A late hippie confessions


GATEAVISA: MODERN TIMES prints one of the essays in a new book about Gateavisa. Here is a reflection on how, in the postmodernist spirit, they had to reinvent themselves as an eighties magazine: In the editorial offices, everyone largely disagreed with everyone on everything from layout to US foreign policy. Here were purple undershirts, jackets from flea markets, scrolls and books about the eco-crisis.

E-mail: eriksen@sai.uio.no
Published: September 9, 2020

I was a late hippie. OK then, I never managed to get shoulder length hair. And yes, I did study at university and ended up taking more exams than I had originally envisioned. In addition, I worked as a night watchman in a hotel and put on a white shirt three nights a week. You do not get much credit for that, you have not burned so many bridges or put anything special at stake: you have stayed on safe ground while playing rebellion. Sure, but this is the fate of all rebels in a country like Norway, where they never stop sewing pillows under your arms no matter how greedy and rebellious you are. But to speak for myself, I would say that deep down I was a late hippie even when I sat, short and friendly, at the reception and politely greeted late arriving guests - and in Hjelmsgate 3 I found my home.

Gateavisa's editorial offices did not necessarily constitute a harmonious home. As I remember it, everyone pretty much disagreed with everyone about everything from the layout to US foreign policy, but when the disagreement had subsided, we went to Olsen, or Rosenborg, or somewhere else nearby, and drank coffee or beer, chatted our way and were good friends nonetheless. It was a civilizing experience.

The majority are probably of the opinion that Gateavisas golden age was in the second half of the seventies. When the thousand countercultures flourished, Gateavisa (hereafter GA) had a circulation of over 15, and the dream of an eco-anarchist or at least libertarian future was alive in small but eloquent environments all over Norway. For me, who arrived a little late for that particular party, the story looks different. I had received some articles in print in GA while I was in high school, and dropped by the editorial office one Thursday in 000, just after I had moved to Oslo to study and get a little arm's length distance to the parental home and the complacent bourgeoisie that dominated in Tønsberg. After a while as a kind of intern, I drifted into the editorial team and stayed there throughout my studies.

Gentrification in the 80s

By this time, Reagan had recently become President of the United States while Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and together they had laid the foundations of the totally market-dominated world in which we still live and which is now called neoliberal. Soon they were talking about yuppies in New York while we were talking about Japanese in Oslo (and yes, we wrote about the Japanese in GA), the countercultural groups were about to go underground or disintegrate, people cut their hair and got a job . Steners gate 1, which had been the center of many alternative activities in Oslo, where Kafé Vära was the place to drink beer and plan a coup, while Renegat was a concert venue with black-painted walls, dominated by industrial post-punk, was demolished, and shortly after opened the consumer reserve Oslo City same place.

The city was gentrified. Café Blitz and Hjelms gate 3 lasted, but in the eighties one meeting place after another disappeared. Aker Brygge was rebuilt, this time not as a heavy industrial workplace, but as an exclusive waterfront of the same kind as those found in international cities. At the same time, this was the time for the first personal computers, postmodern play with concepts and perceptions of reality, an undogmatic approach to political utopias (the ml movement had practically departed with death) and a still unarticulated sense that we were entering a MODERN TIME age , and that the solid post-war era was soon over.

It was at such a time that we made GA, knowing that our dreams and ideas were about to be pushed to the periphery, much like farmers have pushed hunters and gatherers out into crates, marginal areas - Greenland, Kalahari, Amazonas - Worldwide. In true postmodern spirit, we had to reinvent ourselves as an eighties magazine, but at the same time it was necessary to find the right balance between continuity and change; we had to take care of the best of the last decade, but put something behind us, renew ourselves and move on. The changes were visible. For several years, GA had come out in Berlin format; now we experimented with both format (from A4 to large newspaper format), logos, journalistic strategies and ideological approaches. For a short period, GA was published in magazine information with four colors. Sales were poor, and we ourselves felt somewhat alienated from this professionalized product. In order for the magazine to be able to live and breathe, those who made it had to be allowed to improvise and have to have a hand in the entire production process, from writing editorials to packaging and labeling the magazines for the subscribers.

