Bonus #1: Cool “Disco” Dan documentary! Tu 1 April, 7pm

Comment on this post for Bonus #1 (see below).DiscoDanFlyer

Bonus #1:  Tu 1 April, 7pm, Marvin Center, Betts Theater.

To earn your bonus, attend the event, take notes, then post 100-200 words here (adding comments to this post): Respond to any aspect of the prompt below, but also to your peers’ prior posts, carrying on a conversation:

How did the documentary use visual techniques to convey its interpretations? Cite specific examples. How did Cool “Disco” Dan use the city as a visual canvas? How did/do graffiti artists think visually and change the way others see the urban landscape of Washington DC?

Description:  DC in the 80’s seemed like a fractured place: racial tensions, sensationalist media, crack and more divided quadrants and neighborhoods. One graffiti tag crossed all boundaries, though, and The Legend of COOL “DISCO” DAN (2012) is a film that documents the vibrant life of “unofficial” Washington, connected by the work of graffiti artist Dan Hogg. By chronicling the elusive tagger’s survival through graffiti writing, it also tells a story of other artistic movements against the odds in DC: the emergence of DC’s own urban sound, Go-Go; the punk scene; the visual arts that were part of both; and more. Narrated by DC native Henry Rollins, and combining interviews with local and national celebrities and archival footage, this film tells an important version of DC’s history, and makes an argument for the arts as tools for survival and expression.

Fortunately, some of the folks who were there are also still here. After the film, please enjoy a reception and informal conversation with a few DC notables about the film, the era, and its legacies. Featured conversants include poet Reuben Jackson, punk artist Cynthia Connolly, rapper Head-Roc, and street artist Asad “Ultra” Walker. And you!



10 thoughts on “Bonus #1: Cool “Disco” Dan documentary! Tu 1 April, 7pm”

  1. So far, The legend of Cool “Disco” Dan is that of controversy. His name and his art became infamous in the 1980’s. The Documentary sheds light on one of DC’s most notorious street artist. The films narrator is a Washington D.C. native and legend, Henry Rollins. Washington D.C is a city that means a lot to a lot of people in America, which I believe made this film so popular across the country. The film tells another side of story of DC, a side not normally shown or represented. Through the prism of music and Cool “Disco” Dan a further perspective of DC is casted in this documentary.

  2. The documentary exposed how artists of different races and culture not only often create works of specific themes, but may also use different mediums. For example, in the 1980’s, many African Americans turned to graffiti as a method of expressing themselves. Cool “Disco” Dan, a legend once known by virtually all in DC, used graffiti to remind citizens that they were still in the nation’s capital. He became somewhat like the mascot of D.C., appealing to skateboarders, go-go people, and even businessmen. By spraying his name on vacant buildings, he made a name for himself and revealed the D.C. culture, especially the black subculture.

  3. I was so upset that I had to leave early for practice. It was such an intriguing documentary. It was interesting that people come to DC for hope, they want to find a better life. I still remember that the former leader of A-team said:”people used to ask me, do you really beat people. Yes, we do. We fight viciously.” They paint their names or nicknames everywhere in the city, even on buses, to show their status in the neighborhood. The most obvious example and of course, the main topic of the movie, is cool disco Dan. It seems like over the night, his names are all over the place. Graffiti definitely shows the side of DC beside being the World’s capitol. It also has its darker side where people struggle for life. They need to find a way to express themselves, to prove that they are a part of this glorious city. That’s when graffiti became a phenomenon.

  4. I thought the entire focus of this documentary was one of an under appreciated sub culture very much in the background of the rest of DC life. While everyone is focusing on the big names, the politics, the monuments, and the museums, there is still an entire population that lives here as though it were any other large city. As Ruben (who was in the audience and introduced himself at the beginning) said, there is an entire aspect of the city that has such a pervasive influence into its culture, yet it isn’t seen as anything more than vandalism. The Graffiti of Disco Dan and the others in “gangs” as they called it did not take away from the city but instead added to it. The only part I would disagree with is that the documentary claimed it was as important as structures such as the Lincoln Memorial which seems silly.

