A remembrance of rave's past: how the art and music world remember dance's halycon moment in 26 letters
Francesca Gavin, our art editor, is opening E-Vapor-8: a show of rave-inspired art tomorrow in Sheffield, and to celebrate, we have devoted a day on Dazed to the art and music of smiley romanticism. Elsewhere, we have films and mixes inspired by the movement, but here, we an alphabetical guide to rave's artistic legacy.
Gif courtesy of Christian Petersen
It would be dull to just look nostalgically back on the years around the explosion of rave, house and free party culture. Rave needs to be repositioned as a cultural movement that crossed borders of class and geography and influenced an entire generation of artists, musicians and designers. Rave was one of the first examples of rebellion, dissent and resistance that a generation fed on the internet experienced. Rather than just the nostalgia of not being there, rave can be reinterpreted as presenting one of the largest cultural movements of the last century. To coincide with the exhibition E-Vapor-8 at Site Sheffield, here's a look at rave’s modern legacy.
A IS FOR ALEKSANDRA DOMANOVIC'S 19:30 PROJECT
Drawing on her own childhood in the former Yugoslavia, artist Aleksandra Domanovic brought together an entire archive of title idents from the evening news. As well as inviting techno musicians to remix the audio of the idents, she also presented these short animations alongside footage of Balkan mid-90s raves as a diptych on screens in galleries. A perfect example of how rave is impacting on a new generation of creativity.
B IS FOR BALEARIC
The Balearic approach to choosing and mixing eclectic music, pioneered by DJ Alfredo at Amnesia in Ibiza, could arguably be echoed in the tumblr-esque approach to internet culture where sources are placed together outside of time, location and source. Artist Haroon Mirza is curating art-music performance project ‘Forget Amnesia’ for the Fiorucci Art Trust on the island of Stromboli this July. Watch our full-length Music Nation episode, Berkshire Goes Balearic below.
C IS FOR CHICAGO
Chicago is hands down the birthplace of house music. The approach to music and club culture by DJs and producers like Frankie Knuckles, Mr Fingers, Marshall Jefferson and ghetto bass innovator Cajmere, embodied the sound of the future in a way that still has effect. The DIY legacy of the Chicago warehouse party scene still lives on in Juke and Footwork.
D IS FOR DIY
The online open source movement – where software is open to developers to use, abuse and collaborate on – could be seen to have its roots in the use of defunct keyboards and computers that gave birth to rave. Open source collaboration has an increasingly political element as the ownership of the internet by corporations and capitalists is increasingly questioned.
E DANCES FOR THE ELECTRIC PIANO
American artist Cory Arcangel’s most recent performance project took the sound of rave and put it in the concert hall. The artist invited piano soloists, such as John Reid and Hampus Lindwall, to play the breakdowns from classic rave and trance piano track and play them on a Korg M1 electric piano.
F ‘FFWD THE REVOLUTION' BY SPRIAL TRIBE
The political nature of the harder end of rave was embodied by Spiral Tribe. Like a perfect anti-brand, Spiral Tribe had its own aesthetic, art, number (23) and sound - a dark take on post-hardcore techno. Part of the notorious Castlemorton illegal free festival, Spiral Tribe and fellow sound systems like Bedlam or Hekate were at the forefront of an entire movement of free party culture.
G IS FOR GIFS
These fast and furious mini visuals – call them artworks, animations, films or whatever you want – completely connect to the fast and furious playfulness of rave. The fractal images so hot in rave video graphics can be seen echoed in early gif on the internet as well as much of the work found on contemporary gif hubs like Giflords and 15folds.
H IS FOR THE HACIENDA
The late Manchester club is most people’s default image of rave. Peter Hook of New Order even wrote a book about the place (The Hacidenda: How not to Run a Rave Club). Founded by Factory Records alumni and largely bank rolled by New Order, the warehouse in Manchester came into its own with rave. Happy Mondays started here. They sold poppers behind the bar. By the mid 90s, after a wave of drug and gang related violence in the city, its moment was over.
I IS FOR INTERNET ARCHAEOLOGY
Founded in 2009, Internet Archaeology’s aim was to archive and showcase the web’s graphic history. Jpegs and moving images that they argue are “are no less important than say the cave paintings of Lascaux”. Organised by themes such as occult/fantasy or pets, this is the place to visit for little images of skipping smileys or defunct SWF files unearthed from dead GeoCities sites.
J IS FOR JEREMY DELLER
Deller's fascination with rave can be seen in a number of his early works - notably the wall drawing connected the Northern history of working class brass bands with acid house and his performace series Acid Brass. What makes Deller's approach to rave so relevant, is how he placed it alongside a practise embedded in grass roots British culture and folk creativity. A big influence on a younger generation of artists.
K IS FOR KLF
The KLF Aka The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu were a band intertwined with the rise of rave but with one foot firmly in the art world, esoteric philosophy and anarchistic prankery. Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty formed the band in 1987 and were part of a wave of rave taking over pop music. They were the biggest selling act in the world in 1991. In 1992 the pair deleted their entire back catalogue. Both are active as artists today.
L IS FOR THE LOOK
The late-80s rave fashion is a hard look to pull off. Pale denim dungarees and flares. XL shapeless T-shirts. Clark’s Wallabees. Hypercolour. Joe Bloggs. Anything with a smiley. Best accompanied by the spaghetti leg and wide arm wave of hardcore or the ubquitous big fish, little fish, cardboard box dance moves. However, elements of the 90s free party look is definitely leaking into contemporary fashion. Bomber jackets. The layered tech fabrics of Alexander Wang. Thankfully over-sized baggy black Blue Bolt jeans have not returned... yet.