The editorial office

I have mentioned the community of disagreement and diversity as important elements in the GA culture, from which I personally learned something significant; there are a few more things that need to be mentioned. First, making GA was extremely unattractive. We did most of it ourselves, and for several years it was the legendary street newspaper Syphilia Morgenstierne #s setter Jet-Z who made the photo set. Later we got desktop publishing - we were early Mac users - and also took over this link. The pictures were rasterized and copied in our own darkroom, and one of the first things you learned as a newcomer to the editorial office was to use the repro camera. The headlines were made on a light table with Letraset and gnukkestål (a tool that is probably out of use today). We pasted the columns of our own articles on graph paper, and if someone gets a little seasick from flipping through street newspapers from the early eighties, it is not entirely inconceivable that I am the author of the article; I tried, but never got the slits completely straight.

It was the time of the first personal computers, postmodern play
with concepts and perceptions of reality, an undogmatic approach to
political utopias.

When the time came, we set aside a weekend to physically make the magazine. The columns were in houses, the pictures were mostly traced, if not yet rasterized; the only thing left was the job that always turned out to be more extensive than one had thought - to make the physical magazine. The front page and table of contents were always created along the way. Often we suddenly got half a page too little or a page too much, but it was always possible - to be precise, it was absolutely necessary - to improvise a solution. The result was never perfect, but it had soul and personality in a way you never get when you send a text to a layout department that has nothing to do with the content, but is concerned with beautiful design. On Monday morning, we delivered the pages to All-Trykk på Grønland, the city's cheapest printing house, where Factor Nilsen gladly welcomed us with the message that our layout solutions were impossible to put into practice. All-Print's main task was to print Freedom, and I thought more than once that these meetings were precise illustrations of the collision between the NKP and the anarchists.

[...]

Especially in the first years of the eighties, GA received a steady stream of submitted entries, strikingly many with easy line spacing and zero margin. A couple of our submitters were convinced that the authorities were monitoring them using a brain transmitter that had been secretly operated into their brains. One lived in Stokmarknes and was declared a Nazi. Others defended incest, wrote obscene (and not necessarily extremely good) poems, or submitted boring debate posts, which we gladly refused with a recommendation to send them to the MOM column in Arbeiderbladet. (On a couple of occasions, I actually saw debate posts from GA being printed in the MOM column.)

Significant contributors

In the so-called golden age when everything apparently went smoothly, GA had contributors such as Tor Åge Bringsværd and Arild Nyquist. But it was not so bad in the eighties either. Two of our most significant contributors were Øyvind Viestad, who often used the pseudonym The Count of St. Germain, and Leonard Borgzinner, a pseudonym for Geir Arne Olsen. Both were God-fearing stylists with original approaches. Viestad engaged in perfidious and elegant ways with new age prophets and mystics, and preached a sensible and ultimately fairly conventional understanding of knowledge and science. Borgzinner was a cartoonist, published science fiction writer and essayist, and contributed to Gateavisa with a wide range of texts, from an essay on why cannabis was a weed of immobility while alcohol stimulated thinking, to reviews of books about Nietzsche and philosophical considerations such as unfortunately became less and less comprehensible to others than himself as the years went by.

Others who contributed during these years were the later award-winning author Merete Lindstrøm - we were the first to publish anything by her, namely a short story - and the young Henning Hagerup, who together with Erik Vincent Jacobsen edited GA's literature issue in 1984. Henning wrote about Baudelaire himself, and in the same issue reviewed 18-year-old Stig Sæterbakken his first collection of poems, Floating umbrellas. The reviewer thought that the collection was good, but also pointed out some weaknesses and concluded that there was definitely room for improvement. Christopher Nielsen had its first flourishing that draws in these years, there Two Tired Types showed their pimpled noses for the first time.

