Youth quake

How the young rebels of 1980s Europe used art as a platform for cultural change
By Lewis Firth | Art | 15 April 2016

‘The Ministry has blood on its hands’, 1st December 1995, Archivo Queer? Photo Andrés Senra.

Top image: photography of the lliga de Catalunya pels pobles de Girona. Vídeo-Nou, 1977. Left to right: Lluisa Roca, Lluisa Ortínez i Marga Latorre. Courtesy: Collection MACBA. Centre d’Estudis i Documentació. Fons Video-Nou/Servei de Video Comunitari.

As has often been the way throughout history, art and youthful creativity were a platform for change in tumultuous 1980s Europe. Opening this weekend at Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Netherlands, is a new exhibition that traces the cultural and political narratives of this transitional decade and their relevance today.

The 1980s witnessed massive societal change through the fiery reformation of the relationship between Europe’s states and its peoples. Cultural movements and rebellion arose, youth collectives begun riotous efforts to oppose disenfranchisement and injustices, which conclusively led to incendiary reorientations of European identities and freedoms.

Through artwork, music, TV, graphical and archival material from the time, the exhibition will spotlight the dialogues and movements that shaped the decade. All together it represents how the powerful changes of a singular period energised the creative community to such a fervent degree – and how that energy is still present in society today.


Narratives include counter culture in the Netherlands, black artists from Great Britain who were trying to comprehend their relationship with the country and its colonial legacy, and Slovenian political-art collective, Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK). Those three will open on Saturday, 16th April, ending on 26th June to begin a configuration change opening on 2nd July.

Two countries and three societal transformations will be the cynosure of the exhibition’s second and last stage: Spain’s jump from an autocratic dictatorship to a democracy after Francisco Franco’s death in 1975; Turkey’s (with a focus on Istanbul) introduction of free-market principles under military rule; and finally, Madrid’s queer movements from 1989 to 1995 and their responsive subversions of heteronormative and patriarchal portrayals.

More information can be found here. The exhibition runs from this weekend until 25th Sept 2016 at Van Abbemuseum, Bilderdijklaan 10, 5611 NH Eindhoven, The Netherlands.


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