I often ask myself why put words where none are needed? Why speak for art that does it’s own job of that beautifully. The answer that always comes is that if I say something maybe 1 more person will see it, hear it, know about it…so on.
Stan Douglas at David Zwirner surely doesn’t need my words. In fact, the gallery and artist provide a YouTube clip of Luanda-Kinshasa so that my words become even less relevant. The only piece in the massive Zwirner space is a gigantic film projection depicting musicians at a jam session. The contemporary musicians are dressed in, and surrounded by, 70’s era funk swag. It is a free-flowing Fusion Jazz session that calls on the sounds of the master of African Fusion Fela Kuti. Miles may have made Bitches Brew, and Sun Ra may have made it intergalactic, but Fela used a danceable long form funk to do loveable and political music. Douglas eludes to ongoing political strife and the events of 1974 with the title, but also the sound.
Here Douglas gives us Jason Moran and a group of dedicated musicians in a New York studio that looks and feels like 1974. There doesn’t seem to be anything (aside from the incredible clarity of picture and sound) to refute that premise. The fluid camera movements and cuts between musicians as passages shift are perfect. I saw a small piece of the 6 hour film and cannot wait to see it again. I know the #selfie crowd won’t dive into line like they did with Yayoi Kusama’s last show here, but lineup they should.
Luanda-Kinshasa is great music and a great look, but what does it mean to have it here, at Zwirner? Performance art doesn’t often mimic traditional musical performance because it is too similar. Television was ripe for reinterpretation; Dara Birnbaum remixed Lynda Carter in Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman in 1978 and Ryan Trecartin has been ripping reality TV and music videos to great acclaim in recent years. Cindy Sherman made short work of film (out of motion) with her photos and Steve McQueen is making features now but art films before it. Christian Marclay is the reigning champion of film about film with The Clock. Live musical performance has not needed to be performed as performance art as it already is performance and art. By changing eras and dressing a stage, Stan Douglas has given us a compelling reason with Luanda-Kinshasa.