The 1980s - Today's Beginnings?

15.00 – 18.30 uur: OPENING DE JAREN 80 / THE 1980s
Moniek Toebosch, And this ladies and gentlemen was the destruction of six Thonet-chairs tied with a rope into a circle and several eggs, performance, 1984, De Fabriek, Eindhoven. Photo: Peter Cox
Installation view 'The 1980s. Today's Beginnings?', Room 1: 'Talking Back. Counter Culture in the Netherlands'. Photo Peter Cox
Installation view 'The 1980s. Today's Beginnings?', Room 2: 'Talking Back. Counter Culture in the Netherlands'. Photo Peter Cox
John Akomfrah, Handsworth Songs, 1986. © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery.
A group portrait of NSK members and friends in front of the model of Tatlins Tower from the Scipion Nasice Sisters Theatre production Baptism under Triglav 1986 Photo Marko Modi
Installation view 'The 1980s. Today's Beginnings?', Room 10: 'Thinking Back. A montage of Black Art in Britain'. Photo Peter Cox
Photography (black and white) 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 Vídeo C
Installation view 'The 1980s. Today's Beginnings?', Room 10: 'Thinking Back. A montage of Black Art in Britain'. Photo Peter Cox
Installation view 'NSK: From Kapital to Capital', Moderna galerija, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Installation view 'The 1980s. Today's Beginnings?', Room 4: 'NSK. From Kapital to Capital'. Photo Peter Cox
Installation view 'The 1980s. Today's Beginnings?', Room 5: 'NSK. From Kapital to Capital'. Photo Peter Cox
The Ministry has blood on his hands, 1 december 1995, Queer Archive Andres Senra cc lcence
Installation view 'The 1980s. Today's Beginnings?', Room 7: 'NSK. From Kapital to Capital'. Photo Peter Cox
Installation view 'NSK: From Kapital to Capital', Moderna galerija, Ljubljana, Slovenia
The Ministry has blood on his hands, 1 december 1995 queer archive Andres Senra cc lcence
Veld van eer, zand erover, installation, 1984, De Fabriek, Eindhoven. Photo Peter Cox
Laibach, Kapital, 1992

The 1980s Today's Beginnings?

16/04/2016 - 25/09/2016
Opening: 16/04/2016 15:00

an alternative view on the 1980s

The 1980s. Today’s Beginnings? explores the long 1980s from six European perspectives, examining the relevance of this transformative decade for today. This collaborative project comprises a diverse mix of artworks, music, TV, graphic and archival material, exploring a wide set of socio-political themes through the lens of culture. The different presentations and mediation programme present cultural production that took place against the mainstream, examining its role in moments of state structures in transformation. Culture was central in responding to or predicting deep societal shifts. As Europe is in the midst of a defining transition in terms of how it sees itself and its relationship to others, it is urgent to examine key moments in identity formation and self-organisation from the recent past.

The material presented draws from projects carried out by partners of the museum confederation L’Internationale alongside research undertaken by curators at the Van Abbemuseum. Highlighting the reorientation between civil society and the state during the decade, this project aims to show the significance of developments in the 1980s for society today.

Different European perspectives

The project gives space to multiple narratives and voices from different European perspectives, beginning with counter culture in the Netherlands, the Slovenian collective NSK and black art form Great Britain. The configuration of the galleries will shift during the course of the exhibition; the presentation of NSK lasts until 26 June and from 2 July three new presentations developed by our partners in Istanbul, Barcelona, and Madrid will be added.

- Talking Back. Counter Culture in the Netherlands
16.04 – 25.09.2016
Curator: Diana Franssen, Van Abbemuseum.

Talking Back examines Dutch counter culture in the 1980s through the squatters movement and their cultural spin-offs in artists initiatives with alternative attitudes to the art world. A group of artists increasingly employed video, sound and photography to subvert mass-media’s ‘manipulative’ patterns of representation. Other countercultural movements looked at the position of women and their role in these alternative networks, and activist groups. Though radical in the beginning, these micro histories also show the shift from an open-minded society to a more individual, closed society.
Artists: Catrien Ariëns, Hans Breder, Daniel Brun, Miguel-Ángel Cárdenas, Ulises Carrión, René Daniëls, DEDO-Harry Heyink, Sandra Derks, Jaap Drupsteen, David Garcia & Annie Wright, General Idea, Heiner Holtappels, Patricia Kaersenhout, Jouke Kleerebezem, Bertien van Manen, Raul Marroquin, Mariano Maturana, Joost Seelen, Servaas, Rob Scholte, Lydia Schouten, Sluik/Kurpershoek, Stansfield/Hooykaas, Moniek Toebosch.

- Thinking Back. A montage of Black Art in Britain
16.04– 25.09.2016
Curator: Nick Aikens, Van Abbemuseum.

In 1980s Britain a powerful conversation emerged amongst black artists, film makers, thinkers and institutions. It was the outcome of artists trying to understand their relationship towards Britain’s colonial legacy, an increasingly divisive contemporary politics and the space of culture within which ideas of resistance, expression and identity formation could coalesce. Thinking Back will present a number of key artworks, films and archival material from this pivotal moment in British culture outside the country for the first time.
Artists: John Akomfrah, Rasheed Araeen, Black Audio Film Collective, Sonia Boyce, Chila Burman, Eddie Chambers, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Mona Hatoum, Lubaina Himid, Gavin Jantjes, Claudette Johnson, Isaac Julien, Keith Piper, Ingrid Pollard, Donald Rodney, Marlene Smith, Maud Sulter.
Archives: Blk Art Group Research Project, African-Caribbean, Asian & African Art in Britain Archive (Chelsea College of Arts Library, University of the Arts), The June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive (including films by Imruh Bakari and Amani Naphtali), Making Histories Visible Archive (Centre of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire), The Stuart Hall Library, Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts), London.

