Peter Friedl’s film King Kong weaves together a complex web of histories and affinities. By embracing two specific versions of the King Kong theme, Friedl investigates divergent forms of cultural representation.
The first reference in the work is to the song ‘King Kong’, a laconic and fatalistic retelling of the King Kong story, written by US musician Daniel Johnston. Friedl’s film depicts Johnston performing, for the first time in public, his ‘King Kong’ song at a public park in today’s Sophiatown.
As a second reference, Friedl recalls an important and controversial moment in South African cultural history, the 1959 jazz opera ‘King Kong’, based on the tragic life of boxing champ Ezekiel ‘King Kong’ Dhlamini. The opera’s story was located in Sophiatown, known at that time as the ‘Little Harlem’ of Johannesburg.
Peter Friedl was born in Austria, where he lives and works. His work has been exhibited worldwide, including at documenta X (1997) and documenta XII (2007), the 48th Venice Biennale (1999), the 3rd Berlin Biennale (2004), and the 2nd International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Seville (2006). In 2006 the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) organized a comprehensive retrospective, which was subsequently shown at Miami Art Central/Miami Art Museum and the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Marseille.
Based in Waller, Texas, Daniel Johnston (born 1961) has released numerous albums and tapes since 1980. His songs have been covered by Cathy McCarty, Yo La Tengo, Half Japanese, Sonic Youth, fIREHOSE, and Pearl Jam. He has contributed to the film soundtracks of Richard Linklater’s Slacker, and to Larry Clark’s Kids.