  5. I found it interesting how most of the crews, consisting of various neighborhoods, used graffiti to get call outs by go go bands. I thought graffiti, at first, would only be used to make a statement or for someone’s own attention. But the documentary showed that graffiti was used to garner attention for the crews as a whole. And it’s pretty cool how how “Cool disco Dan” and (crazy R)Andy were a few of the graffiti artists who advertised his own art work instead of crews. I also found it it interesting that people started to accept Disco Danny when he changed his name to Disco Dan. I thought the name change wouldn’t have any difference at all, but it somehow managed to make people appreciate disco dan’s work.

  6. The documentary was very interesting in looking at how people have different perspectives on DC while living in DC. It was interesting how people thought the poverished, mainly black part of DC was the real DC. This seems to make sense to me because of how the drastic change in landscape and situation is when you look at the parts of DC. It was also interesting how Cool “Disco” Dan was at first not even respected by other graffiti artists but now he is an essential thread of DC’s street art. Another aspect of the documentary that interested me was how tagging and graffiti really took off due to the Go-Go Music, which was really prevalent in DC more than anywhere else. They said if they got a shoutout by the Go-Go Musicians then they were famous but really the Go-Go influence was more in DC than anywhere else which questions of how much exposure these gangs or crews really got outside of DC.

  7. Actually was a very cool documentary, particularly because of the DC it covers, Disco Dan’s DC, is not at all the one that the public ever hears about or even knows exists. I think his work would never have happened without the go-go music phenomenon and culture it spawned, which in turn was inspired by the very particular experience of inner-urban living in the 80s crack era. As someone who takes the Red Line to work everyday, the movie gave me a first-hand appreciation of just how much the city has changed since then. Other than that I think it was very good for gw students to see perspectives on the city we live in beyond the normal politics and museums. For someone like Disco Dan the sad thing is his graffiti absolutely is as significant as the Lincoln Memorial, which just goes to show how sharp the income divide was in 1980s DC, and still is albeit to a lesser level today

  8. Previously said, through the prism of music and Cool “Disco” Dan a further perspective of DC is casted in this documentary. The legend of Cool “Disco” Dan is that of controversy. I raise a counter perspective to those of my classmate and not quite well represented in the Documentary. A lot would call Cool “Disco” Dan a hero for his work in DC, but I would make the argument he was a vigilante. Through the art of graffiti/tagging he imposed his ideals. Yes, he represented and was a beacon of hope for the minority culture of DC. And a lot of people say he added to DC: he gave a voice to the Go-Go, black, and ethnic community –I personally think these are all good things– but his process of going around DC and committing crimes to do so, just reinforced already set in place stereotypes, in the hierarchy of DC. He was a threat to the already in power bourgeois (i.e politicians, government officials etc…). He turned the city of DC into his canvas and undermined the glorification of its past history. I agree with his ideals but not with the actions he took. What is the line between art and vandalism? Does he really add to the city or detract from its symbolism?

  9. I found the documentary of Disco Dan to be something different than I was expecting. When I think of graffiti, I think of complex art and words that I can’t always read or decipher. Dan, however, would simply go around the city and graffiti “Disco Dan” on walls and buildings. At first I didn’t seem to understand how influential the phrase Disco Dan could be to Washington. As the documentary went on, however, I saw how seeing this name all over the city continuously affected many people. Disco Dan gave a voice and an outlet for the black community in DC at the time, such as the Go-Go bands and black ethnic radio stations. He made being African American in DC prideful, as opposed to all the racial segregation that this race had previously gone through. I then found myself understanding Disco Dan’s influence on the city and how important it was for this racial group to be given a voice– and through something so interesting as art.

  10. The documentary of Cool “Disco Dan” shed light on an aspect of art not immediately recognized by many people. It focused on the graffiti that “Disco Dan” is famous for around DC, and the effect it had on people in numerous areas and a generally unrecognized social class. The numerous interviews of gang members such as the A-team members show how through what some people consider vandalism, others define as an important aspect of art in their culture. This occurred during the 1980s when go-go music and violence were dominant characteristics in this urban culture. Cool “Disco Dan” gave a name and hope to a community that was in need of it. This documentary further proves the influence art has in every community and culture.

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