There’s no doubt that club culture is in vogue in the contemporary art world: from Jeremy Deller’s 2018 ode to ‘90s UK rave culture Everybody in the Place (recently aired on BBC) to the touring Vitra Design Museum exhibition “Nightfever” on nightclub architecture, artists and institutions are taking an increasing interest in the hedonist spaces and subjects of dance music. The understanding of the nightclub as one of the last sites of freedom, resistance, collectivity and carnivalesque pleasure makes it ripe for critical exploration in a time when society’s other institutions—the street, the museum, the Internet—have increasingly fallen into the hands of corporate, or worse, neo-fascist, control.
At the forefront of this wave is Michele Rizzo, the Italian choreographer and artist based in Amsterdam. Influenced by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s writings on the flow, a state in which the subject loses a sense of self through complete immersion in the activity they are performing, Rizzo’s work investigates transcendent and synesthetic approaches to movement, often with a firm nod to music and club culture. In 2015, he premiered Higher, a durational performance where a group of dancers breaks in and out of trance-like collectivity to the sound of minimal dance music, physically citing increasingly obscure club dance styles such as jumpstyle and Chicago footwork that Rizzo studied on YouTube and in Dutch nightclubs (which, in contrast to Berlin’s minimal techno bouncing, still retains some of the erratic intensity of ‘90s hardcore). The score is produced in collaboration with noted composer and DJ Lorenzo Senni, whose emotional deconstruction of trance music aligns brilliantly with Rizzo’s investigation into bodily affect, catharsis, and self-expression on the dancefloor.