Think back to a time when during cab journeys you could hear the meter ticking away in the front even though you were sat in the back. The disco was always packed and the drink of choice was shots of peach schnapps. KLIK magazine (which bore some resemblance to The Face and i-D in the UK) went on sale at the kiosks. The socialist PASOK party was at its zenith. “The Bold and the Beautiful” had TV viewers gripped. Pizza delivery was a new thing and bulky stereo systems a must-have. That was Greece in the 1980s, an era that has been recreated in a new exhibition at Technopolis, which opened at the end of last month.
You might think it’s nostalgia, but at the same time it isn’t. “That’s not the prism through which we’re looking, not at all,” say the two curators of the exhibition, academics Panagis Panagiotopoulos and Vassilis Vamvakas. Rather, the revival of the decade emerged out of their attempt to track the roots of the current crisis.
The exhibition focuses on four themes, politics, the arts, lifestyle and technology, which are set out in 18 booths. As well as showcasing objects from that time, it also features lectures, concerts, and fun master classes (including a seminar by makeup artist Achilles Haritos). Meanwhile, the Onassis Cultural Center will be hosting a number of parallel events.
So what elevates this exciting intergenerational experience beyond a simple exhibition? To start with, its organization, which involved the participation of hundreds of Greeks who responded to the curators’ call for people to go delving into attics and storage rooms to dig out clothes, accessories, books, magazines, furniture and other objects from the time, most of which have found a place among the exhibits, while many volunteers also helped to put the show together.
“More than 250 people have helped us by providing exhibits. We signed contracts stating that we were borrowing them for the duration of the exhibition. Albums, personal photographs, magazines, school supplies, posters – you name it. We even got miscellaneous items such as a placemat with a slogan saying ‘A Party without Goody’s is like Rambo without Stallone’ [in reference to the Greek fast-food restaurant] from 1983, paper napkins from pizzerias and bus tickets,” say the curators.
Certain groups have also made contributions, such as Pigi, a cultural association in Gerakas, eastern Attica, which provided PASOK flags, Eoliki liqueur and unopened bottles of whiskey, as well as crockery.
“These are people who feel a connection to these objects because they symbolize something, like the rise in living standards,” says Panagiotopoulos.
There are surprises in store too. From old hair salon equipment to a green bus that used to run the Athens-Piraeus route, and a Yamaha motorcycle. “The great response that we got from the public has to do with the fact that the ‘museum’ we created has been filled with items that normal people had because they were mass-produced. We didn’t want to make an exhibition about the best or the worst of the decade, but something more all-encompassing,” says Panagiotopoulos.
Vamvakas adds: “We were impressed that people in their 40s and 50s brought us so many things, but also that those in their 20s and 30s came to help as volunteers. At least 50 people helped in the preparations.”
Ultimately, what was it that made the 1980s so special? The curators respond: “It was the last stable and emotionally secure era before globalization. For Greece, it was the greatest time of modernization in social relationships and interpersonal freedoms.” Something for older generations to remember and youngsters to learn.