Stan Douglas (b. 1960, Vancouver) examines how films and photographs influence our understanding of history. Drawing on intensive research and meticulous attention to detail, the artist utilizes live actors, costumes, props, and sets to render real and imagined scenes from the past with uncanny accuracy.
Luanda-Kinshasa (2013)—jointly acquired by PAMM and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—depicts a fictitious band of professional musicians at the famed CBS 30th Street Studio in 1970s New York City. Before closing its doors in 1981, “The Church” (as the studio was known) generated a host of important jazz, rock, pop, and classical recordings by artists such as Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Glenn Gould, and Billie Holiday.
Douglas’s interest in nonlinear narrative is apparent in the film’s experimental temporal structure, which functions paradoxically like a tightly controlled musical improvisation. What seems at first to be a straightforward progression turns out to contain repeating and recombined sequences. As the work’s epic, six-hour duration takes hold, it becomes difficult to tell whether time is moving forward or folding in on itself.
In both its title and its Afrobeat-influenced soundtrack, Luanda-Kinshasa alludes to the emergence of a globally minded black consciousness in the 1970s. The eclectic fashions and scenography on display function together with the diverse races, ethnicities, and genders of the band members to vividly evoke the era’s complex social dynamics and identity-based political struggles. Set against this loaded atmosphere, the film’s ultimate effect is to testify to the unifying power of music.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website