Myths Past & Future: EXPO '70

Posted on Tuesday, December 07, 2010, under ,

Urashima Taro revisited (see my earlier post MYTHS II): the ancient Japanese myth with a 70's Brazilian touch. 

This commercial was made by Varig airlines to promote flights to the World Exposition EXPO '70, hosted in Osaka in March - September 1970. So, on to EXPO 70.
EXPO 70 hosted 77 countries at its pavilions and had 66 million visitors. Among many interesting exhibits were lunar rocks brought to earth by the Apollo 12 astronauts, the first ever IMAX film, and the two time capsules. The capsules were identical, filled with over 2000 artefacts of modern life as it was in 1970. At present the capsules are buried deep underground adjacent to Osaka castle. The lower capsule is due to be opened 5000 years from now, in 6970 to be precise. The capsule contains a plutonium atomic clock which operates by moving its hand 3mm every 100 years.

a very detailed info on this here:

The USA pavilion at Expo 70 contained some of the coolest, if extravagantly ambitious, projects, such as the invisible air columns (people actually walked right through them without noticing it) which actually supported the exhibition hall roof. The EAT (Experiments in Architecture and Technology) had various floats, fog-contraptions and light frame sculptures, all of which moved around and cut through the plaza, creating a multimedia construct, dubbed in those days 'the expanded cinema', a concept which
...could stimulate the mind with its synaes­thesic effects and restore sensation to bodies dulled by routine... 
At the World’s Fair in Osaka in 1970 E.A.T. teamed up with Pepsi-Cola to produce an experi­mental and interactive environment. EAT turned the experience of visiting the pavilion into one of sensory overload. ‘Visual sounds’ were produced with coloured lasers and electronic music by composer Lowell Cross.
Visitors to the pavilion were able to turn their visit into an interactive experience with audio handsets that could pick up audio signals on loops fixed in the pavilion structure or create three-dimensional images of themselves using a pneumatic hemispheric mirror created by Whitman. The dome of the pavilion was cloaked in a perpetual cloud of artificial fog conceived by Frosty Myers as an allusion to Mount Fuji (much to the frustration of nearby food and souvenir vendors who demanded a fog trap).

Artistic optimism paired with corporate swagger? A cold war paranoia subtext or the liberating effects of the visual/aural play? A subliminal 'blast on the senses' or a pointless sensory exercise? Hmm... maybe bit of everything. Perhaps David Crawley is right when he says that the unhappy marriage between the artistic innovation and corporate interest had no message per se, apart from showing us the roots of our current 'multimedia environment lie in the East-West competition which gripped the world more than 50 years ago.' Perhaps Davis Brody, the architect of the US pavilion at EXPO 70, is right when he notes that
the open, relaxed, sheltered environments created by a climate-controlling, light-transmitting dome might encourage the virtues of small lively towns, which have so conspicuously ceased to exist.

The West German pavilion at EXPO 70 featured the world's first, and so far the only, spherical concert hall 'Kugelauditorium', based on artistic concepts by Karlheinz Stockhausen. With its 3-dimensional sound, its 50 groups of loudspeakers ('the perfect loudspeaker'), and with Stockhausen's five-and-a-half-hour live programs of his music every day over a period of 183 days, 'many visitors felt the spherical auditorium to be an oasis of calm amidst the general hubbub, and after a while it became one of the main attractions of Expo 1970' (Kurtz, Michael, Stockhausen: A Biography, 1992).

                                                              Inside the Kugelauditorium (

Take a look at this bizarre performance from another era, of Stockhausen's 'Helikopter-String Quartet' (1995): the tonal audacity on a reconnaissance mission. Experimentalism verging on self-mockery.

Back to Expo '70, which also featured demonstrations of early mobile phones and maglev train technology. Here are some nice commemoration stamps (clickable for bigger images):

You can watch a 9-minute docu-film about the event here:

Funny and rather poignant, those people first in line to rush through the gates, running (literally) toward the vast exhibition grounds. Reminded me of those poor souls last Christmas at Topshop (or was it two years ago?), when everything was so cheap, scrambling for bargains like hungry hyenas (which of course was a far more depressing sight). Back to the EXPO video: just look at those queues with no end in sight. Hours and hours of waiting. But not all is gloom. This footage of EXPO 70, (on about the 4th minute-mark) shows masses in their national hats and costumes, dancing happily together on a vast disco-like-dancefloor (before discos were discovered). I wonder what kind of music they were dancing to. Judging from their bliss-struck faces they would've probably responded to anything rhythmical, or as long as it conformed to that huge banner above their heads: TOWARD BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF EACH OTHER. How bitterly naive that sounds 40 years later in the age of mistrust, scepticism, secrecy, shameless materialism.

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