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Despite the lack of an explicit political revolution, many American artists of the 1960s were strongly informed by the “social imaginary” of revolution. Their artistic activities can be understood as exemplary expressions of a broader “cultural revolution” in civil society, in tension with the absence of major shifts in the official character of governmental power. Following a discussion of the development of a counter-hegemonic counterculture, the chapter considers three exemplary cases of the U.S. aesthetic revolution of the 1960s: modeling of alternative, anarchistic communities through embodied actions in improvisational performance (La Monte Young, John Cage); liberationist-cathartic collective performance, consonant with the libidinal revolutionary theories of Wilhelm Reich, Herbert Marcuse, and Norman O. Brown (Carolee Schneemann, Living Theatre); and populist rapport between commercial culture, subcultural styles, and advanced art practice, in resonance with the imaginary of youth counterculture (Andy Warhol and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable).

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