Stan Douglas’ “Luanda-Kinshasa” is an ode to rock ‘n’ roll

Stan-Douglas_Luanda-Kinshasa_Still-11 (1)
Stan Douglas’ “Luanda-Kinshasa” is a six-hour music mockumentary.
Credit: Provided

“Luanda-Kinshasa” is an epic love letter to 1970s rock ‘n’ roll — or so it seems. This six-hour video projection by Stan Douglas at the David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea appears to be a marathon jam, but is actually a staged performance with actors playing roles as “hippy musicians.”

So it’s actually a rock-mockumentary. It reconstructs legendary Midtown Columbia 30th Street Studio “The Church,” where idols like Miles Davis and Bob Dylan laid down timeless tracks.

But the fun of this video is its deceptive character — its false authenticity is not its flaw, but its strength. By parodying a moment in history — the free love era of 1970s jam bands — history becomes the silly step-sibling to contemporary life. Watching “Luanda-Kinshasa” makes you love your smartphone even more and loathe the ridiculous fads that defined the distant decade devoted to love and peace.

Footage is raw and gritty, with a sepia undertones reminiscent of age-old photos from your parents’ generation — or, for the Millennial age, it’s like the Kelvin or Valencia filters on Instagram. The handful of musicians in the film are decked in appropriate love child decor: Bell-bottoms, linen shirts, tweed belts and “flower power” crop tops adorn free-spirited musicians with long locks, full beards and bandana-styled ‘fros.

They rock with a myriad of instruments only Jethro Tull could love: guitars, bass, bongos, keyboards, an organ, an old-school synthesizer, a drum set, an alto saxophone, a full set of chimes and, of course, the triangle.

With all the ingredients for a hardcore jam session, the music produced is rocking, but repetitious — the players strum the same old melodic riff over and over again, making this epic in proportions for all the wrong reasons. Like a Top Ten Hit embedded in the depths of your brain, the music in “Luanda-Kinshasa” becomes the track you cannot kick — but also the show you cannot stop watching.

If you go

Through Feb. 22
David Zwirner
533 West 19th St.
Free Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.


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