Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Hippie Modernism, the ongoing series Counter Currents invites a range of individuals and collectives—from writer Geoff Manaugh and artist-archivist Josh MacPhee to Are.na and artist Tomás Saraceno—to share how countercultural artists and designers of the 1960s and ’70s have influenced their work and thinking today. Here, Adam Michaels of Project Projects and Inventory Press highlights the innovative nature of Blueprint for Counter Education as one of the defining works of radical pedagogy from the Vietnam War era.
While I generally avoid hyperbole, I can say in good conscience that Blueprint for Counter Education is a truly unique cultural artifact. The outcome of a sustained iterative research, writing, and diagramming process that took place between Brandeis sociology professor (and future dean of Critical Studies at CalArts) Maurice Stein and his then-student Larry Miller, Blueprint’s innovative form and format were then developed by the graphic designer Marshall Henrichs as a mind-expanding example of carefully structured (and mass-distributed) anarchy.
Blueprint uncannily manages to be both utterly surprising, starting with the spatial trick of three extremely large, unruly posters springing forth from a modestly scaled slipcase (upon unfolding, the posters’ formal vocabulary appears startlingly ahead of its time, not to mention our own), and somehow familiar with the Shooting Script’s reproduced covers and contents page encapsulating a remarkable range of still-contemporary obsessions (via a proto-world wide web technique of quoting and reproduction).
Blueprint could easily have fallen flat from a design standpoint; the number of disparate visual styles sounds excessive if tallied up. Yet it all coheres. A strange sort of comfort is found precisely at the point of its disjunction—each piece is exactly as it should be: the sum of enlightened and extended group labor, with its inconsistencies forming an unlikely yet elegant whole.
I am beyond thrilled to be working on an expanded reprint of Blueprint, for release in early 2016, which you can see here.