an ode to the nightlife of Haarlem


Scene from ‘Rhythm of the Night’ by Rineke Dijkstra.Picture Rineke Dijkstra

The black tattoo on his pale neck is the only thing that stands out about his appearance. His haircut is cheap, maybe cut by his mother. His brown T-shirt and jeans are everyday camo clothing. But when the beats sound and the tempo picks up, he goes wild king of the dance floor. In the highest concentration, he works through a variety of movements. He does not care that he is not standing in a dark room, but is enjoying himself in front of a stark white wall with the relentlessness of a fluorescent tube.

The ecstatic dancer is one of five young people Rineke Dijkstra met in 2009 at The Krazyhouse, a nightclub in Liverpool. She asked them to dance to their favorite music, but in her studio and during the day. The resulting group portrait of young people on the brink of adulthood – each more confident than the next – is one of the Frans Hals Museum’s masterpieces. The work is not often seen, but now marks the beginning of The rhythm of the night.

Huge losses during corona

This exhibition of six video works is an ode to nightlife. It went on standby during corona, when discotheques and clubs were closed for several months. Young people in particular felt it as a great loss. For them, going out means dancing away frustration, boredom and excess energy. But also find out who you are, how you want to convey that with clothes or hairstyle, and what the mutual relationships are like.

The ambiguous thing about this identity formation on the dance floor is that it involves letting go of control, blending into the crowd and for a while being completely separate from the world. Anne de Vries reconstructs in Critical mass: pure immanence how it works. With clicks and crackles, the light turns on as the beat accelerates the collective heartbeat to an eternally delayed climax. A voice, alternately male and female, oracles of pure being and the unfiltered experience of connection.

Trance by Tianzhuo Chen deepens the spiritual interpretation of electronic dance music. The artist has condensed a twelve-hour ritual into a few minutes of film, where you see the participants detach themselves from themselves in an accelerated way to reach a higher reality. This is symbolized by a series of out-of-focus images, animations and black-and-white archive footage that rumble in jerks.

Sideburns and wide legs

In the small church in Dundee where Matt Stokes performed a dance from the 1960s, things are much quieter at first glance. But also in Long after tonight the swirling skirts are reminiscent of meditative Sufi dances and the men with sideburns and wide legs sometimes have a glassy faraway look. The Northern Soul movement Stokes revived in his video was culturally revolutionary. White young people from faded Scotland embraced the warm-blooded African-American music culture en masse.

Entire generations of Scots have been shaped by Northern Soul, which made people forget the misery of the working week every weekend in shadowy rooms. Los Angeles’ Hispanic LGBTQ community similarly owes a lot to The Silver Platter. Wu Tsang brings the legendary bar to life Wildness. With its length of 76 minutes and talking heads this work is more documentary than video art, but the brilliant idea of ​​having the club itself appear as a person using a voice-over gives this period document a poetic layer that keeps you watching.

The silver dish sings of the qualities of the night. The darkness is a protective cloak for those who are different. The night is a sanctuary and a refuge. Nightlife is a creative pressure cooker where new steps are taken in fashion and music that often later seep into mainstream pop culture in a diluted form.

'Hooley' by collective Kimberly Clark.  Three young women drink, smoke, tear down street furniture and make obscene gestures.  Picture Kimberly Clark

‘Hooley’ by collective Kimberly Clark. Three young women drink, smoke, tear down street furniture and make obscene gestures.Picture Kimberly Clark

Challenge existing standards

But nightlife is also the arena where existing norms are challenged. The Kimberly Clark collective does this with dedication. The three young women drink, smoke, tear down street furniture and make obscene gestures – hardly ladylike behaviour. The title of the roller coaster carousel that spins at the killer pace of gabberhouse is Hooley. It means ‘party’, but is of course also reminiscent of ‘hooligans’.

To Hooley to get there, you have to go through the whole building: up the stairs, past a door, around the corner, through the corridor, another staircase. It’s a bit like visiting a club and wandering from room to room looking for the music that best suits your mood. The sound of the videos blend into each other and draw you further and further. It provides excitement and an adrenaline rush that you don’t often get in a museum environment. Once you’ve jumped outside, you want nothing more than to let loose.

The rhythm of the night: until April 10 in the Frans Hals Museum, location HAL (Grote Markt)

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