The exhibition path
The exhibition counts 4 main sections, laid out according to theme. Along the open-ended path, the mythical cities of electronic music are evoked and form chronological landmarks for visitors. At the start of the exhibition path, Andreas Gursky's large-format images remind us of the huge crowds that went to rave parties, as documented by the German photographer during the 1990s.
man & woman-machine
The electronic music adventure is above all the story of artists who, from the inventors of instruments at the beginning of the 20th century to the pioneering producers of Detroit techno, not forgetting of course composers inside their research studios, imagined the music of the year 2000. Their futuristic aesthetics reflected the visionary spirit of artists who, in turn, drew their inspiration from the idealism of scientific progressivism, the hope of a new culture built on the ruins of World War Two, the flights of fancy of science fiction, and last, but not least, the more utopian idea of a possible expansion of our consciousness and capacities through harmonious fusion between man and machine. The imaginary innovation underpinning electronic music since its origins continues today thanks to cross-fertilization with the digital arts, the waves of “live audiovisuals”, as well as to the creativity of a generation of instrument makers back at work imagining the instruments of tomorrow.
During the 1990s, the city of Detroit, its DJs and musicians (Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Carl Craig, Jeff Mills…), as well as its urban environment, embodied one of the founding myths of the electro revolution. The exhibition looks back at the city and its artists through the photographs of Marie Staggat and Jarod Lew, as well as the graphics of Frankie Fultz, Alan Oldham and Abdul Qadim Haqq, created for the label Underground Resistance.
An aesthetic and sensory experience, the dancefloor is the beating heart of electro culture, the place where all dancers share the same bath of light and music. Electro music was the first to abandon the restrictive codes of nightclubs and try out alternative spaces; small clubs, huge empty hangars, old factories transformed into a disco for one evening, or simply an open field in some remote countryside location. The dancefloor, a place to simultaneously forget and celebrate who we are, can also take on a more political dimension by becoming a place of communion, especially for the gay culture, as well as for minorities and people from all social classes.
From the New York of the 1970s, the birthplace of the modern nightclub and DJ culture, to the hectic Parisian scene of today, many “tribes” have followed one another out onto the dancefloor.
Ravers in love with the hedonism and utopia of the British Second Summer of Love and the massive clandestine raves of the 1990s or libertarian militants of the free-parties, young people from the ghettos of Durban and Rio, clubbers in search of exoticism dancing on the beaches of Goa, candy ravers of the American middleclass burning off their energy to the sound of EDM... The codes, music and dances adopted by these groups echoed the social and cultural context of the time. In the world of the arts, the dancefloor culture is so pervasive that it has inspired choreographers and directors, particularly in France, with Gisèle Vienne, Christian Rizzo and Alexandre Roccoli, who are participating in the exhibition.
New York is considered the city that invented the modern nightclub and club culture. It was during the disco era, in the 1970s, as portrayed in Bill Bernstein's photographs, that the aesthetic and technical foundations of electro culture were invented or democratized. The early 1990s marked the golden age of New York house music, with its energetic and festive, melodious and vocal music, whose roots lie in the heritage of disco and African-American music, becoming one of the foundation stones of modern dance music.
The second summer of love
In 1987 and 1988, during wild parties, the British youth danced into the early hours of the morning, ensconced inside a bubble of hedonism. A decade after punk, this Second Summer of Love (a reference to the first Summer of Love hippy fest in 1967 in San Francisco) marked its time and quickly entered pop culture through fashion and especially graphics, such as flyers and posters. The exhibition includes posters created by the famous English designer Peter Saville for the song group New Order and the Hacienda Club of Manchester.
Mix & Remix
Above and beyond a musical culture and an ability to get the crowd dancing, the DJ's talent lies in the art of assembly. Using a technique to synchronize two discs, the DJ manages to create a soundtrack in which the music mixes and the chords blend.
We can consider mixing, started during the disco years, developed by hip-hop DJs, and then within house and techno, as a kind of transposition into musical culture of the collage techniques experimented in the plastic arts by avant-garde artists. Conversely, the work done by DJs, as exemplified by the vinyl record, has exerted, since the 1990s, a considerable influence on the visual arts, from graphics to video.
Through a series of photographs, comic strips, objects and flyers, the exhibition recalls the city that spawned house music in the second half of the 1980s, in its gay and black clubs. A music that will become a foundation stone of modern dance music.
Imaginations & utopias
The various trends in electronic music share aesthetics and imaginations that can be found on record covers, as can be witnessed in videos and concerts. As vectors of utopias, they also have a political dimension. Echoing the sound landscapes that electronic music generated, geometric abstraction is a constant ingredient of yesterday’s avant-garde movements as well as today’s dance music. Inherited from romanticism, the representation of the landscape also imparts a type of correspondence to the abstract and instrumental character of electro music.
Described by some as purely functional, electronic music, devoted to dance or escapism, nevertheless has a political dimension marked by its own real-world claims. From the outset, electronic music has been an important vehicle for bringing people together, mixing populations and allowing communities to meet each other inside the fraternity of its clubs.
Its advent has encouraged the creation of safer places, clubs and community evenings where minorities, particularly LGBTQ+, have learned to help each other, to emancipate themselves and to be proud, free from discrimination.
The German capital occupies a special place in the imagination of electro culture. Since 1989, techno has been a cultural binder for German youth from all sides as the country underwent painful reunification. Clubs such as Tresor, Watergate and Berghain celebrate new music, techno and a new freedom of morals. With I’ve Never Been To Berghain, artist Philip Topolovac has created a sculpture that evokes the imposing architecture of the location and the secret activities therein. The city also owes its status as a modern and symbolic capital of the techno scene to a vast international diaspora of musicians, artists, freaks and DJs, as documented by photographer George Nebieridze through his installation Berlinights, The Occasional Feel-Good.