For many reasons, the decade is critical to an understanding of our contemporary moment. These were the years when the art market became what it is today: a luxury exchange, but also a functioning economy for midmarket artists and professionals. The differences between pop and underground culture, between high and low brow, became more obscured than ever before, causing not only confusion, but also a hearth for new creative practices. Nascent digital technologies were replacing the industrial order, and critical theory was demolishing the traditional conceptual boundaries between disciplines.
In her video work Martha Rosler Reads “Vogue”
(1982), also on view at the Hirshhorn,
flips through the magazine and asks, “What is Vogue
? What is fashion?” She responds with a flurry of responses to herself, a deconstruction not only of the magazine, but of culture and those who inhabit it: “It is glamour. It is excitement, romance, drama, wishing, dreaming, winning, success…” Rosler’s monologue handily represents both the naive optimism of the 1980s, and also those voices, tinged with irony, who responded in kind.