MUNICH.- Haus der Kunst
presents the photographs Stan Douglas has produced since 2008, as well as his newest works, revealing him at an exceptional moment in his artistic career: In these works, Douglas has closely interwoven music, film, theater, photography, and digital formats, allowing them simultaneously to be associated with various forms of media.
A focal piece in the exhibition is the video-music installation "Luanda - Kinshasa" (2013), a fictional narrative about the absent Miles Davis. Douglas also broke new ground with his theatrical production of "Helen Lawrence" (2014), in which the actors' performances are filmed in real time and immediately uploaded into a computer-generated environment (performances will take place in the Münchner Kammerspiele simultaneously to the exhibition opening).
The exhibition furthermore unites the newest, primarily large-scale photographic series: "Crowds and Riots" (2008), "Interiors" (20092010), "Midcentury Studio" (20102011), "Malabar People" (2011), and "Disco Angola "(2012). These photographs depict staged historical moments, mostly dating from the end of the war until the mid-1970s: The black market culture of the postwar era and the transition to other forms of trade; striking dockworkers; demonstrations calling for freedom of speech; and the conflict between hippies and the authorities. In the series "Disco Angola", a synchronous viewing of New York's disco culture and the tense atmosphere in Angola, Douglas links the two cultures into an overlapping narrative about postcolonialism. He thus enriches the recent presentations in Haus der Kunst, which focused on concepts of the development of modernity by adding the deliberately fragmentary narrative: "A historical drama is staged in fragments, encouraging viewers to imagine a more comprehensive situation. (Stan Douglas)
"Midcentury Studio", 2010-2011
After World War II, former soldiers turned to photography, hoping to earn a living as photojournalists. A striking example of such a career was Raymond Munro. According to Douglas, Munro was "a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force who, in 1949, arrived in Vancouver slightly drunk and with a broken collarbone to apply for the position of aerial photographer with a local newspaper. Munro had no photographic training, but he was pretty sure he could fly a plane with one hand, and he got the job." In the archives of the photo agency Black Star at Ryerson University, Douglas looked through numerous images from the years 1945 to 1950. These were taken by autodidactic photographers using 4 x 5 field cameras with flashes that were slow to load and cumbersome to reset. The motifs were street and crime scenes, accidents, animals, moonshine bars, and famous people - anything with which a photographer could earn money. For his 29-piece black-and-white series "Midcentury Studio", Douglas slipped into the role of such a postwar photographer, who photographed for practical purposes and shot "technically bad pictures that now and then could be interesting images". In Douglas's "Camouflage, 1945" (2011), "the lighting intended to make the subject more visible [but] makes him more invisible; in "Athlete, 1946" (2011), "the portrait of the athlete [was] shot at the wrong moment with peripheral action distracting from the "subject."
Although Douglas meticulously researches historical events and stages them in a complex manner, these photographs remain free of any claim to historical truth or interpretation. They reveal themselves as conjectures and fragments, as spoken narratives told in the conditional tense. Here, Douglas makes use of a literary technique: After researching historical facts, the author creates a fictional protagonist who narrates from the authorial perspective, telling about how things might have been. A novel constructed in such a way also gives the impression that knowledge is piecemeal and reality unstable.
"Disco Angola", 2012
Settled in 1974 and 1975, this series of eight color photographs combines situations in Angola and New York. During this period, the struggle for independence and decolonization led to civil war in Angola. This time Douglas slips into the role of a photographer who works with little equipment, uses 35mm film, and is ready to move fast and shoot quickly to increase his chances of getting the right image. Douglas describes this fictional adventurer: "He has somehow been able to gain the trust of some rebels who would, in turn, introduce him to others and teach him the local codes of conduct, the ignorance of which could be deadly." Enslaved Africans, who were shipped from Luanda via the Middle Passage in the eighteenth century brought the African-Brazilian martial art Capoeira to the New World. With "Disco Angola", Stan Douglas imagines this martial art has returned to its home country.
"Luanda - Kinshasa", 2013
The European premiere of this film and music installation will take place in Haus der Kunst. It tells the story of a studio recording Miles Davis might have made following the release of his album "On the Corner" in 1972. "Miles Davis wanted to connect with a younger audience, and naïvely imagined that incorporating influences of Indian classical music and Karlheinz Stockhausen into extended funk improvisations would do the trick. However, Columbia Records decided to market to an older 'jazz' audience and 'On the Corner' was Miles's worst-selling album ever."
Instead of the druggy jams that he made with his touring band until his retirement in 1975, this imagines that Miles might have tried to connect with another youth culture that was emerging in New York at the time by expanding his interest in world music through a dialogue with Afrobeat of Cameroonian Manu Dibango. Like Miles, Dibango synthesized jazz and funk.
Douglas realized the project in a replica of the Columbia 30th Street Studio, in which Miles Davis recorded all of his studio albums from 1954 to 1981. Two moveable, time-coded and synchronized cameras on tracks filmed the waiting, listening, chatting, and playing musicians and their entourage. As in "Journey into Fear" (2001), a limited number of camera settings and plot fragments - here the ensemble performances - serve as the basis for an almost endless number of possible variations: Whenever a musician is not in the picture, his or her performance can be replaced by an alternative recording. Miles Davis himself is present in his absence - in Douglas's ensemble there is no trumpeter.
"Helen Lawrence", 2014
The cinematic stage production "Helen Lawrence" takes place in Vancouver in 1948, recalling aesthetics of film noir. The setting is "
a treacherous, shape shifting landscape of police and pimps, soldiers and refugees, damaged goods and ghostly lovers all scrambling to find their feet in the shifting sands" (Stan Douglas). The main character, Helen Lawrence, is mentally unstable and remains highly ambivalent: Did she kill her husband, or was the murderer someone else?
"Helen Lawrence" combines theater with film and computer-generated imagery. The actors are simultaneously camera operators, and their images are present as oversize projections. "Helen Lawrence" celebrated its world premiere in March 2014 at the World Premiere Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver, and will make a guest performance at the Münchner Kammerspiele.
This latest work makes postwar Vancouver available as an app. Stan Douglas uses this iPhone format for the first time here. Thirty-one stories take place in the same hotel as does "Helen Lawrence"; 14 additional ones take place in a small alley.
Born in Vancouver, Canada, in 1960, Stan Douglas's exhibition biography includes numerous solo exhibitions, as well as repeated participation in the documenta and Venice Biennale.