We Want Things Different – the Visual Culture of Growing Ecological Awareness and New Emancipatory Lifestyle Experiments in the 1970s

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal 13 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Martina FINEDER, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria
This paper explores the role of alternative media in constituting and propagating green-alternative lifestyle culture in West Germany throughout the 1970s. At the time, hundreds of magazines were published all over the country to voice the new lifestyle concerns that sprang forth from the New Social Movements (NSM). Magazines such as the Pflasterstrand (Concrete beach), the plärrer (Bawler), and Wir wollen’s anders (We want things different) helped to spread the ideas of various strands of the NSM such as the environmental movement, the women’s lib, the Sponti movement, and numerous left-leaning citizen initiatives. In addition, these papers understood themselves as practical event calendars as well as shopping guides for new groups of people for whom lifestyle had become less characterized by an affiliation to a defined social class but to ecological awareness and new emancipatory lifestyle experiments.

In their efforts to disseminate eco-social ambitions the magazines came to share a very specific “rough and ready” aesthetic, which was a result of feasibility reasons but also owed to the constant recreation, remediation, and revisualization of the ways people responded to the socio-political upheavals of their time: Among other things, the characteristic layouts in do-it-yourself style were designed with a great variety of typefaces, coarsely rasterized photographs, and simple hand drawings in black and white.

Through the analysis of the particular visual culture shared by these alternative media outlets, this paper aims to highlight the significance of shared communication patterns as both indispensable instruments in the foundation of a new collective identity as well as a means of distinction. This paper broadens the scope of investigation from debates about style and social class in a rather straightforward Bourdieuian tradition into a wider discussion about a shared visual culture that triggered ecologically, socially, and ethically motivated ways of everyday life.