Recap: Beyond Heaven Book Talk

All photos by Hannah Cole

In the early 1980s a new style of music started to emerge in the underground of Chicago. Similar to disco but with more repetitive beats and synthesized baselines, this sound came to be known as house music and became the driving force in the city’s dance community. Thanks to support from local DJs on the radio and at parties, house music rose to international prominence and remains a fixture in the club and electronic scene today. The parties that highlighted house music were promoted with flyers that noted the date and location of the event and the DJs slated to play this new sound, and were distributed at schools, record shops, on the street, and other locations frequented by those “in the know.” Flyers were commonly lost or tossed away once the party was over, so any collection of them from this time is rare. This summer Almighty & Insane Books published over 70 flyers from this era from the collection of Mario “Liv It Up” Luna in a book titled Beyond Heaven: Chicago House Party Flyers from 1983-1989. The Dikeou Collection invited Almighty & Insane Books Founder Brandon Johnson, DJ Brett Starr, and DJ/Producer/Designer Steve Berumen to Dikeou Pop-Up: Colfax for a discussion on house music, its origins in Chicago as documented in the book, as well as Denver’s own dance music culture.

Occupying what was once Jerry’s Record Exchange, the Dikeou Pop-Up: Colfax was a fitting venue for this event because of its ties to Denver’s music scene. Thousands of records line the walls, and, if given the time to look, you can find some classic house gems and many records containing highly sampled tracks. Mario Luna is a house DJ, so before the conversation we had one of his mixes playing on the hi-fi as people started to arrive – it set the tone perfectly. Brandon opened the conversation by scrolling through a handful of flyers and providing an overview of some of the originators of house music like Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy and how they pushed the sound at parties and on the radio, WBMX being the main station to do this. In addition to DJing, Mario was part of a party crew called UPC and helped organize and promote house events, underscoring how people often took on multiple rolls to help this movement grow.

Brandon Johnson, Steve Berumen, and Brett Starr

This kind of full ingratiation in the scene is still very much in practice today, and conversation participants Steve Berumen (a.k.a. Steve Synfull) and Brett Starr are perfect examples of this. Berumen first started DJing in 1997, is the founder of a monthly underground house night in Denver called HOUSE GUEST, and he is also Director of Design & Branding at SoCo Nightlife District. Starr has been a DJ for 20 years and plays music from across the spectrum of house music and has performed with legendary DJs, held multiple club residencies in several states, and has released original productions on a number of house labels. Both of them embody the dedication that has made house the touchstone for dance music today.

Brett Starr DJing after the conversation

The phrase “house is a feeling” came up multiple times during the talk, which is from the lyrics to a 1987 track called “My House” by Rhythm Control. This “feeling” represents acceptance and freedom to those who are often marginalized in society. The groundwork for the house scene was laid by the black, Latino, and gay communities in Chicago in a time when America was chanting “Disco Sucks!” and dance music and its cultural proponents were pushed back underground. But that dedication to the music never faded and today house (and many other genres of dance music) is more popular than ever. And while they are mainly disseminated digitally now, the flyer remains as the first point of contact from the promoter to the audience, and that flyer needs to be enticing enough to make someone want to buy a ticket and attend a show. Brandon said that title of the book, Beyond Heaven, represents what the flyer promises when you attend house event. It is the entry point to a night of musical bliss, “and when you feel it you will understand.”

Copies of Beyond Heaven: Chicago House Party Flyers from 1983-1989 can be purchased here

- Hayley Richardson

Dikeou Superstars: Chad Dawkins

Originality is difficult to define in a time when we are inundated with content that is quickly edited, rehashed, and spit back into the information cycle machines. Artists searching for inspiration can easily slip into a habit of unconscious mimicry, resulting in work lacking in authenticity. Instead of trying to “force” originality, Chad Dawkins critiques the concept through reproduction. His work Untitled, #149-168 at Dikeou Collection is a series of 20 graphite drawings on canvas that copy engravings of microscopic plant cell images from the 19thcentury. He describes the works as “handmade reproductions of mechanical reproductions of handmade reproductions of something viewed scientifically…” and through this ongoing process of reproduction, he concludes that “inevitably they are different” from their original counterparts.

