Identified with the punk and post-punk movement and its transgressive and anti-establishment attitude towards the status quo, new generations would begin to take the floor from the mid-1970s onwards. In parallel to the growing empowerment of sexual minorities, a series of artistic proposals also made use of the body as a tool of poetic and political action. These practices of disobedience expressed discontent with institutions and clasped the subversion of conservative and heteronormative morals, in some instances putting forward forms of desire that would upset the stability of the masculine-feminine dichotomy.
Hail the New Puritan (1985–1986), a fictional documentary by Charles Atlas that lends this room its title, is laced with eroticism, provocation and humour. Describing a day in the life of famous Scottish dancer Michael Clark, Atlas leads the viewer around the post-punk and queer subculture of 1980s London in all its extravagance: from the study of dance and domestic environments to the city’s streets and clubs.
To the backdrop of Spain’s Transition to democracy, the gig venue Rock-Ola would become an epicentre for the musical and behavioural vibrancy of young Madrileños. A meeting point to dance to the latest releases from London and a melting pot of punks, mods, rockers, artists and intellectuals — different tribes captured through the lens of photographer Miguel Trillo. This eclecticism was the distinguishing feature of a place in which different local bands were formed and the stage upon which many of the biggest international groups in the 1980s would play.
Patricia Gadea’s painting also materialised during this period of euphoria and experimentation with freedoms as it critically reflected on the B-side of Spain’s new milieu. Her stint in New York, in the late 1980s, was a turning point and sparked a greater politicisation of her artistic language. From the other side of the Atlantic, David Wojnarowicz was a beacon of the heady social and cultural environment of New York’s East Village. Chock-full of melancholy, his work bears witness to the city’s transformation and, consequently, the disbandment of artistic collectives forged in the decades previous, defined by financial instability and an anti-establishment, collaborative and experimental spirit. Through art, Wojnarowicz also represented struggles against the stigmatisation of the gay community and with AIDS, which caused his untimely death in 1992.
For many artists, public space is a place to speak out against and express a sense of non-conformity, not belonging and the deprivation of sexual freedom. Colombian artist Miguel Rojas and the members of Brazil’s Movimento de Arte Pornô warned of sexuality confined to the private sphere concealing a way to discipline the body. Rojas pointed to places of encounter for those practicing other forms of sexuality, while from Brazil they proposed modes of counter-pornography as a medium of political struggle and an artistic instrument.