Thursday, April 22, 2021

Spaced Out: Radical Environments Of The Psychedelic Sixties

Spaced Out: Radical Environments Of The Psychedelic Sixties, by Alastair Gordon
No month stated, 2008  Rizzoli

I’ve been obsessed with late ‘60s/early ‘70s “mod” design for a very long time – I mean if I had my way, my living room would be decorated like Barbarella’s spaceship. That “future 1960s” aesthetic you can find in sci-fi movies of the era, in particular 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gerry Anderson’s UFO and Journey To The Far Side Of The SunMoon Zero Two, Barbarella, even Anderson’s Thunderbirds and etc. Alastair Gordon’s coffee table book Spaced Out documents this ultramod aesthetic, and it is eye candy of the first order. 

First, to admit: I don’t actually own this book. I mean I just refuse to spend $50 on a book, which is the pricetag Spaced Out carries. I know, I’m cheap. But I have checked the book out via Interlibrary Loan several times since it was published in 2008! And another admission: I’ve never actually read the book! Gordon includes (what appears to be) insightful commentary on the various fringe designers of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the lifestyles of the people who tried to recreate “radical environments” at the time, but honestly folks I’ve never actually read it and instead just look at the awesome photos throughout. So for this review I’ll be shutting up and just letting the book speak for itself. I can hear your cheers even from here! 

The book is split in two halves. The first, which I find more interesting, is filled with the ultramod psycedelic-inspired décor and furnishings mentioned above. The second half gets more into hairy hippie territory, with lots of geodesic domes and whatnot out in the cheap showiness of nature. (Those hippies and their domes!) Also, it should be noted that there’s a fair bit of nudity throughout Spaced Out, from swingin’ ‘60s chicks in the first half to, uh, slightly more hirsute representatives of the female form in the second half. I only note this because my four year old really likes this book…he’s been looking through it every morning since I got it from the library this latest time. But to tell the truth I’d rather him see some swinging ‘60s gals than the crap that passes for kid’s entertainment these days. (I mean seriously, bring back Thundarr the Barbarian!) 

Oh and a final note – Gordon also briefly discusses the Haus-Rucker Co. from Germany, a design outfit that did some super-cool designs, including the “Flyhead” helmet (seen in a few photos below). There’s some promo footage Haus-Rucker shot in ’68 (complete with Iron Butterfly’s “Theme” on the soundtrack!) on Youtube; you can check it out here. In fact some of the photos included in Spaced Out seem to have come from this promo, or at least were taken at the same time. 

And now finally I’ll stop typing…here are a bunch of random photos of the contents of Spaced Out


TrueAim said...

Joe, I'm right with you. I love the "retro-futurism" aesthetic envisioned in numerous films of the late-60s and 70s such as the ones you mentioned. I'd add "Logan's Run" and "A Clockwork Orange" as well. Too a lesser degree "Rollerball" and "THX 1138." The James Coburn "Flint" films have some great mod aesthetics, too. I'm sure there's dozens of others. I'll have to research the topic further someday and put together a list.

dfordoom said...

It looks like a book worth getting.

My all-time favourite retro-futurist look is the chicks with the purple wigs in UFO.

Another 70s movie worth checking out for retro-futurists is The Final Programme. It's totally awesome.

Robert Deis (aka "SubtropicBob") said...

Very cool! That brings back memories of my Hippie days (daze?) in the '60s. Say Joe - Would you like to get review copies of the new MEN'S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY I'm publishing with Bill Cunningham? You can see a preview of the first one on my here -> If you'd like copies, please email your snail mail address. My email is cujokey [at] gmail. Cheers!
- Bob Deis
Editor of the Men’s Adventure Library book series, MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY and

Joe Kenney said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone! Also, one movie I'd add to the list would be "Codename: Dragonfly," the film-within-a-film in Roman Coppola's "CQ" (2001). It's basically a tribute to things like Barbarella and Diabolik. I've watched it many, many times over the past several years -- the DVD features two "cuts" of the mini-film. In fact I almost wish the whole movie had just been "Dragonfly."