The Last Movement
Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s
by Curators Helen Molesworth & Bartholomew Ryan
Covering the years 1979 through 1992, the exhibition This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s presents works made by a diverse group of more than 90 artists. Many came of age in an era that saw the assimilation of two powerful and converging forces – mass-media saturation and movements for social justice. The show is broken in four sections: Democracy, Gender Trouble, Desire and Longing, and The End Is Near, each addressing themes of concern to artists of the time.
Helen Molesworth, chief curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston and guest curator for the originating institution, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago, talks with Walker assistant curator Bartholomew Ryan about the impetus for This Will Have Been and what she hopes will resonate with viewers.
How did the exhibition come together originally? Was it something you had been thinking about for a while?
I think it first started to form in my mind around 2007/2008, before the troop surge in
Afghanistan, and then the economic crisis happened. The return of an intensely militarized foreign policy and increasingly inequitable economic policies certainly put one in mind of the ‘80s. I was surrounded by a lot of people who felt confused about what had happened and how it happened, and I though, “Well, the chicken has come home to roost. If you dismantle Keynesian economics in the early ‘80s, this is what’s going to happen.” I first got interested in the period for that reason.
Global Feminisms and Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution opened in 2007 – two important exhibitions in which the decade of the ‘80s was just left out, and that’s when I began to feel that we can historicize the ‘60s and 70’s endlessly but can’t get anywhere with the ‘80s.
Given the monumental reputation of the ‘80s as this tumultuous mix of aesthetic, political, and social registers – were there potential pitfalls you were trying to avoid? How did you come to a decision about where you would concentrate your attention?
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