial and Incomplete Oral History of the Mission School” in the BAMPFA catalog Barry McGee; the exhibition catalog Energy That Is All Around; and the introduction to Bruce Conner: The Afternoon Interviews. Most recently, she lectured at the Centre Pompidou on “Bricolage and Countercultures.”

About California Countercultures
Thinking Through the Arts and Design at Berkeley: California Countercultures is a UC Berkeley course cotaught by Natasha Boas, independent curator and critic of contemporary art and theory, and Michael Cohen, associate teaching professor in the African American studies department. The Wednesday public lecture series is organized by Natasha Boas. California Countercultures is sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Big Ideas program and the Arts + Design Initiative, with additional support from Cal Performances and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.