MOTIF: Disco

Disco 1 | Thursday, June 7th | 19:30 h | B-Movie
Disco 1 | Saturday, June 9th | 22:00 h | zeise 2

Disco 2 | Friday, June 8th | 20:00 h | IKFF Festivalzentrum Gebäude H, Postgelände Kaltenkircher Platz: Kino Lampenlager
Disco 2 | Saturday, June 9th | 17:45 h B-Movie

»The exquisite truth is to know that it is a fiction and that you believe in it willingly.«

       -Wallace Stevens, ›Adagia‹, 1957

»When I first came to New York … when you went out to dance, disco had no uniform sound. … It was distinct enough for the discaire to begin a set quietly, build gradually to a climax, then let you down to start all over again. … [Y]ou could follow the tantalizing process by which the discaire laid a solid foundation of slow songs and then subtly … built you up to the catharsis, say, of Deodato’s ›2001‹. One thing is for sure. Disco was different then. The music was darker, sexual, troubled. Today the darkness has vanished and the light is everywhere.«

       -Andrew Holleran, ›Dark Disco: A Lament‹, 1979

»Wiggling is in my survival kit. — Dancing, too.«

       -Sara Ahmed, ›Living a Feminist Life‹ (dt.: ›Feministisch leben! Manifest für Spaßverderberinnen‹), 2017

A dark space. A ray of light, glistening. You park your body, momentarily, you watch. Glimpses of limbs, eyes, dissected movements. Sounds and images wash over you, sweep you in, and willingly, you let go. Cinema and disco, as different as their respective dispositifs might seem, have a lot in common. They create magic out of darkness and light, trigger phantasies, make bodies move, and push emotions. They demand that you shut up and surrender. Both cinema and disco could be described as heterotopia (Foucault), a space in which a society’s rules and traditional time are suspended. Disco and cinema, they are dealers in desire. 

Disco: a music, a site, an era, a ›sensibility‹ (Dyer). Four decades after the heyday of mirror ball frenzy, disco seems to have a rather stale whiff about it. Discotheques have been replaced by clubs. Depending on your age and socio-cultural background, the term disco might revitalize memories of hot stuff, painful embarrassments, provoke feelings of nostalgia, or plain disdain. Chic, Gloria Gaynor, The Village People. Drug fueled dancefloor ecstasy, sweat, anonymous sex. Glitter and roller skates. Multiplex discos next to highways in the middle of nowhere. Formulaic plastic music, polyester parade. Gay Liberation. Clone style. Disco Demolition Night.

When it comes to the illustrious combination of disco and moving images, the cultural imagination appears to be fixated on Ilja Richter’s TV show ›disco‹ – at least when it comes to the late BRD – and John Badham’s ›Saturday Night Fever‹. Both are true gems in their own right. Yet, the special program DISCO has reached for an altogether different jewel box.

›You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)‹, dazzling Sylvester sang in 1978, and created one of glitterball culture’s most fabulous hits. His high-NRG ode to sexual liberation and dancefloor heat is an anthem of queer disco – and the soundtrack to which Tracey Emin’s ›Why I Never Became a Dancer‹ reaches its cathartic climax. Inspired by Emin’s video, DISCO celebrates artists’ films and videos that re-examine the music, the fashion, the rituals, and sites of disco. Disco as aesthetic device that analyses deviant desires, power dynamics, questions of individual and cultural identity. Program 1, ›Liberation,‹ delves into the politics of disco: sex, gender, class, race. Dancing queers and feminist killjoys, this one is for you! Program 2, ›Love, Bygone,‹ offers bittersweet baits of disco nostalgia that give way to a frantic image romp. To the hustle! 

DISCO is a rampant and sensual seducer. A kinky diva and intellectual, demanding unconditional adoration. The worshippers who submit to her will be rewarded with delightful views of naughty boys and evil gals. Some films ask for a dance, in others blue jeans are stripped off, men are ripped off, juices flow. All aim to crawl under your skin. Sylvester will be singing as well. Dark disco melts into the black box. DISCO: You make me feel mighty, reel. 

Text and Film selection Mara Marxsen

Mara Marxsen is a film scholar and independent curator with a special interest in experimental film and media art. She works as research assistant at Hamburg University and is currently writing her PhD on the representation of teenage girls in the work of Sarah Jacobson, Sadie Benning, and Jennifer Reeder.