Inside Stamina: the 24 hour party at the guggenheim

As the sun went down last Thursday night, the party was just getting started at the Guggenheim. The celebration was in honor of the first screening of Agathe Snow’s 24-hour reality film, Stamina. The film follows the events of an all-day-all-night dance party thrown downtown in 2005, and the Guggenheim was serious about life imitating art– they replicated the film by throwing their own 24-hour dance party. With live performances by Donald Cumming, QTY, TV Baby (formerly A.R.E. Weapons), Dev Hynes’ the Onyx Collective, I.U.D., and a DJ for in between sets, the half-art-show-half-party definitely skewed more towards dancing all night than analyzing the screen on the wall.

But that’s just how the artist wanted it. “It’s like a heightened reality, you know?” said Snow when asked about why she likes parties. “And once your body is completely exhausted you just go into this mechanical thing of movement, and everyone’s doing it. It’s one of the most true forms of being. I was the truest to myself in those moments. Everything’s so immediate; you’re close together in a small space. Any feeling comes out and it’s resolved immediately. And that’s nice, I like that.”

While the final cut of the ‘Stamina’ is — debatably — a lot more moving than an episode of Real Housewives: Atlanta, it actually originated as a proposal for a reality TV show. “The true, true, true story is that I thought I would do a proposed TV reality show,” said Snow. “I’ve always loved soap opera and they were dying at this time, so I figured, like the dance marathon of the Great Depression mixed with soap opera mixed with TV reality of the time, and I would call it the dance marathon of the ‘Great Manic Depression’.”

After Snow acquired a vacant building near Ground Zero through a friend and gathered up her social circle to come hang out in front of the cameras, the party was almost ready to go. But not before Snow attempted to prompt some TV-worthy plots. “At first there was a little bit of a script with characters to create some drama,” she explained. “It was good for the first few hours then everything got dropped and it just turned into a real party.”

Although the unreality of reality TV didn’t work out and Snow’s ‘Manic Depression Dance Party’ turned into a drunken, drug-fueled 24 hour dance marathon, she found something beautiful in the chaos of the party. Now she calls that night “a beautiful moment… lost in time.”

But, as her original plan had collapsed, Snow put away the footage for the next ten years, leaving it untouched as she was unsure what the hours upon hours of footage would come in handy for. And in those ten years things changed: party goers dated, died, married, divorced. Her original dance party collaborators married each other, started a family, and left Snow as a solo act. New York City started to heal, became way more expensive and, finally, Snow herself moved out of New York City to Long Island, where she currently lives with her partner and son.

Despite leaving NYC — and feeling “completely lost” when returning — Snow still holds a soft spot in her heart for the city she called home for so much of her life. She finds it a perfect climate for young people to create art. “Sometimes, I’ll go out and see groups of young people doing amazing things,” she said. “Every generation has that moment of ‘it’s not the same, it’ll never be the same again.’ No matter what there’s always going to be people making art, and that energy. And it might move about, but that energy is always going to be there. I think New York will always be a great place. If you have the need to create it’s a good place to do it.”

But recently, the Guggenheim museum contacted Snow to review the footage — to look back at that 2005 party — and to create something out of it. Thus ‘Stamina’ was born. What she found most compelling about her party footage was how it reflected New York City in the direct aftermath of 9/11. The concept of community that influenced Snow in the creation of ‘Stamina’ was greatly impacted by Snow’s experiences in the aftermath of 9/11. It was a feeling of loss, immediately complicated by the sense of community; the process of the downtown artistic community she grew up in being changed in a sudden, violent way, which gave way to a beauty in the community she formed, and a distinct camaraderie with the people she surrounded herself with.

“So I went up to my roof, and my first view is of the Manhattan Bridge, and there’s just rows and rows of people walking like zombies, covered in grey, escaping the city,” Snow said of her experiences on September 11, 2001. “Rows of seven people all about two feet apart walking in the same pace totally covered in grey. That was the most shocking memory I have of that day. That feeling of having to move and stay downtown and get together and shake that dust off. Stay together and don’t run away. That’s the whole idea behind the danceathon, just getting people. No matter how different you are. This event was so much bigger than us.”

And that community reconvened last week. After over a year of editing and perfecting, the film was ready for presentation and the Guggenheim was ready for a party. With a disco-inspired dance floor, live music, and the artist’s work playing on the wall, the Guggenheim’s 24 hour party was ready to go. The community in the room was palpable — or everyone was just at that stage of drunk where you share intimate secrets with strangers. Members of the original film floated around the party chatting with apathetic college students, live bands sang their heart out on a stage as teenage boys danced chaotically in front of them, children held their parents’ hands as they were led through the dimmed lights and mass of bodies. Just as it did in 2005, community existed in New York City.

“And that’s the message,” Snow explained. “There is a way for everyone to have their moment in a positive way as a community, and a community is endless.”

Stills from ‘Stamina’ courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Event photography by Enid Alvarez

Visit Agathe Snow’s website here

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