agathe snow's legendary 24-hour dance party returns
Footage of the artist’s iconic 2005 downtown NYC house party, attended by Ryan McGinley, Dan Colen and the late Dash Snow, will play at the Guggenheim in August. Ahead of the event, Agathe spoke to i-D about New York, nostalgia and the who stole the...
photography katie mccurdy
Four years after 9/11, Agathe Snow threw a 24-hour dance marathon for all of her friends in New York - two blocks away from Ground Zero - and filmed it. It was a goodbye party for a now-mythical era of the city's downtown art world, a scene led by artists like Dan Colen, Nate Lowman and Hanna Liden, photographer Ryan McGinley, and Snow and her ex-husband, the late artist Dash Snow.
The venue was a semi-abandoned building on Ann Street owned by Snow's former ecstasy dealer, and the block was still cordoned off from the rest of the city after 9/11. Early on Monday morning, workmen arrived to fix the water pipes outside the building (still damaged from 2001) as she and her friends danced to performances by Lizzi Bougatsos and the noise band A.R.E. Weapons. "Every time you turned around a corner there were people getting together," Snow reminisced over lunch in Brooklyn last week. "There were all of these passageways and staircases and rooftops."
Snow was 28 at the time and didn't think of herself as an artist yet. Her idea was that the party might become a pilot episode for a TV show or some other project. So she positioned nine different cameras around the space and let them run through the night and the next day. She also gave her friends a script (made up of random lines she liked from newspapers) but by 6am no one was following it.
The unedited footage should have amounted to 216 hours, but one of the cameras went missing, and Snow is still thinking about it. "It was stolen," she told me, somewhere being angrily and jokingly. "I thought it might have been Dash, who sent someone to mess with me. It was infuriating. I wanted to find that person so bad." But even with one camera roll missing, it was a painful editing job - especially since many of her friends who make appearances passed away not long after.
Now, ten years later, Snow has finally finished cutting the film, which will screen at the Guggenheim during a 24-hour event beginning on August 20. The piece, titled Stamina, will play on seven large screens as guests listen to repeat performances by Bougatsos and A.R.E. Weapons, as well as live interviews with artists who attended the real thing. Newer acts like Onyx Collective will join them, to ground the event in the present. But it will still feel like walking into a time capsule from 2005.
The original party was already nostalgic, Snow explained last week. After 9/11, the world's attention shifted suddenly and intensely to the blocks below New York's 14th Street, and almost instantly the Lower East Side's young artists became newspaper-worthy. But by 2005, the scene was winding down as Snow and her friends' careers began to take off in earnest. "It was kind of a goodbye to the five years after 9/11, a last hooray or a recreation of that moment," said Snow.
She's also working on a new project that she thinks of as a kind of counterweight to the intensity of that time. "When 9/11 happened, I really took it as a New York City thing, when now I realize how much it affected the world at large. I feel like I need some redemption from that vision, which was so insular." Opening at Albertz Benda in Chelsea on September 10, Coyote Ugly will be a series of live performances given by illegal immigrants living in New York. "It's very different from what I usually do, but it's close to my heart," she says.
Snow's work is usually sculptural. Her 2007 show No Need to Worry, the Apocalypse Has Already Happened included one of her most famous pieces, a giant deconstructed whale-like form which she presented as a refuge in a post-apocalyptic New York City. But having spent time in the States illegally herself, Coyote Ugly feels like both a personal project and a way to engage with a wider community.
Snow arrived in New York from Corsica, where she was born, when she was 11. She traveled on a student visa, and remained in the country illegally until she married Dash at 23. "It sucks," she says. "The fear. I mean, it takes a while to realize you have options. You're so terrified most of the time." And while the piece will play on that fear (viewers will stand in the dark at the edges of the gallery as the immigrants tell their stories), it's also about coming out of the shadows. "I like nothing more than a success story. I cry all the time!" Agathe said, laughing, "And the American Dream is still good for me. I feel like this place is still capable of bringing joy to people."
Joy has been at the center of Snow's projects from the beginning (even if they seem melancholic on the surface). Her earliest art projects, though she wouldn't have called them that then, were dinners - held guerilla-style in stairwells, on rooftops and in parks around the city. She would invite anyone who was around and cook meals that gradually evolved from serving lasagne family-style to her friends into conceptual performance pieces. She once gave out homemade heroes on the Staten Island ferry. "I'm not afraid to make myself look ridiculous," she said, smiling, when we talked about her early projects.
"I was really scared of doing things on my own at first, so I exhausted every other route first," she says of her reluctant progress towards becoming an artist. "Everyone thinks I'm not shy, but I am. At some point I just got mad - I was like I'll show them. I got madder and madder until it was time."
Now though, Snow is fully committed to doing her own thing. She left New York several years ago and moved to the North Fork of Long Island, where she lives with her partner, sculptor Anthony Holbrooke, and their son, Cyrus Night. She has a studio there, in a converted agricultural building on the property, and now only occasionally drives into the city to visit. "It takes a lot to take me out of the city, and it was so weird to leave. But I lost my points of reference there, you know." The unveiling of Stamina next month will be both an homage to Snow's friends and to a version of New York that no longer exists.
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Katie McCurdy
Stills Agathe Snow, Stamina, 2015. Color video installation, with sound, 24 hours, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Commissioned by Deutsche Bank AG in consultation with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, by exchange, 2015. © Agathe Snow.