ADE Defence Club: Exploring politics on the dance floor in the concrete bunker of Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen with Bogomir Doringer

Photo: Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen by Simon Trel

The concrete bunker of UNESCO world heritage Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen will be the outpost for an unusual and intimate event and exhibition taking place on the 19th of October during Amsterdam Dance Event, curated by Zippora Elders, artists and researcher and curator Bogomir Doringer. ‘Dancing Defence: Space, Ritual and Gesture’, is an interdisciplinary art project that also displays collaborations with the co-founder of club Bassiani, Naja Orashvili, artist Francesco Pusterla, researcher Chiara Baldini and creative Rafael Kozdron and Kantarion sound system. The exhibition explores club culture and the urgency of dance in a wider cultural and socio-political context. Dancing Defence is followed by Defence Club, an imposing production in the bunker’s main room with a musical program that unites collectives, participants and DJ’s Jetti & Post (BAR Rotterdam, Netherlands), Polly F (SPIELRAUM, Netherlands), Rojeh (Jazar Crew, Palestine) and Tijana T (Serbia) who have used club culture and electronic music as a means of resistance.

Artist, curator and PhD researcher Bogomir Doringer has launched ‘Defence Club’ and ‘Dancing Defence’ as a continuation of his work ‘I Dance Alone’ and ‘Dance of Urgency’ which have been inspired by his past experiences. 

In 1999, the NATO bombed Belgrade as a punishment for war crimes. 
During that time 16-year-old Bogomir and DJ Tijana T – both living in Belgrade – escaped to clubs together with the rest of the Serbian youth as a means of coping. ‘When you’re 16, and you have the option to sit in a basement in silence or uniting with others to dance like it’s your last evening, you choose for the latter.’ Bogomir says, ‘Dancing was wild and very expressive. In a way it translated how we were protesting against the local political regime and NATO, but also mocking possible death.’

For Bogomir it was his first encounter between clubbing and the deeper socio-political meaning to it. 15 years later, in 2014 this inspired him to initiate the artistic research project ‘I Dance Alone’. The objective of the project was to explore the social phenomena of clubbing by recording dance floors in Georgia, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium from a bird’s-eye view to capture movements of bodies and study different collective and individual choreographies. Through studying the diverse patterns of behaviour, Bogomir found that the movements and choreographies of the bodies reveal more about the wider cultural and socio-political environment they find themselves in.

Photo: I Dance Alone: Awakenings Amsterdam by Bogomir Doringer 2016

‘The movements reveal a lot about what’s going on both inside and outside of clubs. Think about what moves people to dance, about how they are dancing. Are they dancing like they are fighting? Are they dancing inwards?’ Bogomir says, ‘But also theway people relate to each other: are people dancing together, exchanging energies? Are they dancing in a group, alone, with strangers, or their friends? Is it a bunch of guys pumping their fists in the air? Dance can have different functions. It can be to show off, it can be competitive, it can be explorative, it can be erotic, it can be ritualistic, it can be to release, to escape, but even more importantly: it can be political.’

One of those examples where politics is reflected in dancing is the army-like dance that can be perceived in Berghain. It reflects the fight against the normality of daily life, it reflects a resistance and originates from being a protest against the post-soviet values, the fight for freedom. ‘Take a look at vogueing, where the expressive moves and statue-like poses reflect the status or place, the African American or Latino queer people were never fully allowed to have in daily society. Another example is club Bassiani in Tbilisi in Georgia, where one can perceive the vulnerability that dance movements express, reflecting the importance of clubbing and the deeper meaning of it to the people. You can see their frustrations, their irritations, political opinions, translated in the way they move.’ Bogomir explains. 

Inspired by how people move, but even more importantly by what moves people to dance, has led Bogomir to coin a new definition of dance, one that is of urgence. ‘Dance of urgency is a dance that drives us in times of personal collective crisis and aims to empower an individual or collective.’ A perfect example of one of those events is what happened with Bassiani in May 2018. Located in a football stadium, Bassiani takes upon a symbolic meaning of resembling to hooligans, fighting for something and ultimately resembling how the clubs forms a resistance against the country’s traditionalist views, conservatism, narrow-minded drug policies and homophobia. The dance floor attracts a new generation of Georgian youth and provides as a safe space and support system for queer people and women. Their club was raided and shut down by police forces, with a mission of spreading fear and intimidation and ultimately disarming the people that want change.

Photo: Police raid of Bassiani: Dance or Die by Naja Orashvili in collaboration with Bogomir Doringer

This was followed by a Rave-o-lution. For days people raved in front of the parliament to make a political statement for closing down Bassiani under the slogan ‘We dance together, we fight together.’ It reflects how club culture and uniting on the dance floor can act as a beacon of resistance against a certain socio-political climate.

Photo: Rave-O-Lution in Tbilisi by Naja Orashvili and Bogomir Doringer

It’s not only Bassiani. Take a look at Brazil, where recently elected president Jair Bolsonaro has been very clear about his feelings towards the LGBQTI+ community. It’s in these times that organizations like Mamba Negra, are of an even bigger importance to the people by creating events against the system by uniting queers and women on the dance floor with electronic music. But also examples like Cxema in Ukraine where people visit raves to protest, unite and resist against the ruins that the past generation have left behind or clubbing during the NATO bombing in Serbia.

It is these events that have inspired Bogomir for his next artistic research project: Dance of Urgency, an exhibition in Vienna’s Q21, focussed on showcasing the relationship between club culture and socio-political phenomena in places all over the world. The exhibition ended in august and Bogomir is now bringing his work ‘Dance of Urgency’ and ‘I Dance Alone’ to his new exhibition: ‘Dancing Defence: Space, Ritual and Gesture’, landing in Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen followed by a party named Defence Club.