Formally speaking, the work is subtle and minimal yet painstakingly detailed and spatial in its presentation. These discernable paradoxes underscore the circuitous meaning of the work where the question and the answer are one in the same. In his artist statement, Dawkins notes that he received the prints he copied from as a gift, and, in a somewhat symbolic vein of the work, he gifted the drawings to Devon Dikeou. They were originally exhibited at the Dikeou Pop-Up Space on Bannock Street from 2011 until 2013, and are currently on view at the main Dikeou Collection gallery on California Street in the same room as Nils Folke Anderson’s Untitled (California)styrofoam sculpture. This is a wonderful pairing because they both play with this idea of paradoxes. Themes of control vs spontaneity, consistency vs variety, and the idea that the finished piece(s) leave traces or ARE traces of what’s been play into both these artworks.

2009 ongoing
Wall: 2 Chad Dawkins Drawing that the Artist Curated into Her 11.1 Artpace Residency
The Drawings’ Language and Font Replicates the Message Found when Searching for Simmons’s Recordings on the Internet
Detail: Left, “It’s the Talk of the Town”; Right, “Round Midnight”

Dawkins’ reproduction drawings can also be seen in Dikeou’s installation Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys, a work which looks at great jazz musicians and whose names have been embossed into music history and those who have been glossed over, the focal figure being saxophonist Sonny Simmons. As a contribution to the installation, Dawkins created two drawings that copy an internet error message stating that Sonny Simmons’ music cannot be found at the requested server – a testament to the musician’s underrecognized place in the jazz pantheon.

Dawkins’ 2010 exhibition self-titled at Sala Diaz in San Antonio featured a reproduction of a photograph of painting, as well as a reproduction of the painting in the photograph. Dawkins stated, “Primarily, the exhibition assumes a conceptual role of a postmodern critique of the modernist tenets of object making, the cult of originality, and the sanctity of artist’s objects. Ultimately, these critiques, (at this point) being rooted in unoriginality, serve the purpose of testing their own validity.” The two phrases that stand out are “cult of originality” and “testing their own validity,” each coming off with a bit of a satirical eye-roll and a fair challenge in both the creation and critical response of art making. In the case of Untitled, #149-168, the viewer is never told that the drawings are reproductions, leaving them to assume that they are in fact original images. However, many are able to discern that they are depictions of something on a cellular level, and the originality of both the primary source and its replication are never questioned or argued.

-Hayley Richardson

Recap: Gang Gang Dance at Underground Music Showcase


Photo: Ari Marcopoulos

As an accomplished artist and musician, Lizzi Bougatsos permeates multiple creative circles. Several of her artworks, like Good Hair (2010), In God We Bust (2012), and Pussy for Rent (2010) have been on view at Dikeou Pop-Up: Colfax since 2014, at which time she came to Denver for the official opening and DJ’d and a sang a few notes for the event. This little performance was just a glimpse into her talents as a musician, and we got the full experience last Saturday when her band Gang Gang Dance played at Denver’s Underground Music Showcase. The group is hot off the release of a new album, Kazuashita, and their show in Denver was one of the first to kick off a tour that will cover the Eastern U.S. before heading to Japan in October.

We linked with Lizzi (vocals, percussion), Brian DeGraw (keys/synth), Doug Shaw (bass), Josh Diamond (guitar), and Ryan Sawyer (drums), as well as their manager Rich and Moses Archuleta of Deerhunter for dinner at Domo Japanese Kitchen on Friday. They had just arrived in Denver and needed the kind of sustenance only donburi and sake could provide. Lizzi asked if I happen to know any newborns and what their names are, as they have a song where she gives shout-outs to “all the babies of the world.” Dinner later led to drinks at Pon Pon Bar where Brian played a DJ set featuring an eclectic mix of reggae, dub, 80s synth, and other slinky jams. They managed to slip out before witching hour, as they had an 8am load-in and sound check the next morning – plus leftover saba nuggets to consume.


The Underground Music Showcase is a multi-venue event that spans about 6 blocks on South Broadway. Gang Gang Dance performed at the Imagination Stage located in the back lot of an auto mechanic shop. Their music sounds just as otherworldly and ethereal live as it does on their albums, with a fluid yet lively stage energy to match. At one point, Lizzi declared the next song was dedicated to the future and all the little ones out there who will one day be that future (hence the baby name question earlier). The 40-minute set was a teaser to what the band could pull off within in a full-on concert, and certainly got the crowd eager to get more Gang Gang action the next chance they can.

