Adobe and GS&P Want You to Fill the San Francisco Sky With Augmented Reality Love Balloons

Hippie art show gets a tech sponsor

Fifty years ago, the Summer of Love sprang up in San Francisco, with tens of thousands of young hippies descending on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to (among other things) listen to music, drop acid, and fuck indiscriminately—at least according to the mythology of a phenomenon that came to define the broader shift from a more buttoned-down post-World War II national mentality toward a freer future.

Now, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive—or BAMPFA—is celebrating the anniversary of the psychedelic renaissance moment with a new exhibition titled “Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia.”

It’s promoting the show with a unique, geolocation-based augmented-reality mobile app—created in partnership with nearby tech giant Adobe and local creative institution Goodby Silverstein & Partners—that lets users pepper the virtual space over the Bay Area with digital balloon hearts containing uplifting messages like, “Love Is in the Air.”

Titled “#FreeTheLove,” it’s a little like a simple yet high-culture version of a hippie Pokémon Go game. Players can release their messages into the internet atmosphere, or tap on the floating geometric pixel hearts left by other players to read them.

The app, which plays ’60s and ’70s songs like John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People” upon opening, also features a virtual tour of Bay Area locations significant to the hippie movement’s artistic and political history.

These include, for example, Berkeley’s “People’s Park,” where a 1969 community effort to turn a blighted lot into a public garden drew a disproportionate militaristic response from local law enforcement, resulting in the use of buckshot on protestors and the death of a student. (Future president Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, subsequently sent in the National Guard over protests from local politicians, in a chilling reminder that scenarios resembling martial law are entirely possible in the U.S.)

BAMPFA describes Hippie Modernism, open now through May 21, as “a major exhibition exploring the intersection of the radical art, architecture and design of the counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s and the resonance of these innovations today.”

In other words, the absurd, obscene state of the current political landscape probably makes now a particularly important time to study the history of the tension between society’s darker and more repressive impulses and its will to liberalism.

Or as Jeff Gillette, creative director at GS&P, puts it with respect to the app itself (live through 2017): “We could all use a little more love, especially these days.”

Self-promotion aside, the general spirit of that rings true enough—even if the value of vapid platitudes dancing across the sky is unclear, as is technology’s ultimate role in either the preservation of decency or the acceleration of its demise.

Thankfully for the skeptics, participation is—in this case, at least—opt-in.

Client: UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Brand: Hippie Modernism Exhibit
Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Co-Chairman: Rich Silverstein
Creative Director: Jeff Gillette
Art Director: Florian Marquardt
Copywriter: Kurt Mills
Associate Design Director: Angie Elko
Designer: Maria Vaquero
Designer: Kelly Malka
Motion Creative Director: Mike Landry
Motion Artist: Natasha Candelaria
Motion Artist: Karim Fawzy
Motion Artist: Alec Cummings
Director of Production: Margaret Brett-Kearns
Executive Interactive Producer: Tena Goy
Associate Technology Director: Andre Cardozo
Creative Technologist: August Bjornberg
App Development: IUQO
App Music: Feed.Fm
Executive Post Producer: John Dutton
Producer: Alison Plansky
Editor: David Sullivan
Audio Engineer: Nicholas Dematteo
Print Producer: Joni Wittrup
Post Production: Pacific Digital Image
Photographer: Quinn Gravier
Content Creative: Andrew Butte
Content Creative: Isaak Le
Director of Communications: Meredith Vellines
Executive Broadcast Producer: Hilary Coate
Production Coordinator: Rachel Newman
Account Manager: Ariel Berk
Senior Communication Strategist: Maren Severtson
Executive Digital Artist: Jessica Pettigrew
Production Artist: Tiffany Mae Cabello
Business Affairs Associate Manager: Annie Holmgren

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@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.