Rock and Roll will never die: Stan Douglas rockumentary at David Zwirner

Still from Stan Douglas’ current solo exhibition, Luanda-Kinshasa, at David Zwirner, New York, 2014.

Still from Stan Douglas’ current solo exhibition, Luanda-Kinshasa, at David Zwirner, New York, 2014.

See this review published online for Metro New York Jan. 16, 2014

Alright, alright, alright: Stan Douglas: Luanda-Kinshasa at David Zwirner

Luanda-Kinshasa is an epic love letter to 1970s rock and roll—or so it seems. This 6 hour video projection by Stan Douglas at the David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea appears to be a marathon jam, but is actually a staged performance with actors playing roles as “hippy musicians.”

Luanda-Kinshasa is a rock-mockumentary of a 70s jam band studio session set in a reconstruction of the legendary Midtown Columbia 30th Street Studio “The Church” where recording legends including Miles Davis and Bob Dylan laid down timeless tracks. In the video contemporary musicians act as afrocentric rockstars playing a plethora of instruments to lay down funkadelic tracks.

As Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players,” so the fun of this video is its deception—its false authenticity is not its flaw, but its strength. By parodying a moment in history—the free love era of 1970s jam bands—history becomes obviously dated and the silly ugly step-child of contemporary life. Watching Luanda-Kinshasa makes you love your smartphone even more and loathe the ridiculous fads that defined the distant decade devout to peace, love, and rock and roll.

Footage is raw and gritty with a sepia undertone reminiscent of age-old photos from your parents generation, or more attune to the Millenial age, the Kelvin or Valencia filters on Instagram. The handful of musicians in the film are decked out in appropriate love child decor—bell bottoms, linen shirts, tweed belts, and flower power crop tops adorn free spirited hippy musicians with long wavy locks, full beards, Burt Renolds mustaches, and bandana styled afros.

Musicians rock with a myriad of instruments only Jethro Tull could love—2 guitars, a bass, 3 sets of bongos, 2 keyboards, an organ, an old-school synthesizer, a drum set, an alto saxophone, a full set of chimes, and do not forget the triangle.

With all the ingredients for a hardcore jam session, the music produced is rocking, but repetitious—the musicians strum the same old melodic riff over and over again, making this epic in proportions for all the wrong reasons. Like a Top Ten Hit embedded into the depths of the brain, the music in Luanda-Kinshasa becomes the track you cannot kick, but also the show you cannot stop watching—the king may be gone but he is not forgotten, rock and roll can never die.

If you go:

Stan Douglas: Luanda-Kinshasa through February 22, 2014

David Zwirner

533 West 19th Street

Free Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.


One comment

  1. nikeyo · January 15, 2014

    I wish, oh wish, I could have known of you when I was a college student in NYC…! Your article was so inspiringly written. I wish I could go! But, I did find a short, >1 min, clip on Youtube. I was pleased.

    Found you and your blog because you took the time to stop by mine and follow. Thank you! Returning the favor happily. 🙂

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