Stan Douglas is dedicated to create art that is politically invigorating and visually… fun. Disco Angola, his eleventh solo exhibition at David Zwirner, explores the dichotomy between the disco underground of 1970’s New York City and the liberation struggles in Angola. By assuming the role of a pseudo-photo journalist, Douglas (who will receive the prestigious Infinity Award by the ICP in May 2012) recreated “snapshots” from two separate historical movements with actors playing the part of liberation fighters and disco-goers. The result is eight photographs that establish a profound connection the audience might not have ordinarily been aware of.
Four works are based in Angola, and the other four are based in New York. The mise-en-scène is so convincingly from the mid 1970’s that it is hard to believe that the photographs came from the present. The actors in the photos were the most difficult detail to sort out. “We wanted them to act casual, but at first it was like working with dead meat,” says the soft-spoken Douglas.
The tumultuous Angolan liberation struggles are captured by unnerving depictions of AK-47 ridden checkpoints and gritty MPLA signs, and are contrasted by New York disco party scenes of SoHo lofts, and derelict hotels. In a sense, Douglas seems to bring our modern nostalgia over the disco era into a more direct context of reality. New York City in the 70’s was no picnic. But in capturing these communal scenes of trust, the artist seems to say that the disco movement was an emerging haven. “It was utopian in a sense,” notes Douglas, “everyone was coming together.”
Disco Angola will be on display at David Zwirner through April 28th.