Stan Douglas: Luanda-Kinshasa at David Zwirner, New York

Stan Douglas: Luanda-Kinshasa at David Zwirner, New York

For Stan Douglas‘ 12 solo show at David Zwirner, the artist will debut a new film Luanda-Kinshasa on 9 January, marking the first time the artist has filmed on location in New York. The film is set in a reconstruction of the legendary Columbia 30th Street Studio, which was based in Midtown Manhattan and home to some of the most renowned musical recordings of the 20th century. Operated by Columbia Records between 1949 and 1981 in an abandoned Armenian church on East 30th Street, the studio was popular with artists working across all genres. Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue (1959), Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited (1965), and Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979) were amongst the seminal records made at “The Church”. Other artists using the studio were Leonard Bernstein, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Glenn Gould, Billie Holiday, Vladimir Horowitz, and Charles Mingus, among many more, with musical genres ranging from classical to musicals, jazz, pop, and rock.

Featuring a band of professional musicians improvising together, Luanda-Kinshasa is the documentation of a fictitious recording at the famed studio. The decade is the 1970s and an array of stylistic and ethnic influences is apparent. Pianists, saxophonists, trumpeters, drummers, and guitarists play while a sound engineer works on the tunes and an entourage of girlfriends, journalists, and record label staff hangs around more or less listlessly. Context is provided by fashion styles, musical equipment, tobacco and drinks labels, while newspaper headlines offer a subtle reminder of the outside world.

Luanda-Kinshasa expands Douglas’s interest in the African origins of the music scene in New York in the early 1970s. In his series of photographs from 2012, Disco Angola, he drew parallels between the burgeoning disco culture in the United States and the Angolan liberation struggles following the end of Portuguese rule. Foreign influences and an affinity with Afrobeat are widely discernible in the reconstructed studio, as is a broader curiosity in synthesizing sounds and genres. Similar to many of Douglas’s previous films, which have involved arbitrary loops that at times take days to unfold, Luanda-Kinshasa combines and recombines edits to allow for musical variations. The emphasis is on the compositional process itself, rather than a finished composition.

Stan Douglas, Luanda-Kinshasa, 9 January until 22 February, 533 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011.

Image: Luanda-Kinshasa. © 2014 David Zwirner