Exodus, 1975, 2012
Coat Check, 1974, 2012
Checkpoint, 1975, 2012
A Luta Continua, 1974, 2012
Two Friends, 1975, 2012
Club Versailles, 1974, 2012
All Articles
All Articles

Disco Angola

Stan Douglas's recent photographic work features dancers and refugees

by James Thorne
on 22 March 2012

Opening his 11th solo show at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York City, photographer Stan Douglas has once again assumed the persona of fictional photographer. His last show at Zwirner, Midcentury Studio, comprised a series of mock press photographs documenting the post-war period. For Disco Angola, Douglas is playing the role of a '70s photojournalist in New York's disco scene and the recently liberated Angola. From the geographically and culturally disparate communities comes a unique dialogue about liberation, self expression and dance.


The show's eight pieces are arranged in pairs that face each other on opposing walls. Each of the pieces explores a particular "event"; as Douglas explains, an event is "not just something that happens, but something that happens that's so unfamiliar, so strange, so horrifying that it challenges the nature of truth at the time." Pairing disco scenes against revolutionary moments, the event and its ramifications are further dramatized.

"Capoeira" is a photograph of a circle of Angolans practicing capoeira—the Brazilian art form that marries martial arts with dance—and is hung opposite "Kung-Fu Fighting", which shows a disco dancer performing moves learned from Bruce Lee's pioneering films. Together, the images break down the close relationship between conflict and dance, as well as the kinship between recently liberated Angolans and members of the New York gay community. At its heart, Douglas sees the connection between the Angolan Civil War and disco as both blissful periods that were ruined by the outsiders—both in the form of photojournalists and curious "scenesters".


Explaining a bit of the history that informs the work, Douglas mentioned the long and bloody civil war that preceded Angola's Carnation Revolution. "New York, in the 1970s, was almost a third world state," elaborates Douglas, seeing the similarities between the war and the scene in NYC. "The federal government was not interested in supporting it. It was almost bankrupt. The subway system was dangerous, the parks were dangerous. It was in this condition that the 'Disco Underground' first appeared."

Douglas brilliantly employs contemporary costuming and props, successfully transporting the viewer in to the respective scenes. Many of the works are inspired directly by a found photograph or are composites of several sources that serve as inspiration. While Douglas shoots on digital and avoids mimicking the photographic appearance of the the era, the casting and art direction are fully convincing. By discarding traditional photography's notion of the "decisive moment" and the time stamp, Douglas opens up the medium to infinite possibilities.

Disco Angola is on display at the David Zwirner Gallery starting tonight, 22 March through 28 April 2012. See more images of the exhibition in our slideshow.

David Zwirner Gallery
525 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance
Loading More...