Thinking about Lizzi’s work as both a visual and musical artist, there are some interesting parallel’s and differences in her output. In both she is collaborative, experimental, eclectic, and versatile. Though her art possesses sensuality, there is a sense of abruptness that is absent in the softer textures of her musical output. The visual art by DeGraw, comprised mainly of mixed-media works on paper that blend the abstract with the figurative, reflects the balance between improvisation and finely tuned technical skills prevalent in his instrumentations. It is crazy to think that the term “interdisciplinary” is still sometimes looked down upon in the creative world, due to this unsubstantiated notion that the artist is not dedicated enough to a specific outlet and deemed unfocused. If one were to look at the bigger picture instead of categorizing each element of an artist’s work, then the dedication, thoughtfulness, and complexity of their craft(s) can be understood as something greater than the sum of its parts.

- Hayley Richardson

Devon Dikeou Logan Lecture at Denver Art Museum

Conceptualism has played a crucial role in art history for nearly a century, yet it remains somewhat of an outlier from the more “established” movements and methods that utilize familiar media like painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography. However, conceptual art can and does in fact incorporate these hallmarks of artmaking – they are just utilized, presented, and interpreted in a more ambiguous manner. Process and aesthetics are still very much part of the package, but concepts and ideas take center stage. On April 4 artist, zingmagazine founder/publisher/editor, and Dikeou Collection co-founder/curator Devon Dikeou spoke at Denver Art Museum as part of the Logan Lecture Series, Artists on Art: From Any Angle in which she delved into her own practice as a conceptual artist while simultaneously reflecting on the thoughts and procedures nearly all artists encounter, no matter their -ism.

In a 2009 interview with Karen Wright for Art in America, artist John Baldessari stated that he would tell his students, “Instead of looking at things, look between things.” This “between-ness” has played a pivotal role in Dikeou’s own practice, and she used the quote as the jumping off point for her talk which helped ground the audience before blasting off on a fun and twisting ride through her mind. The talk was structured around a 2016 book titled Art Is the Highest Form of Hope & Other Quotes by Artists, which features words of wisdom from artists related to one of forty-two different topics, like space, color, audience, success, failure, and limitation. Dikeou responded to each of these topics with her own insights and anecdotes, resulting in a poignant, entertaining, and educational orientation on the inner mechanisms of the art world from someone who has worked it from every angle.

Art was not the only thing that Dikeou related to the forty-two topics from the book. She also pulled heavily from pop culture. From MTV, Elon Musk, and Mad Magazine, to fashion, 80s teen movies, and Playboy, Dikeou ran the gamut when it came to referencing the wildly diverse range of what inspires her daily. These references, seemingly so peripheral to the world of art, reveal aspects of the “between-ness” of her practice, all that transpires between studio and gallery, between exhibition and audience, that subtly yet crucially influences how art is understood and valued.

Dikeou’s delivery was very performative as well, complete with singing, poetry, jokes, props, and audience interaction via Instagram. Attendees were also treated to a very special limited-edition keepsake: a glass perfume bottle with engraved text to commemorate the occasion. Inside the bottle is a piece of lavender ribbon printed with the day’s weather forecast … just a prediction. Naturally people opened the bottles to smell them, and insisted how wonderful the smell was even though they were completely unscented. These gestures, so immediately delightful, are really a hidden nod/wink to conceptualism and how it spins the obvious into a deeper consideration of cultural values and ideas.  

*photos courtesy of Denver Art Museum

-Hayley Richardson


2011 Ongoing
C-Print of a Hand Blown Glass Vase and Fresh Flowers Arranged to Replicate
One of the 16 Last Paintings Edouard Manet Painted Before Dying
10 7/16” x 8 1/4”

Logan Lectures Spring 2018—Artists on Art: From Any Angle

This spring, DAM Contemporaries celebrates artists speaking about their work with four fresh perspectives.

Responding to John Baldessari’s quote, “Instead of looking at things, look between things,” Devon Dikeou will share a glimpse into the things in between that circulate her practice as an artist.

For Dikeou, this includes creating, editing and publishing zingmagazine, and co-creating Denver’s Dikeou Collection with her brother Pany Dikeou.

Doors open at 5:30 pm.

Free for DAM Contemporaries members and students with valid ID, $10 DAM volunteers, $15 DAM members, $20 nonmembers. Tickets can be purchased here

The Logan Lecture series is sponsored by Vicki and Kent Logan in affiliation with DAM Contemporaries, a DAM support group.

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