By Simon Slieker
Recently I have been subjected to a series of recordings, video from a dance music festival held in Miami called Ultra. First I was so appalled at what I saw I found myself with mouth hanging open like someone struck dumb. Later, with mobility restored, I had to overcome the vomit reflex, gagging and spluttering about my business.
I will refrain from going into great descriptive detail, as the link below to David Guetta’s set is perfectly reflective of THE WHOLE THING. Honestly, every set is as bad or worse, with the same nauseating appeals to “put your hands up”, in all their derivations, and appeal after appeal to worship me” whilst perpetrating vile assaults to the senses.
Problematic content, in no small part due to idol complex, overt sexist displays, a DJ console that dwarves the DJ to such an extent that he (deliberate) is rendered comparatively invisible, and thus resorts to jumping on the console, which only further highlights the extent or not, that he (still deliberate) is actually doing anything up there.
Never has DJ’ing required less skill via the technical enhancements on display, and yet demanded more idolisation, and lets be frank: worshipping.
Everything is an overt display of HYPERBOLE. I know we’ve been barreling down this path for quite some time, But I didn’t know it had become quite this bad. This is really bad. It is shocking, and it raises the question for me: is this incarnation of DJ less an artist and more an evangelist in the electronic cult of celebrity? And if so, because the question for me is clearly rhetorical, is this incarnation of DJ doing more harm than good?
- Assignment 1.
Okay, interactive section, open this link and have a look: WARNING: do not watch beyond 3 minutes, serious risk of disillusionment and vomiting.
So whilst you try and recover, let’s go back to the question: is this doing more harm than good? Well to talk about that, I have open up about my own perspective, which requires a shift at this point from piss-take critique into vulnerability.
For me it is such an affront to the senses in this realm, this culture, because of what I have perceived this realm to stand for. I have to own that this is my own narrow perspective and as such not a given, and not necessarily something that anyone else should think.
Nevertheless, it is definitely true that for many people an approach to moving beyond idolisation and into shared, less hierarchical experience has been important. Why? For what this experience suggests about who and how we are as a culture and as an expression of mutuality, affinity and unity.
Not unity in the face of a ruling force, but unity as shared experience, being part of something, which inspires the notion that each of us can contribute something. Contribute via a groundswell of adoption and extension of ideas, social equity: to dance with one another…um in multiple directions, not just the front. Admittedly I’m just throwing these terms out there without defining or going into great detail. It’s a start.
- Assignment 2.
Antidote to lingering affect of Assignment 1. Topical relief for disjuncture in belief in humanity.
But at the same time this raises a worrying question: If mainstream media can line up dance culture in it’s sites and so beautifully and exactly critique and satirise it, what does this say about the nuances of the culture. GONE.
True, part of the catastrophe you’ve witnessed on screen in Assignment 1 is no doubt due to the U.S mainstream finally grasping something about the magnetism of dance culture and then proceeding to do what they do so well: throttle it with a nuclear dose of overkill.
Still, I think we’ve all seen enough in the portents of this in our own society, our own events, which subscribe to the same dumbing down of entertainment.
- Okay a couple of qualifiers.
- As I suggested above my own take on how dance culture can positively interact with society is one perspective, which doesn’t make it right or preferential.
- This is what happens. And indeed this is what has been happening on a gradual ramp up since the inception of dance culture in the late eighties. Organisations and industry will profiteer from artistry and entertainment and you could argue that there will remain some common good in this. There is no doubt that the people in that video are having a good time, with their phones, and instagram, and glow sticks and flags. And all the Tweets for the memories and for posterity and for the WIN!!!
HOWEVER, there is something else possible. And I guess this is the point I’d like to make in this article and returning here to my own impassioned plea for culture.
- How it can be: an impassioned plea
- In dance culture there is the possibility for union of shared experience, which does not have to focus solely on the entertainer at front of house.
- As a dancer, or watcher or listener, venue owner, promoter, performer and artist, you are a participant in this shared experience and how you conduct yourself in your interactions with the event and the other participants, effects and creates the space, the environment and the nature of the experience.
- This requires that the attendee, the venue, the promoter, the performer and the artist all agree upon this as a foundation possibility in an exchange in which no one of these elements is philosophically and socially greater than the other.
- This is mutuality and equity in the social construct of electronic dance entertainment.
This is what I believe and this is what I have lived for 22 years whilst wearing all of the hats described above. I am all of these things. And so I make an effort to remember what it is to be any part of the experience. Which makes it easier to empathise and be respectful of “the other”.
- In conclusion
It is my belief (in the possibility described above) that takes a hit when I see some of what goes on in the meandering sprawl of dance culture. It’s easy to spit disdain and clutch at cynicism and grandiosely reflect upon yesteryear. It’s a bit more difficult to push through this and voice an alternative perspective.
What I have come to understand is that it matters little to have beliefs in the way things can be, if you are not willing to take responsibility for them, propagate them and invite others to interact with them/you.
I invite you to join me in this discussion and, equally I invite you to critique or dialogue with each other and me. It’s an open book and so am I. Forever changing, growing and having to admit: I do not have the answers. But I can, at least identify, some of the questions. And in that, feel into what it is that drives me.