Emerging from gay clubs on Fire Island and downtown New York, disco, in its earliest incarnations, conjured a utopia on the dance floor. In clubs like The Loft, The Gallery, and Paradise Garage, DJs spun together infectious beats and ecstatic R & B vocals into racially and sexually diverse extended play. The production of disco music gave rise to a host of new technologies and social practices (the remix, the 12” single, the DJ as artist, the dance floor as collective), and in many ways heralded a new era of commoditized affective experiences: music and lifestyle as preprogrammed loops. And what other genre experienced so rapid a decline, crossing over into novelty parodies and a riotous ‘Disco Demolition Night’ within a few years of hitting mainstream airwaves? Legendary DJ Nicky Siano (The Gallery, Studio 54) will join media historian Amy Herzog and artist Tara Mateik to discuss the pleasures, contradictions, and potentialities of disco culture.
Nicky Siano is a pioneer in the dance music scene, starting as a teenager in the early 1970s, and developing many of the techniques and technologies core to the art of turntabilism. Siano was the co-owner, designer, and DJ at The Gallery, and held a celebrated resident DJ at Studio 54. He has produced a documentary about The Gallery, Love is the Message (2014), and continues to tour internationally.
Co-presented with Morbid Anatomy, Utopia / Dystopia is an ongoing series of talks, screenings and discussions that attempt to investigate questions such as: Is the yearning for a lost paradise a human universal? And is it always doomed to failure? In what ways do our attempts to create a paradise on earth backfire? Is there always, truly, a serpent in the garden?