Emil Dryburgh – 29 September, 2014
Artspace - that little modernist bastion on Karangahape Road - felt like a gateway to a sense of community rare in Auckland's suburban sprawl. 'World Record Attempt' - and to a lesser extent the preceding exhibition 'to-and-fro' - strongly contrasted with the recent presentations by James Beckett, G. Bridle, and Peter Friedl, exhibitions that to my mind characterise a European austerity prevalent in Artspace's programming. It's hard to find the vocab to describe World Record Attempt… joy seems to be an entity rarely described by the culture of aesthetic discourse.
D.A.N.C.E. art club (other artists in ‘Welcome’ were: Lowcostcosplay, Anthony Riddell, Single Brown Female, Jennifer Katherine Shields, John Vea)
Curated by Ahilapalapa Rands
5 September - 4 October 2014
“Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it.”
- Stevie Wonder
Starting with the words of another seems appropriate when talking about D.A.N.C.E. art club, and it was Stevie Wonder - with his kaftan and social conscience - who first came to mind. The connection drawn by Wonder between music and memory is a nice one to set-off on. There is an intangible reverie given to music, and the life of a song seems to transcend the time taken to play it. In World Record Attempt - a three and a half day DJ odyssey, featuring a staggering 1275 songs - it is hard to imagine the breadth of memories.
D.A.N.C.E. art club’s attempt at the “Longest DJ Marathon” began on the 9th of September at 12.00pm. On a custom stage and dance floor, DJ Tuafale Tanoa’i aka Linda T took the helm of a 24/7 party governed by the strict stipulations of Guinness World Records.
1. There must be no pauses longer than ten seconds between tunes; music must be continuous.
2. The event should take place on a stage in a club or similar venue, open to members of the public, and not in a recording studio.
3. No individual disc, and no piece of music, may be repeated in performance within four hours.
4. A dancing audience, even if it is a single individual, must be present throughout the DJ session, but no member of the audience may attend for more than four hours at a stretch.
5. 1 x ‘DJ’, 2 x ‘time-keepers, 2 x ‘witnesses’, 1 x ‘steward’, 1 x ‘personal assistant to DJ’, 1 x ‘designated dancer’ must be present at all times to verify the record attempt.
It was this intimidating set of rules that formed the basis of World Record Attempt‘s extraordinary public engagement. The mandatory roles prescribed by Guinness were filled through a ‘Call for Volunteers’ via the respective networks of Artspace and D.A.N.C.E. art club. Hundreds of volunteers enlisted, possibly intrigued at the prospect of being inscribed into the tome of Guinness.
The approval of Guinness seemed unimportant once in the warmth of D.A.N.C.E. art club. World Record Attempt was an experience composed of simple pleasures; people, dance, and music. It seemed we just needed a reason to meet, and having been brought together under the auspices of a world record, our commitment was sustained by the pleasure of spending time together.
My own contribution to World Record Attempt was as a ‘designated dancer’. This was not the first time I’d plied my dancing to an artwork - see here NUMBER 1 - so I happily slipped into the two-hour dance rotations.
Dancing is important. It is an improvisational space, intensely creative, and embracing of temporality. Dancers can create social worlds in which a sense of solidarity and agency exists without the trappings of political discourse. That’s not to say dancing is apolitical - people inhabiting a space with a common aspiration is always political - but this politics is inscribed in kinetic terms.
While World Record Attempt was undoubtedly a party, there was a sense of seriousness about the proceedings. Linda T’s DJ den resembled an office, a place of serious and sustained labour. And while participants enjoyed simple social pleasures, this recreation was recast as an endurance challenge. World Record Attempt was a perverse breed of fun.
Serious indeed… at a recent Walters Prize Q & A session, Linda T engaged with grievances laid against a local group of social practitioners. In response to an elder gentleman’s concerns about a disinterest in ‘beauty and harmony in art’, Linda T replied with typical gumption and good-humour that those ideals are alive and well, the difference is today’s artists are attempting to embody these ideals, rather than simply present them.
In our world of DJ deities, Linda T strikes a humble counter-point. She nurtures the people and culture that constitute a meaningful dance floor, and her inclusive taste in music tellingly extends from a stronghold of 70’s and 80’s soul classic, figures like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and The O’Jays describe the optimism of D.A.N.C.E. art club.
In our climate of public orientated art - where our arts institutions cast vague gestures toward an anonymous ‘public’ - D.A.N.C.E. art club has done a rare thing; World Record Attempt is a relational project which never leaves you wondering “where’s the public?”, or “what is the quality of their engagement?” Correlating with the uptake of social practice in the arts is a scenario in which our participation has become a kind of currency. Luckily participating in World Record Attempt was its own reward, without any of the usual neurosis accompanying social practice.
Artspace - that little modernist bastion on Karangahape Road - felt like a gateway to a sense of community rare in Auckland’s suburban sprawl. World Record Attempt - and to a lesser extent the preceding exhibition to-and-fro - strongly contrasted with the recent presentations by James Beckett, G. Bridle, and Peter Friedl, exhibitions that to my mind characterise a European austerity prevalent in Artspace’s programming. Perhaps in striving to be apart of the culture of contemporary international art - best personified by the downward scroll of Contemporary Art Daily - Artspace can distance itself from the vibrant life at its door.
D.A.N.C.E. art club manifested a public body in a state transfiguration, a pulsating and metamorphic trance sourced from Auckland’s odds and ends. It’s hard to find the vocab to describe World Record Attempt… joy seems to be an entity rarely described by the culture of aesthetic discourse.
Linda T and D.A.N.C.E. art club sustained their DJ marathon for 84 hours, well short of current record holder DJ Smokin’ Joe Mekhael’s astonishing accomplishment of 168 hours. But let’s not judge the party by its length; let’s instead remember its inclusivity, passion and spontaneity. And on this count, I bet D.A.N.C.E. art club blew Smokin’ Joe Mekhael out of the water.
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