Monday, 19 May 2014

Rineke Dijkstra - The Buzz Club

The Buzz Club, Liverpool, England/Mysteryworld, Zaandam, Netherlands, 1996-1997

Rineke Dijkstra (born 2 June 1959 in Sittard) is a Dutch photographer. She lives and works in Amsterdam.

In 1997 Dijkstra made a series of one-minute videos taken in two night clubs. After selecting her models from the clubbers, Dijkstra let them perform as they wanted in front of the camera, as in The Buzz Club, Liverpool, England, March 1, 1997. Dijkstra's portraits differ from those shot by other documentary photographers such as Wolfgang Tillmanns during the 1990s, both in her use of obviously posed compositions and in the distance that she creates between herself and her models in their often startled, confrontational expressions. Presenting a variety of models ranging from matadors to shop assistants, Dijkstra draws not only on the history of documentary portrait photography represented by August Sander and others, but also on the history of portrait painting as well as on each model's desire to present his or her own imagined image.
Catherine M. Grant

Is that desire to photograph teenagers also what kicked you off on your clubber portraits and videos, like the Buzz Club installation?

First of all, there was the club itself. I was a clubber myself when I was much younger. So I went to clubs when I was 14, and I always liked that. I was in Liverpool and I was photographing school children and my assistant was also a clubber, so after shooting we went to the club. We ended up in the Buzz Club, which we really liked, and I thought, wow, I should make pictures here.

How did you move from still photography into the video format?

I liked the club pictures, but they were missing something — the atmosphere of the club and the people moving and dancing and talking. So that brought me to video. I wanted to capture the atmosphere of the club, and that was missing in the photos.

Perhaps the most fascinating (if not disturbing) presentation in this retrospective is the twenty six minute two-channel video projection The Buzz Club. This video was shot over a span of two years, but seems as if it all takes place in one or two nights. A voyeuristic trip through beat clubs in Liverpool, UK and Zaandam, Netherlands, the film is rhythmic and hypnotic, alternating channels in sometimes subtle minimalism, and at other times oddly off sync. The club kids dance as well as smoke, chew gum, and drink beers (often simultaneously). Whereas the adolescents on the beach appear vulnerable and awkward, the kids in The Buzz Club exude confidence and power. Dijkstra has entered their world and they are in control. Dijkstra captures this world in her familiar usage of extended timing and anticipation. The video is excruciatingly slow at times, revealing much more of a photographic nature than the fast pace typical of video. Patience is required for viewing all of Dijkstra's videos.
Christopher H. Paquette

I can’t remember a show where the audience stood for so long in front of a series of images of ordinary people. The same can be said of Dijkstra’s video in which she isolated teenagers against a white background in two night-clubs (The Buzz Club in Liverpool, England and Mystery World in Zaandam, Netherlands) and videoed them dancing, mainly alone, to the camera. Each of them, of course, responded differently to the absence of those clubbing staples, dim lights and crowds - they danced self-consciously and smoked defiantly. Some flirted with the camera, others looked almost annoyed. Most of them, despite trying very hard not to be, looked very young, rather forlorn, sweet even. The audience watched, riveted. The film was long and repetitive, but mysteriously and compulsively viewable. At moments it was hilarious, but never in a cruel or ironic way. It was touching and hilarious because people, especially in clubs, where their posturing and vanity and shyness and lack of confidence are exaggerated, often look silly. A lot of people laughed.

Dijkstra works hard to make photographs and videos that look effortless. At first it seems she has a real talent for finding interesting people, but then, given this much attention, anyone could look fascinating. Her concentration, however, is never sentimental, effusive or patronising, and it’s this quality that makes her such a deeply compassionate artist. She validates and exalts people’s natural curiosity about each other, stripping away layers of artifice until all that is left is the artifice of photography itself.
Jennifer Higgie

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