ART-traction: NGV’s Got Love if You Were Born in the ’80s

I was six months shy of being born in the ’80s and it kills me. From the relatively staid position of an Icona Pop loving ’90s bitch, the ’80s were a decade of intensity.

Emotions ran raw, while politics and social movements had a ferocity charged by extremities in wealth and aspiration.

Darkly lit, grainy footage illustrates a legacy of blazing success and deep rooted struggle.

The playlist of the ’80s spoke of a generation on the cusp of contemporary life as we know it. Mix tape cassettes and rain-sodden letters remained the means to communicate with loved ones still isolated by the distances yet united by budget air travel.

A language defined itself through music and art to express the turbulent era that was characterised by Thatcherism, HIV/AIDS and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The NGV Ian Potter’s latest Exhibition, Mix Tape 1980s: Appropriation, Subculture, Critical Style encapsulates the decade with a well curated selection of works that chart Australia’s artistic practises over the decade of dynamic social change.

Australian society was equally gripped by fiercely contested viewpoints in politics and culture, the legacy of the ’80s

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shaped the nation not to mention raised enduring icons in music and art.


The entry point of the exhibition is marked by a seven television stack structure framing Australia’s pop-culture pillar, ABC’s Countdown.

The Divinyls, Split Enz and INXS set the tone of the exhibition, greeting audiences from the set of the Countdown studio and welcoming them in with pop and grunge rock.

Over the 120 works of art in the exhibition ranging from painting, sculpture, photography and fashion design the highlights include works by Howard Arkley, David Lawill and Fred Williams.

The exhibition is complimented with an exciting array of public programs (the most fabulous being Take Me To The 80s! which took place April 14th and featured a mass spandex clad aerobics class in Fed Square).

The list of upcoming talks can be seen here.

Mix Tape runs until September 1st. Joy Division and Madonna are recommended for emotional preparation.

Laura Phillips




Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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