Carnival and thrills

There were many highlights also in the eighties, although GA was increasingly approaching the valley of the shadows. Madness may have reached its highest stage below carnivalone in 1984, when we decided to publish a carnival newspaper with a publication frequency three times a day, ie every eight hours. Miraculously, we managed it, and Gateavisa's 1-2-3 included cult hits such as the romantic carnival serial 'An egg for little', signed by the pseudonym Hjalmar Egge, and animal poems written by carnival participants dressed as pandas.

Some of what I remember best for other reasons are the long interviews we occasionally published, and in this context I would like to mention, free of memory, Jon Erland's interview with Herman Tønnessen, Audun Engh's interview with Odd Nerdrum, and I can probably bring my own interview Peter Wessel Zapffe, as texts that can withstand reunion.

I myself typically wrote articles about eco-anarchism and how anarchism was a natural
further development of social democracy.

There were some built-in tensions in GA. Most often, but not always, they were productive because they made everyone sharpen up. They were about the relationship between individual and collective - the contrast between right-wing and left-wing anarchism is a typical expression of this - and about lifestyle versus politics and society. For my part, I saw little reason for GA to spend so much space on cannabis, new cafes and house occupations; even I typically wrote articles about ecoanarchism and how anarchismn was a natural further development of social democracy. For the record, I would have considered the situation differently now.

The time in Hjelms gate 3 taught me something about living with diversity, about why pompous people in power like to use a pompous language, about humor and seriousness and how to write to be read, not feared and admired. Those were formative years for me. I wrote a lot about eco-anarchism, philosophy and science fiction, but what I appreciated most, I think, was the opportunity to write in GA about music which meant something special to me. I was a late hippie, I said, and apart from purple undershirts, jackets from flea markets, scrolls and books about the eco-crisis, what I remember best from the time just before GA, that is, the late seventies, is music. I would not claim that it was the music that made me a liberal ecoradis, but it was still a connection.

Margaret Thatcher

The world of prog rock

Until I was around 16 years old, the only thing that could compare to heavy rock, symforock of the type Yes and Genesis. Then, at the age of 17, I started buying clothes at a flea market, reading EF Schumacher and Gateavisa, and almost exactly at the same time I switched to listening to most other types of music, currently mostly in progrockone's world, but increasingly the symforockens. Steve Hillage and Gong became house gods. Gong was the music's answer to GA - they created a messy complexity through improvisation and flat structures, and they combined quite advanced musical projects with a self-effacing irony. Hillage's exotic scales, eco-anarchoid lyrics and hippie messages of peace and love made it easy to forgive him for singing like a donkey and writing lyrics like a baboon.

But there were others. The Nietzschean, existential seriousness of Peter Hammill and Van Der Graaf Generator. The bloodthirsty critique of the system in the music and lyrics of Henry Cow. The mix of humor and seriousness in Hatfield and the North. The uninhibitedly bombastic and extremely quirky soundscape of Magma, a band that exclusively sang lyrics on Kobaian, a language they had created themselves. Soft Machines' development from psychedelic pop band via jazz ensemble to fusion rockers, and I appreciated all the periods. I discovered Robert Wyatt's warmth, Dagmar Krause's fragility and Univers Zéros chamber rock that combined the best of Bártok and Black Sabbath - it was a wonderful new world that expanded the palette and made life a more interesting place to be.

I wrote a lot about this underground music, from the Brecht / Weill-inspired Henry Cow offshoot News From Babel to the minimalism of trumpeter Michael Mantler, and it was in itself a source of great satisfaction to be allowed to share these experiences with like-minded people, I suppose I, until I realized that I had barely received a single feedback on any of my many articles on music in GA. The natural follow-up question is then how many had read them. But I'm just as happy. It is not the quantity, but the quality, that matters most. It is also something I learned during my formative years in Hjelms Gate 3.

 

See also MODERN TIMES leader Bjørneboe, Gateavisa, and post-anarchism,
and article by Audun Engh
Jens Bjørneboe and Gateavisa

 

The essay is somewhat abbreviated and printed in consultation with the publisher. It is pressed in Everything from Gateavisa 1970-1986 coming this fall.

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