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"We walk like a ghost"

>Since Giuliani crushed it in the 1990s, New York City nightlife has more or less been vestigial. The global security consultant's smash job on Fun City coincided with the anti-rave laws being passed against joyful assembly in the UK. Those laws ended that party practice, although big boom box sounds and dancing multitudes came back, in a true return of the repressed, as Reclaim the Streets, the explicitly political practice of the anti-roads and anti-corporate globalization movements.

Back in the Spongy Apple, nightlife has reverted to the era of Sherman Billingsley and the Stork Club – if you have to ask, you can't afford it. But what happened then has not been forgotten. ChiChi Valenti has tirelessly maintained her famous “nightclub museum” online at with the motto, “We Build New York City Nightlife Utopias.” And there are signs of a revival, from strange institutional quarters. Last fall the Museum of Arts and Design hosted a conference called “THE FUN Conference on Nightlife as Social Practice.” This event, which supported a book release, aligned what New York traditionally did well with the emergent genre of social practice art. Conferees recognized that nightlife was constituent – it was “a gathering, or collective body with powerful political potential.” Giuliani may have been a prude, but he was on the higher track of squashing potential dissidence, and delaying shit like that Zucottti Park fracaso.

So, now, bit by scrabbly bit, institutions with an interest in historical interpretation are moving to put the puzzle pieces of the long-gone fun times back into some kind of shape, trying to understand what it all might have meant, besides a pustulous stream of nostalgic reminiscence. Now comes a mini-show unfortunately called “Go Nightclubbing,” an evocation of the famed video lounge at the democratic multi-storied mega-club Danceteria mounted by the Fales Library collection at NYU. The show is put together by early VJs Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong, who worked at Hurrahs and then Danceteria. (The press release is pasted at the bottom of this post; also the MAD thing.)

I hope I have a chance to see it. It's important that archives like Fales with extensive holdings in video, produce events like this to animate their otherwise static archival holdings. But they can't be expected to do fully developed historical work around those shows. This is revealed in the comments of Danceteria co-founder and former political activist Jim Fouratt, who posted this comment to Facebook:

“A number of people have written to me asking if I was involved in the reconstruction of the video lounge at Danceteria. The simple answer is no, I was not asked.... I was never consulted by NYU's minions. This is an all-too-common occurrence with young art-world curators -- they just do not do the work of fact-checking.

“Back in 1980, I conceived the idea of a video lounge based on what I had learned from the misuse of video at Hurrah, where I had been previously involved. Rudolf and I designed the Danceteria video lounge, as we did the entire interior of the the three-level space, incorporating suggestions from artist friends and employees (e.g., Keith Haring). I hired Emily [Armstrong] and Pat [Ivers] to shoot the bands and feed live video upstairs. I also asked them to program archival clips from their Nightclubbing shoots as content in the lounge. (By the way, Rudolf did not want to hire them. He did not like the way they looked [imagine]! they were female – most videographers were men. I liked that!

“When we built the video lounge at Danceteria 2 on 21st Street, I brought in Kit Fitzgerald and John Sanborn, who were involved in the emerging downtown video-art scene. I dubbed them the Danceteria Video Lounge Art Curators. Thanks to them, many of today's best-known video artists premiered their work at Danceteria. The video lounge at 21st was an attempt to present high and low art in a pop-culture nightlife setting. Pat was outraged and has carried a grudge since then. But the NYU Fales people should have done their own research and presented the truth. I had and continue to have enormous respect for the archival work and cultural legacy of Emily and Pat, but at that time, I simply wanted to present a new, more art-driven direction for the Danceteria video lounge.

“Have you seen the tapes from the Andy Warhol cable show that were shot there? The one of me and Marc Almond (Soft Cell) is hilarious. They are in the collection of the Andy Warhol Museum, the Paley Center for Media, and I think online. But getting back to the NYU installation: do go see it; I certainly look forward to it. Pat and Emily's archival tapes are something special, not least because they were there as fans as well as videographers. I think of them as the essential archivists of the downtown NYC music scene, 1977-1984, and I was thrilled when I learned that NYU had purchased their archives. Fales must be faulted for presenting false history, but I am sure the work of “Nightclubbing” will rise above it all.

“One more parenthetical: Emily and Pat were employees-for-hire, the tapes were never their property, and they never asked permission to show them or otherwise publish them -- not that i would have objected, provided the bands agreed.”

Merrill Aldighieri responded to the post: “Some more details, it was me who actually ran and programmed the video lounge at the new Danceteria under the wing of Kit and John. I had carte blanche to do my thing, and they put me in charge with the caveat not to simply play music videos one after the other. Of course, I never did that and never would, so it was a good fit! I was the person to invent the job I christened “VJ” at Hurrah, and when the club closed, Kit and John invited me to work there. Jim and I were like passing ships at Hurrah, he was leaving when I started there and I benefited by his influence in the production potential at that club. Jim is not only a creative genie who has ignited many creative scenes in NYC, he is also somebody with a social conscience that is very inspiring. For those of you that know him through the years, he is also the best MC I have ever seen with the exception of [the late] Tom Murrin the Alien Comic who could give Jim a run for his money.”

Max Blagg interjected: “Will there be a sex room behind the bar, known as the Shock Corridor, like there was in the original?”

Press Release: February 18, 2014

Thirty-Four Years Later, the World's Earliest VJs Recreate their Historic Danceteria Video Lounge in NYU’s Bobst Library

New York University’s Fales Library and Special Collections presents the GoNightclubbing Video Lounge, a multi-media installation curated by Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong paying tribute to the infamous Danceteria Video Lounge, which they created in 1980. The re-imagined Video Lounge installation celebrates Ivers and Armstrong’s work at the iconic Danceteria nightclub, where they pioneered the video DJ concept during the height of the punk rock era. The GoNightclubbing Video Lounge opens March 20, 2014 at 6pm, third floor, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South, (at LaGuardia Place). [Subways A, C, E, B, D, F, M to West 4th Street; 6 line to Astor Place; R train to 8th Street].

The Video Lounge installation derives from Ivers’ and Armstrong’s GoNightclubbing Archive, part of the Fales Downtown Collection. Acquired by Fales in 2013, the Archive consists of video of 82 bands at 115 musical performances, 20+ interviews, photographs, video art, early music videos, posters, flyers, and video DJ sampler reels, all restored digitally and integrated with Ivers and Armstrong’s database of dates, locations, band lineups, set lists and other ephemera. The re-imagined GoNightclubbing Video Lounge will be a feature of “Punk Turns Forty,” a – [well, here I have to say this is what NYU calls “a conference,” of extraordinarily limited scope] – being held at NYU and Cooper Union in downtown Manhattan in April 2014.

"Go Nightclubbing", at:

THE FUN Conference on Nightlife as Social Practice at the Museum of Arts and Design, NYC, November 8–10, 2013

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