Disco Angola (in New York City)

Putting postcolonial Angola and postindustrial New York in visual touch.

The photographer Stan Douglas’s new project “Disco Angola” — a work in progress — is on display at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York until April 28, 2012. The New Yorker announced the show in its “Goings on About Town” section with the image above. What’s amazing is that Douglas has not been to Angola, though from what I read in this interview with Monica Szewczyk he has done a good bit of studying up.

Here are some of the photos from the show which puts, as Douglas describes it to Szewczyk, postcolonial Angola and postindustrial New York in visual touch, makes capoeira and kung fu “visual rhymes.” I think he is on to something.

He’s particularly interested in the 1970s and New York’s disco scene, with the dynamics of intervention staged there, the erasures and standardizations that resulted and similar processes staged in Angola during the Cold War. Read the interview, it’s worth it. It disappoints only when Douglas says that he’s been discouraged by travel guide writers from going to Angola where, they told him, nothing of the ’70s remains…hmmm.

The photo “Exodus 1975 (2012)” is clearly inspired by the Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski’s slim but arresting text ‘Another Day of Life’ (1976) about the last weeks before the declaration of independence in Angola and the exodus of Portuguese immigrants:

Stan Douglas. “Exodus, 1975” (2012)

But it also wants to trouble the notion of witnessing and the truth of photojournalism. Douglas calls this work “costume drama in fragments.” But I wonder if he knows that Angolans in the ‘70s wore bell-bottoms, watched Kung Fu films and also listened to Manu Dibango as did the underground disco spinners in NYC he mentions? So much refraction and reflection in so many directions.

Further Reading

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Our annual publishing break coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Marikana massacre. We are planning a public event on August 20th to reflect on its legacies.

Tricky coalitions

The challenge presented by Argentina: What is the best way to deal with global fiscal pressures in a local context of high expectations and public demands?

AMLO’s way

Mexico’s president has a mandate for radical change, but this change must be negotiated within a context of limits produced by the neoliberal period itself.