Selections from ‘Suburbia’ by Bill Owens, 1973

Look at that living room, so similar to many of the ones I grew up around and yet so much less pokey, so much more relaxed. Those cars, those bizarre technologies we were constantly struggling to understand in cartoons and comics—pull carts, barbecues, six packs—all in the middle of this massive, consequenceless nowhere where it was always warm and never rained. We lived in estates too, but nothing like these huge, smoothly landscaped labyrinths, low to the ground like military installations. Wow, what a place…

‘Wasteland’ by Alex Grey, 1982

In 1972, artist Alex Grey began to realize a series of art installations/performances dealing with themes including death, transcendence, and transformation. As recession began to take hold and the Cold War intensified during the first years of the 1980s, Britain and the U.S. elected reactionary, hawkish leaders, fears of imminent nuclear war spread…

Double Exposure: ‘A-Z’ by Colin Newman and ‘Positive Touch’ by The Undertones

By Richard McKenna and K.E. Roberts

It must have been difficult to imagine, when art-punk band Wire’s guitarist and vocalist Colin Newman released his first solo record, that he could have much to add to the evocation of the strange tensions of contemporary life that Wire had elucidated over the course of their first three LPs: Pink Flag (1977), Chairs Missing (1978), and 154 (1979)…

SDS-V Drum Synthesizer, 1981

Released in 1981, the SDS-V was an electronic drum kit produced by British company Simmons, which was founded in 1978 by Dave Simmons and remained active until 1999. Though retaining a classic layout, the SDS-V’s glossy, hexagonal drums invoked a futuristic, scientific aesthetic that implied a rejection of the sweaty toil previously involved in percussion…

Illustrated Law Enforcement Training Targets, Circa 1982 – 1988

In the early 1980s, an officer of the Judicial Police of Belgian city Liège, Francis Dorao, began seeking a cost-effective method for providing more realistic simulations of high-risk situations for police target training, claiming that the traditional black silhouette targets did not adequately prepare officers to face actual human opponents or to make the split-second decisions necessary when distinguishing between an armed threat and an innocent bystander…

Shoulder Pads in Fashion, 1979 – 1989

The shoulder pad—whose origins lay in the protective padding used in military uniforms—first became a feature of female fashion in the build-up to and during the Second World War. Perhaps in response to the militarization of society then underway, its expressionist lines were introduced by prominent designers like Elsa Schiaparelli, whose work was heavily influenced by the surrealism of Cocteau and Dalí…