- Video-Nou / Servei de Video Comunitari, a case study in Spanish transition
02.07 – 25.09.2016
Curator: Teresa Grandas, MACBA, Barcelona

This presentation looks at a pioneering collective project that took place in the immediate aftermath of Franco’s death in 1975 and the state’s shift from a dictatorial to democratic sphere. Video-Nou / Servei de Video Comunitari used portable video equipment, initiating activist TV stations that were rooted in conceptual art practices and institutional critique. From 1978 they became focused on documenting social changes as a result of the gentrification of neighbourhoods in cities across Catalonia. Their ‘video interventions’ are now a cornerstone in the understanding of the historical events and social processes during this transformative time in Spain.
Artists: Video-Nou / Servei de Video Comunitari.

- How did we get here. Turkey in the 1980s
02.07 – 25.09.2016
Curator: Merve Elveren, SALT, Istanbul

How did we get here delves into the recent past of Turkey starting from 1980, a period that introduced free market economy under military rule. This chapter gives an account of the decade, with an emphasis on Istanbul, through archival materials including magazines, photographs, and films, alongside artworks that evoke the political and cultural climate of the 1980s. It maps the struggle of the decade, tracing the origins of the current context of Turkey through social movements and elements of popular culture. The presentation was first shown at SALT and has been especially adapted for the Van Abbemuseum.
Artists: Aslı Çavuşoğlu en Barış Doğrusöz.
Archives of: Yücel Tunca, Aziz Nesin Archive, Füsun Ertuğ, Gençay Gürsoy, İbrahim Eren, Gülnur Savran, Murat Öneş, Nilgün Öneş, Tuğrul Eryılmaz, Murat Çelikkan, Serdar Ateşer.

- Archivo Queer? Screwing the system (Madrid 1989 - 1995)
02.07 – 25.09.2016
Curator: Fefa Vila Núñez, independent researcher, in association with Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid.

Archivo Queer? consists of an open archive with a palimpsest of images, publications, videos and writings from public performances, actions and campaigns of queer movements in Madrid in the early 1990s, a time when the AIDS crisis was a pandemic. The archive, presented here for the first time, aims to subvert hetero-centric and patriarchal forms of categorization through its formation and display. Archivo  Queer? is initiated by Fefa Vila Núñez, promoter of the artist group LSD and Sejo Carrascosa of the group Radical Gai – with the collaboration of the artist Andrés Senra and the researcher Lucas Platero - developed over a yearlong residency at Reina Sofía.
Artists: Archivo Queer? is comprised of material drawn from collective production in the late eighties and nineties by activists who collaborated with LSD and Radical Gai.

- NSK: From Kapital to Capital. An Event in the Final Decade of Yugoslavia
16.04 – 26.06.2016
Curator: Zdenka Badovinac, Moderna gallerija, Ljubljana.

This part follows events of the different Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) collectives, with a focus on multimedia group Laibach (est. 1980), visual arts group IRWIN (est. 1983), and the theatre group Scipion Nasice Sisters (1983-87). NSK is too often associated exclusively with the context of failing Yugoslavia and socialism. This research highlights the power of the collective artistic faculty and its fundamental goal: to construct a new artistic constellation that would allow them to propose a different society and to enter an international dialogue. The presentation was first shown at Moderna galerija and has been especially adapted for the Van Abbemuseum. 
Artists: Laibach, Irwin, Scipion Nasice Theatre, Cosmokinetic Theatre Red Pilot, Cosmokinetic Cabinet Noordung, New Collectivism, Department of Pure and Applied Philosophy, Builders, Retrovision, Film.

Room 6

Within the exhibition Room 6 will aim to link themes and histories in the exhibition to constituencies and events in Eindhoven. 


This exhibition was accompanied by a publication in the form of a newspaper, which can be downloaded here.


The exhibition is part of the five year programme The Uses of Art, on the legacy of 1848 and 1989, organised by L’Internationale, within which the 1980s has emerged as a key area of research. 

Bosch Grand Tour

The exhibition is part of the Bosch Grand Tour, a series of thirteen contemporary exhibitions in seven prominent museums in the region of Brabant, inspired by Hieronymus Bosch/

The 1980s in the collection

Within the exhibition a gallery will be dedicated to artworks bought by the museum in relation to the group exhibition Jonge Kunst which was on view in the Van Abbemuseum in 1985. With works by amongst others Marlene Dumas, Juan Muňoz, Didier Vermeiren and Kees de Goede.

Van Abbemuseums 80th anniversary

The Van Abbemuseum celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2016. The museum will be open for 80 hours from Thursday 14 until Sunday 17 April. A long weekend filled with activities, including the opening of The 1980s. Today’s Beginnings?

Speech Charles Esche during the opening of 'The 1980s'

The 1980s consists of :


Made possible in part by


  • L'Internationale