Wildness + Playback. Ensayo de una despedida
Lendl Barcelos
January 12, 2024

Nightlife Commune

The communities that lurk the night are a special breed. Those lost to the sun, hidden away amongst the shadows, where artificial lights contour the skin and anyone can be something forbidden by day. Limits loosen in these spaces; consent becomes an active practice—one hopes. There are a number of ways to be carried away, & a good club does everything in its power to catalyze these tendencies.

I never quite identified as a club kid. But if I'm honest with myself, since moving to Europe a decade ago, much of my time has been spent within their walls with my head inside bass bins trying to get to that depth of feeling I only know from clubs. Even if these spaces are far from utopian, the euphoria they are able to catalyze is a unique combination of powerful sound systems, DJs setting the tone, neurochemical cocktails and occulted fantasies of communal bliss. Certain venues provide spaces for the experimentation of a much needed collectivization, something apart from the capitalistic networks of that masculinist hedonism that preys upon a sexualized normativity.

Playback: Ensayo de una despedida (2019) & Wildness (2012) are portraits of two of these locales and the peoples that inhabited them as their second homes. Both documentary films focus on LGBTQI+ communities that find their place in bars that give space to the transformative power of nightlife, within surrounds (outside the club) that are not so hospitable. In both contexts, performance and music become gateways for the experimentation of collective life, creating lasting bonds and alliances for the fermentation of an emancipatory undercommons.

Playback is a tale of loss. The director Agustina Comedi crafts a love letter to the trans women and drag queens who were the animus of a club situated in Córdoba, Argentina. Constructed out of archival footage of the Kalas Group from the 1980s, we see the queens in their prime, getting dolled up and ready for their performances. All this is beautiful to witness, but the AIDS epidemic begins to take its toll, and the sole survivor of the group is one of them named "La Delphi". Agustina Comedi weaves a touching story of how a club can serve as a safe space and unifying force for these women, sheltering them away from the catholic and conservative city asphyxiating them, and in so doing allowing them to shine as the performers they wanted to be.

Wu Tsang's Wildness is a story of unintentional conflict. The Silver Platter bar that was home to the Latin/LGBTQI+ immigrant communities since 1963 becomes the new site for the "Wildness" queer events organized by Wu Tsang, NGUZUNGUZU and Total Freedom. Their events begin to shift attention away from the Latinx queens, bringing a completely different social texture to the club. Although the Wildness parties intended to be open safe spaces for marginalized communities wanting to dance and perform, their increasing popularity also began to involuntarily push out the older generations of trans women. What we witness with this film is Wu Tsang's reflection on and processing of an unwitting displacement of an established queer community by another one, a situation where one's good-intentions might not be sufficient to ensure an already established social dynamic does not fall out of favour.

Alongside the film cycle on clubbing, Maria Ferreira, Rodrigo Affreixo and Gustavo Pereira have initiated the project Porto de Dança: Breve História da Cultura de Clube na Cidade (1974–2023). This project takes a look at the people, places and events that have animated Porto club culture from the end of the Portuguese dictatorship up until today. A part of their work is a diagram that plots out the names and connexions that serves as a general overview for the beginnings of a history of clubbing in Porto. Unlike Berlin, New York, Chicago, London, Manchester or Berlin, the story of Porto's impact on clubbing culture remains largely unwritten, making this work a much welcome expansion into the thickening of world clubbing cultures. They have also collected posters and paraphernalia that give a snapshot of the visual culture around this city's nightlife. As someone recently arrived to Porto, the richness of this work deepens the roots of the imaginaries still at work throughout the specificities of Porto as a city with its own club culture. Much like the two films of this program, being exposed to the stories of the social aesthetics at work in these local scenes allows for a broader sense of the potential of this thing we call 'clubbing'.

Lendl Barcelos
Artist, "kataphysician" and DJ, Lendl Barcelos explores vibratory matter, often in the aural dimension, even when it occurs beyond normative human limits. Alongside Tarek Atoui, Allison O'Daniel, Myriam Lefkowitz & Valentina Desideri, he was part of the Infinite Ear project, based on the premise that deafness constitutes a specialization in sound. His work has been presented at Biennale Architettura XVIII (Venice), Centro centro (Madrid), Garage (Moscow), Inkonskt (Malmo), Q-O₂ (Brussels), Donau (Porto), and she has texts published by Urbanomic, re:press, MIT and Norient.

Batalha Centro de Cinema

Praça da Batalha, 47
4000-101 Porto


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