(b. Vancouver 1960)
“Exodus, 1975” (from the series Disco Angola)
Digital chromogenic print mounted on Dibond aluminum
180.3 x 257.8 cm
Courtesy of the artist, David Zwirner (New York/London) and Victoria Miro (London)
© Stan Douglas
Stan Douglas’s “Exodus, 1975” is part of the series Disco Angola, which is composed of eight large-format photographs made in 2012. Douglas invents a backstory for these photos by dating them 1974 or 1975 and crediting them to a fictional photographer. He describes that persona as an African-American photojournalist who covered the outbreak of the Angolan civil war (1975-2002). Based on archival images, “Exodus, 1975” represents Portuguese colonists forced to flee after Angola gained independence. The people in the staged scene are dressed in 1970s-style European clothes. They overflow the frame of the high-angle shot, creating the impression of a crowd.
The art of Vancouver-based Stan Douglas spans photography, video, film, installation and theatre. Using references to social and political history, literature, music, television and Hollywood movies, Douglas explores the workings of images and the nature of narrative forms. Like many of his series, Disco Angola upends the conventions of documentary photography by reconstructing actual scenes. The images play on the tension between reality and fiction, prompting reflection on the veracity of photography and recalling the artist’s association with Photoconceptualism.
In Stan Douglas’s series Disco Angola, four of the eight photographs evoke the eve of civil war in Angola, while the other four portray the disco scene in 1970s New York. “Kung-Fu Fighting, 1974” shows a black man performing dance moves inspired by kung-fu films and the famous “Kung Fu Fighting” song. With this tip of the hat to the origins of disco – the first disco hit was a song by the Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango (b. 1933) – Douglas links African-American musical expression in the 1970s and the liberation of the Angolan people in 1975, with “Exodus, 1975”.