Carl Craig’s “Party/After-Party” Gets an Encore

After a pandemic stint at Dia:Beacon, the godfather of Detroit techno brings an evolution of his ecstatic sound and light experience to MOCA Los Angeles.

Carl Craig. Photography by Tim Saccenti

Before the Dia Art Foundation settled into the quaint Upstate New York town of Beacon and opened one of the world’s largest pantheons of minimalist and land art, what stood there was a Nabisco factory. In the basement were old loading bays, faintly illuminated by clerestory windows and punctuated by neat rows of concrete columns topped with mushroom-shaped capitals. Over the years, Dia’s empire has proved an ideal venue for monumental sound-based projects by the likes of La Monte Young, Arto Lindsay, and John Cage. In the eyes of curator Kelly Kivland, a DJ set by Carl Craig—the Detroit techno godfather who knows a thing or two about warehouses—would be a natural next step. 

Five years of planning culminated in Party/After-Party, which transformed the lower level into a “phantasmal nightclub” that borrows from the Light and Space Movement to spin through the night from the perspective of a DJ. Faint strips of neon flickered as industrial-strength speakers blasted Craig’s score, which underwent oceanic shifts from turbulent thumps to ambient pulsations as the set winded down. Mechanical louvers eventually opened to reveal a wall of windows, letting the light in—and signaling the melancholic comedown as the party ended. 

“Party/After-Party” by Carl Craig at Dia:Beacon. Photography by Bill Jacobson Studio, courtesy of Dia Art Foundation

It replicates a formative experience Craig had at Berlin’s legendary techno club Berghain, where he witnessed dawn washing over sweaty revelers shortly after the party climaxed—an experience that he says changed his possibilities for clubbing. “When you step into this vast space,” Craig said about the original show, “it’s like stepping into a reflection of my own mind. The stark parallels between this postindustrial space and the architecture in my hometown of Detroit, a place that has always catalyzed my creativity, are fascinating to me.”

Party/After-Party opened on March 6, 2020, one week before the pandemic shuttered clubs worldwide. Four months later, as museums cautiously reopened, one critic called it “one of the smartest and saddest exhibitions” he’d ever seen, hailing it as a triumph that “delves into the intertwined legacies of functionalist architecture, postwar art, and techno music” with grace. 

“Party/After-Party” by Carl Craig at Dia:Beacon. Photography by Bill Jacobson Studio, courtesy of Dia Art Foundation

And the party isn’t over yet. This weekend, Craig will bring an evolution of Party/After-Party to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, which resides in a 40,000-square-foot former police storage facility in Little Tokyo. Though it covers the same terrain as its predecessor, Craig envisioned this outing as a site-specific “second chapter” with a slightly different vibe. Instead of clerestory windows, the rich California sun floods in through a skylight.

While nods to the solidarity electronic music afforded Black and queer communities were present in the original, they’re more overt this time around. That’s largely thanks to three evenings of performances with Craig and his contemporaries DJ Holographic, King Britt, Moritz von Oswald, and Kenny Larkin. Craig also hopes partygoers will be open to embracing the ecstasy of communal experiences again. “I want people to have the possibility to connect with their spirit,” he says. “To have that spiritual experience, to walk to the center when the light comes on at the sweet spot.” 

All Stories