The 80s are back at Powerhouse Museum, Sydney (2009-10)

The 80s are back

The Powerhouse Museum is rewinding the 80s with a spectacular new exhibition
12 December 2009 until late 2010

Press release text by Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia

The Powerhouse Museum is bringing back the 80s with a spectacular exhibition opening on December 12 that will reveal the good and the bad about the decade vividly remembered for its over the top excess.

The 80s are back will explore Australian life and popular culture in the 1980s, remembering the styles, trends and subcultures, and how they found expression in fashion, design, music, film and television.

“The 1980s shaped a generation. Australia was prosperous and expressing its emerging identity with confidence through a variety of flourishing cultural forms,” said exhibition curator Peter Cox. “It was a fertile time for new ideas and a period of creative ferment that still reverberates today.”

The 80s are back exhibition will look back at how we spent our leisure time, the music we listened to, the clothes we wore, and the experiences we had. It will also explore the recent revival of 1980s style, as a new generation looks to the decade for inspiration in fashion and music.

Drawing on the Powerhouse Museum’s extensive collection and complemented by signature items borrowed from collectors and entertainers, the exhibition will revisit the era’s fashion, toys and fads, video games and technology, architecture and design trends, parties, live music and memorable events.

“The exhibition will feature those products, trends and achievers now regarded as quintessentially 80s, from the Rubik’s Cube and Sony Walkman, big hair and power dressing, to pub rock, electronic music and dance parties,” said Peter Cox.

See costumes worn by Boy George, Kylie Minogue, Chrissy Amphlett, Michael Hutchence and Split Enz, as well as memorabilia including instruments from bands such as INXS, Pseudo Echo, Icehouse, Men at Work and Midnight Oil.

Classic clips from film, television and music video will be screened, revealing the familiar sights and sounds that dominated the era, from Dogs in Space to Puberty Blues, Adam and the Ants to The Go-Betweens. Visitors can also step into an immersive music cube and relive popular 80s entertainment, including a set by renowned DJ Stephen Ferris or a scene from one of the infamous RAT dance parties that regularly took over venues like Sydney’s Hordern Pavillion.

A catwalk will showcase the essential 80s looks, revealing a decade of varying and extreme styles from padded shouldered power suits and glittering gold lamé evening wear to high waisted acid wash jeans, fluoro-coloured aerobics gear and ruffled ra-ra skirts. Along with styles influenced by 80s icons such as Madonna, art clothes brought to life by local designers Katie Pye and Jenny Bannister, and the Katharine Hamnett slogan t-shirt popularised by bands such as Wham! and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

The “must have” products and toys that swept through the decade will be displayed and the evolution of gaming and technology through the 80s explored, from Pac-Man and Space Invaders to Atari and the Nintendo “Game & Watch”.

Unique interactive displays will enable visitors to re-play their favourite retro video games including Galaga, Donkey Kong and Frogger, challenge themselves on an electronic version of the Rubik’s Cube, or try their hand at 80s trivia.

Through personal stories, The 80s are back will delve into the youth subcultures that were setting themselves apart throughout the decade, from Goth, Punk and Mod to the Hip Hop phenomenon which blossomed in the western suburbs of Sydney.

Some of the era’s most defining moments will also be remembered, with a year by year timeline highlighting Australian and international politics, news and current affairs, sport and events, including the America’s Cup, anti-nuclear war movement, Franklin Dam, Live Aid, Azaria Chamberlain case, fall of the Berlin Wall, AIDS crisis and the Bicentennial celebrations.

A final section of the exhibition will explore the Neo-80s. The styles and sounds of the 80s have made a dramatic return to the mainstream of fashion and pop in the past twelve months, from the pages of Vogue to the music and video of artists such as Empire of the Sun and Lady Gaga. But the influence of 80s music and style has been growing for almost a decade, fuelled by the fond nostalgic feelings of those who grew up in the 80s, but also by the restless curiosity of a much younger generation.

Packed with entertaining experiences, familiar personalities, great nostalgia, and perhaps just a few cringe-worthy moments, The 80s are back exhibition will remind us all why the 80s was a decade not easily forgotten.

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