Come Together—Let’s Dance

Pop culture and its counter-cultural atmospheres, their self-reliant aesthetic vocabulary and their economically reified utilization contexts are an important component of the socialization of the post-war generation. Socially relevant, controlling, utopian, soundpolitical and aesthetic expressions are found in close proximity in an ambivalent way in their products. Social use is conveyed especially through images and visual codes in popular music. The sounds are accompanied by dance, styling, gestures and staging—it is in this blend that their everyday cultural and socio-political context first emerges. In pop culture the concomitant documentary images (video clips, record covers, posters, etc.) are constitutively linked with the music by conveying its proper use. The various facets of this field have already been taken up and commented on in numerous artistic productions. Dan Graham, for instance, in his video essay Rock My Religion (1984), analyzed the contradictory sociopolitical functions of Rock’n’Roll in American post-war society, comparing the rituals of the industrious Shakers—a celibate religious sect that vented sexuality and tensions through music and ritual group dancing—with the libidinous hysteria that became established around the new gods of rock. In the form of a collage of images, found footage and texts he thus addressed the gender-political issues and changes linked with music culture relating to the body. Sound and pop culture are biographical components permeating and conjoining different lives, as well as commercial conditioning machines that freeze gestures and symbols from a subcultural socio-political context into conventions and stylisms. At the same time, promises of immediacy, youthfulness, community and counter-culture are available for disposition. This is expressed particularly in shared dancing. Unlike the bourgeois couple dance, dancing in popular culture is a form of social communication. On the one hand it allows room for individual interpretation and self-expression, on the other it represents a visualization of subcultural know-how. The way that socio-political history is also depicted in various dance styles and music directions is shown very clearly in Adrian Piper’s video Funk Lessons (1983), in which she deals with the way white pop stars copied the sound and style of black Funk and Blues legends and were economically successful with that, and discusses the different functions of dance in black and white culture. Pop-cultural and political references play a similarly important role in Mathias Poledna’s works. In these he investigates fragments of the culture of the 20th century and the multifaceted dimensions of cultural representation contained in them. In his most recent works Poleda addresses specifically the interplay of image and sound. In Version (2004), a dance film without sound, the nostalgic shots on 16mm film, which record the trance-like gliding movements of the performers and the way the camera picks them up only fragmentarily, evoke contradictory associations: on the one hand with the abstract dance of forms, as it was interesting in early soundless, absolute films, on the other modern dance. The mystery of the inaudible sound that the dancers are moving to in Version is first resolved in another work by Poledna with the title Sufferer’s Version (2004), in which the song Working Hard for the Rent Man by the political reggae and dub performer Junior Delahaye accompanies the strange dance scene. In this version the seemingly abstract, endlessly repeating, trance-like movements become a dream image of a society, in which hedonist youth culture, conditions of capitalist exploitation, protest songs, modern dance philosophy and the monotony of physical labor processes are intimately intertwined.

Hans Weigand, Disco Boys, 1977

Dan Graham, Rock My Religion, 1982–84

Adrian Piper, Funk Lessons, 1983

Józef Robakowski, Moskwa, 1985–86

Heidrun Holzfeind, CFOXC / FOX IN THE BOX, 1998

Michaela Melian, Convention, 1999–2000/2009

Mathias Poledna, Version, 2004

Matt Stokes, Long After Tonight, 2005

Atelier Hopfmann (Judith Hopf, Deborah Schamoni), Hospital Bone Dance, 2006