capturing the religious experience of rave culture across three continents

‘Midnight Mass’ brings together three artists documenting the underground club culture of New Wave NYC, Rio de Janeiro's Baile Funk scene, and the spiritually sweaty raves of Berlin.

Mar 21 2017, 6:45pm

frank rispoli

Nightlife might be under attack, but it's sure as hell not dead. A new exhibition in Brooklyn is screaming the praises of club culture by exploring the scene across three continents. Three different artists have spent years capturing the underground scenes and nightlife tribes of New York, Berlin, and Rio de Janeiro respectively. Photographer Frank Rispoli documents the sexually charged identity performance of late-70s New Wave NYC, Vincent Rosenblatt turns his lens on the Bailes Funk and urban fringe scene in Brazil, and Felix Scheinberger sketches the hedonistic Berlin nightclubs where photography isn't allowed. Midnight Mass references the emotional and spiritual connections established through rave culture.

Vincent Rosenblatt

"Bands including The Velvet Underground and the ever outrageously dressed New York Dolls defied the norms of rock and roll or blues and paved the way with a sound all of their own," says curator Nina Catalanotto of the Rispoli component. It will be the first time the photographer has exhibited any part of his extensive archive. Rispoli's series "High Heels" focuses solely on women's shoes to identify "the importance and intertwined nature of fashion and club culture."

Felix Scheinberger

Rosenblatt has been documenting Brazil's unifying Baile Funk scene since 2005. "The Funk defines and explains the life, behavior, and rules of survival in the Favelas and operates just slightly outside of the law, and authorities have been cracking down and nearly banning the parties in recent years," Catalanotto explains. "His eye-opening captures pinpoint the resonance of music and club culture in providing a space of both unity and escapism through freedom of self expression." Scheinberger — who we interviewed back in October — captures an erotic visual diary of what goes on behind Berlin's toughest doors. "Berlin is the shining example of a society which 'gets it.' Berghain was declared a high culture venue in 2016," notes Catalanotto. "It is understandable why people often called its Sunday day party 'Sunday Mass.' Rave culture connects people emotionally in ways much like religion does, and for people who reject religion, or are rejected by religion, clubs can be their house of worship. They are amongst their own, sharing a tribal, hedonistic journey."

Frank Rispoli

Midnight Mass will also touch upon the increasing importance of underground clubs in a turbulent political climate. Lawmakers, says Catalanotto, have no understanding or respect for the the heritage of these sub-cultures and their impact on people's emotional wellbeing. To celebrate nightlife's championing of marginalized groups, and existence as an act of resistance, indie perfume brand House of Cherry Bomb has created two unique fragrances to be sold as works of art. 10% of the "PUSSY" perfume sales will go to Planned Parenthood, while "RESIST" sales go to American Civil Liberties Union. Here&Now Production's immersive Midnight Mass experience this Friday will also take viewers into the future of club design with a throbbing soundtrack and special "4am" fragrance featuring notes of leather and cheap beer. 

"Midnight Mass" is on view at BLAM Gallery in Brooklyn through April 9, 2017. 

Vincent Rosenblatt

Felix Scheinberger


Text Hannah Ongley
Images courtesy of BLAM Gallery