Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Movement 1981/2011

The parallels between 2011 and 1981 are not restricted to trends in pop culture and fashion, and cannot all be put down to 30th anniversaries. A landscape of recession, high unemployment, unpopular Conservative government - albeit latterly in coalition form - and cultural flux has prevailed in both eras, and provided the background for other, equally telling reflections.

In 1981, Greece entered the European Community (now the EU). Charles, heir to the British throne, married Lady Diana Spencer. On 16th January, left-wing radical and former MP for mid-Ulster Bernadette Devlin McAliskey was the subject of an assassination attempt by members of the Ulster Defence Association. High unemployment amongst unskilled workers whose jobs had been lost to Thatcherist policies led to millions of women entering the workforce. Hundreds rioted in Brixton, Toxteth, Handsworth and Moss Side in protest at racial discrimination and mistreatment by the police. MTV launched in August. Hosni Mubarak was elected president of Egypt. Natalie Portman was born in Israel. New Order released their debut album Movement eighteen months to the day after the suicide of Ian Curtis, representing the action of the remaining Joy Division members to regroup and evolve, capturing both the detritus of what had occurred and the seeds of what was forthcoming.

In 2011, Greece finds itself subject to extensive national austerity measures to follow the EU's $110bn three-year rescue package, designed to tackle the country's overwhelming debt. Prince William marries Catherine Middleton. Artist Duncan Campbell's 2006 work Bernadette, shown at British Art Show 7 in 2011, demonstrated how the contemporary press championed McAliskey as a martyr, then targeted her as a victim. Universities secretary David Willetts attacks feminism for reducing the job prospects of 'ambitious young men'. Thousands marched in protest at government cuts, particularly in the arts sector. The ARK Music Factory packages hits for would-be teen stars; Rebecca Black's 'Friday' receives over 100million views on YouTube. The 2011 Egyptian revolution brought about the prized resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Natalie Portman wins the best actress in a leading role Academy Award for her turn as a ballet dancer in Black Swan.

Many of these parallels - including natural disasters, wars, political unrest and economic turmoil - will give short shrift to Armageddonists who insist we are living 'in the last days'; apparently this has been the case for at least the last thirty years. Whatever has gone before is permanent and unchangeable; all we can do is look to the future and try to change things while we can. This will involve some sort of physical act or gesture, a movement.

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