Monday, July 21, 2014


Nathan Jones writes about the rave-inspired-art exhibition E-Vapor-8, showing at the Site Gallery in Sheffield until August 17th.

From the exhibition blurb:

"E-Vapor-8 is a group exhibition, curated by writer, editor and curator Francesca Gavin, looking at the influence and relationship between contemporary art and rave music from the early 1990s. It traces a fascination with rave culture and happy hardcore by young British and American artists, many of whom are absorbing and re-appropriating a cultural moment they were too young to participate in. The exhibition, named after a 1992 single by the band Altern 8, touches on how the hedonism and cultural upheaval of rave has passed. Ideas around intellectual and physical freedom, rebellion and myth-making are all at play.

"Participating artists are: Fatima Al Qadiri and Sophia Al-Maria, Harry Burden, Rhys Coren, Petra Cortright, Jeremy Deller, Adham Faramawy, Alexandra Gorczynski, Marisa Olson, Hannah Perry, Christian J. Petersen, Travess Smalley, Lucy Stokton, and Daniel Swan.

Jones picks up on the "passed" theme:

"It features a series of haunted works opening onto the “death of rave” -- and what that death means, when it happened, and if it is still happening, are the most interesting questions provoked by a visit. 

"The notion of cultural 'Afterlife' enters the fray as surely and convincingly as a sweaty-metallic-render 3D blade drifting though green wireframe. Afterlife is a zeitgeist topic – Transmediale’s Afterglow theme explored an afterward of an already exploded digital scene; Mark Fisher’s term ‘Hauntology’ connected Derridian theory to underground music/artists like Al Qadiri and Maria Minerva; and the recent New Death exhibition at FACT featured works such as Jon Rafman’s installation, depicting an indecent internet-accelerated-libido as a kind of end-of-the-world-is-now scenario....

"Gavin's insistance that the exhibition ‘examines the utopian ideas surrounding rave before its failure’, seems to ignore what the artists in the show might consider the actual moment of rave's failure....   it would be nice to have a chance to review the impact of a novel like Irvine Welsh's Maribou Stalk Nightmares on this generation, or reflect on how current novelists such as Tao Lin use prose style to echo the afterlife of re-illusioned rave and drug culture.

"The best works in E-Vapour-8 exist as echoes a UK club culture with more ambiguous relations to capitalism and politics than the radical and resistant Acid House rave. The void left by the hedonistic lifestyle is a simulacrum in a work like Faramawy's, for the void left in our lives by the death of the hope of capitalism, and our continued afterlife within it - like a club we're forced to keep revisiting even though it's too expensive the DJs are shit and people keep getting shot."

On the subject of dating the "moment of rave's failure" -  well, in late 1994 I wrote an essay for The Lizard  about "The Death of Rave". I'm sure there were people thinking, if maybe not writing, that rave had died as early as 1990 (when the first wave of acid house mega-parties were crushed / petered out). I think rave - like rock 'n' roll - is in a continual state of dying and being reborn, at times near-simultaneously. Decadence battles it out with influxes of barbarian energy.  The "failure" is latent in the triumph, in so far as all these waves of rebellious energy in popular culture are displacements of political desires.

After writing "The Death of Rave" (whose thesis was more that it had become a  "living death" than it had ceased to exist -- turned into a controlling machine, what Achim Szepanksi - borrowing from Adorno, I think - called the "pleasure-prison") I was soon enough re-enthused by other upsurges (2step, grime). Only to be en-gloomed again, repeatedly. It's a bi-polar cycle of disillusionment and "re-illusionment" (dig Nathan's coinage). Eventually that cycle  wears you out and most likely you'll shift into a "post-belief" state of semi-detached engagement, taking pleasures where you find them. Perhaps enjoying vicariously the fanaticism of others caught up in that first-time-rush of discovery and delusion.

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