‘The exhibition starts with the project ‘I Dance Alone.’’ Bogomir explains, ‘There will be a selection of films I recorded that look into different kind of dance forces with a focus on collective rituals and the use of space. When you’re dancing with closed eyes, you’re in a space that you’re experiencing and that space is not necessarily physically present. So that’s a connection, it’s quite ritualistic. But I also zoom into hand gestures. Some moves are macho, some dance like they’re fighting, some are into a sort of trance, some are folding hands towards themselves, some people are exchanging, hugging, kissing.’

‘’You can see what the atmosphere is in clubs by observing. On the dance floor people don’t communicate through words but through dance, and what do the movements of their bodies tell?’’

Another work presented – also exhibited at Dance of Urgency – is the experimental film ‘Dance or Die’ by co-founders of Bassiani, Naja Orashvili and Giorgi Kikonishvili, which explores the political meaning of dance to Georgia and how club culture has paved the way for youth culture. 

Photo: Dance or Die by Naja Orashvili in collaboration with Bogomir Doringer

‘The Politics of Esctasy’ by Chiara Baldini and Rafael Kozdron, is another artwork present at the exhibition in form of a video-essay that dives into the history of the Bacchanalia Affairs – orgastic festivities that took place in ancient Roman times. Through The Politics of Ecstasy they compare these Roman events to modern day electronic music events and show the similarities in values in terms of inclusivity, a queer community, female empowerment and safe spaces. 

Photo: The Politics of Ecstasy by Chiara Baldini and Rafael Kozdron in collaboration with Bogomir Doringer for Dance of Urgency 2019

A final work is that of Francesco Pusterla, who presents a laser-cut art book of famous techno club Tresor, showing the original architecture of the building. The piece is an example of ‘spaces of urgency’, places or in this case industrial ruins that have the potential to become a cultural space through means of collective gatherings and dance. With Tresor this was through the fall of the Berlin wall. The space became one of the spots where Berliners from west and east would unite by dancing to repetitive beats and music with no words.

Photo: TRESORBERLIN 325 LONGITUDINAL SECTIONS by Francesco Pusterla in collaboration and commissioned by Bogomir Doringer and Q21 for Dance of Urgency 2019

The concrete bunker of Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen has become the outpost for Defence Club, the party following the exhibition. It’s a place where space, time and imagery are synthesized. Its programming is inspired by Sci-fi where artists create their own alternative realities and question existing ones. Recurring themes are those of climate, landscape, border politics, technology and ritual, dystopia and apocalypse. 

Photo: Plattegrond der Lokalen by Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen

Hence, the perfect location for Bogomir’s exhibition and event, blending together with the vision of the concrete bunker. ‘Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen was supposed to defend Amsterdam but was eventually never used. In a way, it’s a ruin like Tresor, that I wish to change into a cultural space of ritual by uniting and dancing. It was never used to defend something, but who says that it can’t be used now to defend people and nightlife? When you think about defending a city now, this also means defending it from a change of values, defending it against free space being taken over. That’s why I think this is the perfect place for the exhibition and the event.’

Photo: Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen by Simon Trel

What would the party be without a line-up that is political too? For Defence Club, Bogomir wanted to involve DJs, collectives and organizations that understand club culture in a more complex way and use electronic music as a means of resistance. One of the DJ’s is his friend Tijana T from Belgrade who speaks up about social phenomena within the electronic music scene. 

Also present is Polly F, resident DJ at Spielraum – a queer event at club Radion. With Spielraum, founders Sven Bijma and Diego Meijers have pushed boundaries in Amsterdam’s nightlife on grounds of inclusivity and diversity, fighting for a liberated dance floor.

Photo: Spielraum Amsterdam by Sven Bijma

Founders of the recently closed BAR Rotterdam, Jetti & Post also strengthen the line-up by taking care of the music for the exhibition. ‘BAR Rotterdam lost their location because of the city’s lack of understanding for the importance of cultural spaces like these. Jetti & Post were defending something, they were fighting for nightlife in Rotterdam and now we need to stand up for them, now we need to defend them.’ 

Photo: Maatschappij voor Volksgeluk, the cancelled location of predecessor of BAR Rotterdam, by BAR Rotterdam

Last but not definitely not least is Rojeh Kleif, co-founder of Jazar Crew, the first collective of Palestinian DJs. Jazar Crew has organized events in times of political unrest and war, bringing visibility to Palestine through musical resistance. 

Photo: Jazar Crew

Special to this event, will be the sound system that Ivan Cuic brings with him – a uniquely designed piece that will make you want to look at the sound system instead of the DJ. Kantarion sound is a custom – handmade sound system, created in the Royal Academy, run by Ivan Cuic. ‘With a DIY yourself approach, I’m trying to reach a high level of sound quality.’ Ivan’s specialty lies in creating site specific sound systems, in which his focus lies on bridging connections between sound, performers, audience, space and sound.

Photo: Kantarion sound system

Through his exhibitions, Bogomir wishes to show people the broader context that can be revealed through dance and club culture. 

Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen invites you to explore the limits of your freedom during this intimate dance evening, surrounded by the video installations of Bogomir Doringer.

Date: Saturday, October 19
Time: 17.00-22.00
Location: Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen, Fortwachter 1, Vijfhuizen
Tickets: www.kunstfort.nl
Price: 10 euros (incl. bus return Amsterdam-Vijfhuizen)
Maximum number of tickets: 60
Transport: Bus departs at 16.00 from the Stedelijk Museum (Paulus Potterstraat 13, Amsterdam) in the direction of Vijfhuizen. Return at 22.30 to Amsterdam.

For more of Bogomir’s work you can take a look at his FacebookInstagram, or online portfolio.