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Pathfoot Building at 50 - The Spirit of '67 and Turning the World Upside Down

In 1967, the world was being turned upside down. With the counter culture in full psychedelic swing, the so-called Summer of Love was about to break, even as protests against the Vietnam War were building to a peak while race riots flared up across America. In the UK, homosexuality was decriminalised, while abortion was legalised.

Closer to home, Celtic won the European Cup and championship, the first Northern European club to do so. Meanwhile, the global village Marshall McLuhan had predicted was brought into our living rooms when the first ever live international satellite broadcast saw 400 million viewers watch the Beatles fanfare in All You Need is Love.

It may have been the Fab Four's kaleidoscopic masterpiece, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and later their Magical Mystery Tour record and film that sound-tracked the year, but things were happening underground as well. Beyond the tripped-out whimsy of Pink Floyd's debut record, the Doors, Love's Forever Changes and especially the Velvet Underground and Nico offered a darker flip-side that reflected some of the underbelly of unrest that was simmering.

Meanwhile, on a leafy campus of a brand new university in Scotland's Central Belt, another revolution was about to be set in motion. The opening of the University of Stirling was light years away from the hallowed halls of the older universities in Glasgow and Edinburgh which the town is equidistant from. The new build too seemed to reflect the shock of the new which, following an era of post Second World War greyness, had reinvigorated the decade with a cultural explosion that put youth at its centre. This could be seen particularly in the Pathfoot building, which, as the first completed construction on campus, became a flagship for a brave new world of idealism in a way that, for its initial batch of less than 200 students, put aesthetics at its everyday heart.

Fifty years on, the Pathfoot building celebrates its half century as the epicentre of the University of Stirling's cultural life with 1967, an ever expanding year-long exhibition intended to highlight the building's roots in that crucial year as well as inspire future generations of students. Conceptually speaking, the exhibition asks what kind of world were the students living in when they first arrived on campus. The exhibition also looks at what they were wearing, listening to and reading as they lounged artfully on Harry Bertoia designed chairs in this new modernist paradise.
1967 will feature work drawn from the University's own collection from artists including Bridget Riley, George Wylie, Wilhelmina Barnes Graham and Alan Davie. Also on show from the collection will be pieces by Patrick Heron, Michael Tyzack and many others. Personal stories, photographs, clothing, music and memorabilia will be added as the year goes on, creating a kind of living scrap-book of past, present and possible futures for the Pathfoot through recent acquisitions not in the exhibition by the likes of Jacqueline Donachie, Katie Paterson and Kevin Harman.

A programme of events includes a Happening on November 11th, which will feature badge making, tie dying, games, film screenings and a 1967 disco. A series of essays penned by various academics looks at different aspects of the era. Former artist in residence Ally Wallace's own architictural-based exhibition will run until December 2017. Photographer in residence Alan Dimmick, well known for his iconic images of more recent happenings, is documenting a year in the life of the University which will encompass events in the Pathfoot Building. There will be a dressing up box, while the music of 1967 will be key to illustrating how the year panned out in all its contradictions.
“We're curating this in the spirit of the era, in the spirit of counter culture, “ explains Jane Cameron, Curator of the University’s Contemporary Art Collection. “We want the exhibition to keep changing, and to morph into something else. We just want to let it happen.”

The University of Stirling was built on 330 acres of land within the grounds of Airthrey Estate, beneath the Ochil Hills two miles from Stirling itself and close to the Bridge of Allan. The campus was the first new university to be built in Scotland for almost 400 years. This followed the Robbins Report, drawn up by Lord Robbins, who recommended an expansion of universities across the UK, and became the University's first Chancellor in 1968. In the Report, and sounding not unlike a Zen master, Robbins had stressed that 'The search for truth is an essential function of institutions of higher education and the process of education is itself most vital when it partakes of the nature of discovery’

Stirling was selected from a shortlist that included Falkirk and Perth, with the Pathfoot being the first phase of a thoroughly modern development. With its wide-open spaces giving a countrified feel, the landscape surrounding the University already provided a natural canvas. In keeping with the liberal sensibilities of the era, the Pathfoot Art Collection was initiated from the start, with the University's founding Principal Tom Cottrell insisting that art 'should be part of everyday life on campus.' With work displayed in the building's iconic Crush Hall and the surrounding courtyards, the Pathfoot collection has played a vital role in University life ever since.

As well as the Crush Hall, the building itself originally housed lecture theatres, offices and classrooms, while extensions in 1979 to house a tropical aquarium and in 1987 for a virology unit saw it widen its remit. The Pathfoot building itself is a work of art, with international conservation organisation DoCoMomo recognising it in 1993 as one of sixty key Scottish monuments of the post-war era. It was also voted as one of Prospect magazine's 100 best modern Scottish buildings, and now has Category A listed status.
 
Significantly, perhaps, the University of Stirling also houses the archive of Lindsay Anderson, the iconic film and theatre director, whose big-screen depiction of public school rebellion, If..., appeared in 1968, just as Paris and Prague were being ignited into action on the streets. As an allegorical assault on the British establishment (a theme Anderson would continue in the 1970s with O Lucky Man! and the 1980s with Britannia Hospital, forming a loose-knit state of the nation trilogy), If...would define the revolutionary spirit of '68. Artist Stephen Sutcliffe has frequently looked to Anderson based iconography. Two of his images drawn from promo shots of If... and originally seen as part of Is That All There Is? at the Changing Room Gallery in Stirling in 2007 appear in1967. All this, however, was yet to come, with 1967 laying the groundwork just as the Pathfoot laid the foundations for the University of Stirling's future.
“We want to inject the same kind of feeling of society's politics in 1967 into our students right now,” says Cameron. “They've got the power. They can change things. It's the job of the Art Collection to educate, stimulate and inspire in that way, and for people to discover things they might not have known about that reach their souls. That's what art and music can do. It's about doing something colourful and fun, and that's about life and energy and change.”
1967 runs 11th September 2017 – 24th August 2018
www.artcoll.stir.ac.uk

Scottish Art News, Autumn / Winter 2017

Ends

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