The Fallen Stripper | Snapfinger

Atlanta and Bern / 2020

The Fallen Stipper | Social DisDancing

From Atlanta to Bern in physical and digital dialogue. Emotional collapsing distance from the Stripclub to the Art Gallery while the Covid pandemic accelerated.

Joëlle Lehmann and Annabelle Schneider are friends since their early teenage years. They used to dance to live concerts at open air concerts all around Switzerland. Music, performance and culture was what connected them from the minute they met.

Today, Joëlle is a photographer, based in Bern, Switzerland. Annabelle is based in New York, where she is a professor at Parsons and a strategic, spatial designer / artists. Her work is driven by research about socio-cultural changes in places where culture and Zeitgeist unfold. 

Annabelle applied for a research grant to investigate the accelerating dying and change of performative spaces such as clubs, initially. GenZ seems to prefer online connections with control over identities (…) more than dances in the offline world. Where does this lead us towards in the future? What and where will such places as clubs unfold? Online more than offline? What does this mean for designers conceptualizing emotionally loaded spaces for performances, music and culture?

Connected to her experiences with fashion runway designs and participations in New York’s queer ballroom scene (Voguing), she also questioned what increasingly more fluid gender types and the influence of black music, specifically Hip Hop and these days even more so Trap, has for the now and tomorrow we’re living in.

Pressing questions like these brought her to Atlanta. Joëlle joined her. Together they immersed in culturally relevant Strip Clubs. First, Follies. Then Magic Cities. Later also Blue Flame. They’re on-going presence, curiosity and empathy connected them with 2 strippers who eventually opened up pivotal scenes into different realms beyond the first visible. A vulnerable, dangerous and at times very sad life lines. Annabelle and Joëlle settled with highly skilled dancers in a basement outside of Atlanta: Snapfinger. A time that supported our understanding of what a life as a colored stripper in Atlanta’s hip hop and culture defining Strip Clubs means. Being able to dance in one of the most represented and popular clubs like Magic City (e.g. Lyrics from Plastic Bag, a song by infamous rappers Drake and Future “Magic City on a Monday, Esco treat that shit like church on Sunday”) asks for sacrifices, risk taking and many other socially and health-wise difficult decisions. But the girls are there; twerking in the air… without any security heads-down, artfully ‘hanging’ from the center of the club’s tall-ceiling. More than one girl. Possibly up to 3 holding each other, was the maximum. Insights from Snapfinger were unbelievable and not to be documented in detail here. Clearly, the life beyond the opportunities to sometimes become a dancer for a rap video (…), the life beyond the determined beats, the money showers and guests sitting on white-table-cloth tables, drinking champagne and making it rain (…), was less glamorous than media portrays. The real, vulnerable insights we made, lead Annabelle to further on-going researches beyond the initial, triggering questions.

What was meant to be a photography exhibit with some annotations and talks about findings and insights from research, on show scheduled for early March 2020 in the gallery Antichambre in Bern, Switzerland, was disrupted by a global lockdown just in time. The world stood still. The initial hypothesis of ‘next generations might end up connecting and living more online than offline’ just proved itself as real. But it affected the entire planet.

Despite a global desperation and total stand-still, Annabelle and Joëlle sill wanted to present something; Eventually with more potential for activation and support for well-being and dialogues with the now and here. They used the gallery’s spaces as a ‘stripper-box’. A deep window, displaying a low-budget installation of curved paper shapes and mirrored, splintered foils with a custom-made neon sign and significant photographs taken in Atlanta by Joëlle. The three-dimensional paper volumes on walls allowed for projection mappings when dancing activations happened. The fragmented mirror foils resembled the chaos, fragility and damage in the world and the stripper pole: yes, this was installed upside down. A symbolic statement for the state of the world. The fallen stripper was our guiding, new title. We wanted to tell the stories of the vulnerable dancers. We wanted to give them a platform, bring them there through visual images and projections. Connecting the world online but creating a pivotal experience in the physical. We gave the strippers a new platform and let pedestrians participate by watching or sometimes dancing as well. Covid-conform social distancing measurements with simple tapes were placed on the floor in the outdoor and indoor of the gallery. 5 markings on both sides let 10 people dance simultaneously – in a safety distance. We called it Social DisDancing. A successful performative piece during the world’s lockdown. Connecting Atlanta with Bern. Connecting different people through dance. Physically and digitally.
The real, vulnerable insights made, lead Annabelle to further on-going researches beyond the initial, triggering questions and later, when back in New York, connected her to Carly Cannell who actively researched sex trafficking in New York. She supported the team of Carly Cannell and Cotter Christian who worked for design against trafficking. A first exhibition, titled “When places speak”, displaying research and findings will be shown this Spring 2024 in New York.

When places speak, is a photography exhibit that provides a forum for places associated with trafficking to tell their story: from places where people are recruited to places used by purchasers, places used by law enforcement to stop trafficking, and places where survivors can transition. By starting dialogues around the places sex trafficking touches, we can shed light on the fact that it is happening here, in our neighborhoods and communities.

Annabelle assists Carly and will explore a multidimensional approach by adding digital layers with further information to photography.

Photogallery | Research

Date: 2020 - ongoing  
Idea, Research, Concept and Installation: Annabelle Schneider
Photography and Installation: Joëlle Lehmann
Strip Clubs: Magic City, Follies, Blue Flame, Clermont Lounge
Gallery: Antichambre Bern, Switzerland
Category: Things I built | Research and Interactive Exhibition 
Location Research: Atlanta (USA) - before Covid
Location Exhibition: Bern (Switzerland) - during Covid
Press: Der Bund, Radio RaBe, Die Berner Zeitung, AtelierPol