Like Josephine Baker, bebop, and Jerry Lewis, techno music is an American invention that has found a more appreciative audience overseas. “I find myself in Paris as a result of America passing on the genre,” says the producer and DJ Jeff Mills, a founder of the Detroit techno movement. Though the wordless electronic dance music is massively popular in clubs across Europe and Japan, France has elevated the genre onto its highest cultural pedestal. In 2007 the French cultural ministry knighted Mills, 51, as a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres for his contributions to French cultural heritage. And, in February, Mills began a four-month “Carte Blanche” residency at the Louvre, during which he is performing a series of cine-concerts—silent experimental films set to live techno music.
On June 19, to close the residency, he’ll release Exhibitionist 2, a film that explores in depth how a DJ thinks in real time. “Even if they don’t want to become DJs, the viewers will understand what the process is and will see that mixing really is an art form and a technique, like painting and dance,” he says. “It is something that you need to work at. It’s not always just a computer that can make it happen. You have to think about what you’re doing. This allows that to be seen.”