Exhibiting Historical Art: Out of the Vault: Stories of People and Things

1982: Historical Context of "Revolutions Per Minute"

In 1982, Ronald Reagan was serving as President of the United States, Brezhnev was the leader of the Soviet Union, and Margaret Thatcher was serving as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.  This led many to fear that, after, 30 years of  Cold War, this new set of leaders would begin a nuclear war.  Situations like the 1980 Olympics, which the United States boycotted because they were hosted in Moscow, further increased tensions.  Such events, and the claim that Reagan was a 'war monger' who wanted to begin a nuclear war, allowed the Nuclear Freeze Movement gain serious momentum in their fight for the end of nuclear weapons.  This movement reached its peak in 1982, when almost one million people protested in New York City to demand the disarmament of all nuclear weapons across the globe.

The United States was also facing its worst economic recession since the Great Depression in 1982.  Unfortunately for Reagan, after getting his tax reform act passed by congress in 1981, the economy took a turn for the worse just a few months later.  Though policies from the act had yet to even be enacted, the American public immediately associated the two events and questioned Reagan's promises.  Many who had voted for him felt betrayed by him and the government as they saw their savings dwindle quickly.  The economy would soon right itself, however, and Reagan would be re-elected in 1984.

In popular culture, space and technology were reaching the height of their popularity, as space themed movies, television shows, and even rides as Disney World, proliferated around the country.  The first space shuttle, Columbia, successfully entered and returned from space in April 1981, and "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial" was released in movie theaters in 1982, spurring an increased interest in space and technology.  Even recording technology and the art of music was changing rapidly, as seen by the debut of MTV in August 1981, which emphasized the connection between audio and visual art.  Interestingly, the first video ever broadcast on MTV was of the launch of the Columbia space shuttle from earlier that year, further emphasizing the growing connection between music and technology.

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