A project collaboration between Red Gallery and Tim Lawrence Presenting:
Creativity, Collectivity, Convergence! New York City Party Culture, 1970-83
New York of the 1970s and early 1980s is routinely depicted as a failing city defined by bankruptcy, declining services, squalor, arson, crime and civil unrest. But it was during this period that the New York’s melting pot population came together to forge contemporary DJ culture, disco, punk and hip hop as well as one of the most prolific cultural renaissances of the twentieth century. These developments that continue to shape musical and artistic creativity.
Tim Lawrence’s interconnected history of New York 1970-83—charted in Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79, Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russel and the Downtown Music Scene 1973-92, and Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-83—counters the neoliberal myth that the city needed austerity, corporate welfare, pumped-up bank loans and deregulation in order to avoid armageddon. It charts how, far from seeking to flee an uninhabitable city, a rainbow coalition of artists, musicians and partygoers, many of them suburban refugees, embraced its organic, participatory, visceral potential. If they dreaded anything, it was the the prospect of having to leave, even for a weekend. “It was like Halloween every night,” recalls Club 57’s Ann Magnuson.
“Creativity, Collectivity, Convergence! New York City Party Culture, 1970-83” bring together artwork from Lawrence’s unofficial trilogy. The selections illustrate how party spaces operated as radical social centres where participants explored new forms of community, creativity and employment as the city transitioned from an industrial to a postindustrial economy—and how that economy could be based on collective participation rather than individual competition. They demonstrate the communal-creative potential of a culture that ended up being pummelled by the perfect storm of neoliberal economics, the AIDS epidemic and the crack epidemic followed by “Zero Tolerance”. They also offer a window into a transformational past that can feed into a differently organised future.
The opening will feature a panel discussion of the pre-neoliberal conditions that enabled New York’s creative community to flourish. NYC artist Martin Beck’s 13-hour film Last Night, which features the records selected at the penultimate party of David Mancuso’s Prince Street Loft, will be screened 9-10 June (bring a cushion, even a balloon). Beck and Lawrence will discuss Last Night and the wider downtown party scene on 11 June.