M IS FOR MARK LECKEY
The younger generation of artists, such as those exhibiting in 'E-Vapor-8', are all arguably Mark Leckey's babies. His film Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999), layered footage of northern soul nights in the late 70s and raves in the early 90s into a freeform narrative about British history. Leckey's take on our current relationship to defunct and future technology and desire is rooted in music and to an extent rave culture.
N IS FOR NIGHT SLUGS
Record label Night Slugs released their Club Constructions Manifesto and created a community based around their desire for music made specifically for clubs. They called for tracks are as raw, production is gritty, and the sound was designed for small, dark basements or warehouses. The result was an open community of producers, following artists like Bok Bok and L-Vis, submitting music with the outlook of rave.
O IS FOR OCCUPY
Occupy would not have existed without the anti-capitalism movement active around the turn of the millenium. The anti-capitalist movement may not have existed in the same way without Reclaim the Streets. Formed originally in the early 1990s out of protest camps demonstrating against cars, it flourished as the decade moved on and was intertwined with resistance against the Criminal Justice Act in 1994 which legislated again raves and repetitive beats.
P IS FOR POST-INTERNET
Though the pigeonhole of post-internet may feel dead, many of the artists affiliated with the term reflect the legacy. The inspiration from and misuse of technology. The psychedelic colour palette of computer screens. The bastardisation of high and low cultural references. These all echo an earlier generation's misuse of keyboard and cheap computers in the search to create a new creative language.
Q IS FOR Q-BERT
The pop sound of happy hardcore between 1990 and 1992 brimmed with children's TV samples. The Prodigy's first single 'Charley' quoting a BBC information film was the best, followed quickly by "Sesame's Treet" by Smart E’s and "Roobarb and Custard" by Shaft. The 8-bit computer game sound scene is the next generation's response to the same thing – incorporating the tinny sounds of childhood into 'adult' fun.
R IS FOR 'RISE: THE STORY OF RAVE OUTLAW DISCO DONNIE
Rave does not work on film. Many very bad features have tried to capture the energy of the party scene. Bar perhaps 24 Hour Party People by Michael Winterbottom, films like Human Traffic and Kevin and Perry Go Large are laughably bad kitsch. Fly on the wall documentaries, such as the profile documentary of US party organiser Disco Donnie, have a retro charm.
S IS FOR THE SMILEY
If rave has a logo, this is it. First used on the flyers of club night Shoom and Bomb the Bass’ Beat Dis record cover, the yellow round blob is a great interpretation of a happy party person. The smiley is still a regular star in contemporary art – turned into a legless figure by Richard Jackson, emblazoned on a riot shield by James Cauty, regularly seen as a motif in the drawings of Aurel Schmidt or the graphic painted emojis of Alistair Frost.
T IS FOR TechGnosis
Erik Davis’ incredible 1998 book TechGnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information is still one of the most interesting and influential books on a generation emerging post technology. Davis explored the relationship between the occult, alchemy, techno utopianism, alien obsessions and the drug-like nature of technology. This is THE book which illustrates the wider cultural impact of post-rave techno.
U IS FOR UNDERGROUND RESISTANCE
It makes sense that the birthplace and grave of the American Dream, Detroit, gave birth to the hard minimal sound of Underground Resistance. UR, aka Jeff Mills, Robert Hood and Mike Banks, aimed to inspire working class, Afro-Americans with a politically edged form of techno. UR collaborated with filmmaker Edgar Arceneaux on an art project for Art Sheffield in 2013, drawing comparison between the evolution of technology, spirituality and social change.
V IS FOR VOODOO RAY
The ultimate rave anthem. Released by Gerald Simpson aka A Guy Called Gerald in 1988, the original pressing of 500 copies sold out in a day when it was released. Although it contains a sample of from Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's Derek and Clive records, it is the vocal by Nicola Collier that lingers. Jeremy Deller recorded a cover version of the track on steel drums to coincide with the Venice Biennale in 2013.
W IS FOR WOLFGANG TILLMANS
The birth of rave coincided with the emergence of Wolfgang Tillmans as an artist. Someone who has always drawn on his own life and experience as a subject, rave culture appears in much of his work made whilst living in Hamburg in 1988 and when studying in Bournemouth around 1990. He took images of grimy warehouses with clusters of party goers chilling outside. Close ups of of dancing, kissing party kids – embodying the freedom within club culture. Large Tillmans’ images hang in Berlin’s most notorious Berghain club today.
X IS FOR EX-RAVERS
Former ravers love to write about their history. If you want a rave reading list try these tomes: Luke Bainbridge The True Story of Acid House, Matthew Collin Altered State, Sheryl Garratt Adventures in Wonderland: A Decade of Club Culture and if you can find a copy the incredible photographic book No System by Vinca Petersen capturing underground sound systems on tour across Europe.
Y IS FOR YOU ARE HERE: ART AFTER THE INTERNET
Curator and editor Omar Kholief’s recent book of essays and projects from artists such as Constant Dullaart, Sophia-Al-Maria, Jennifer Chan and curators Brian Droitcour and James Bridle has perfectly captured how artists have engaged with the context of the internet. Demonstrating how far things have come from ravers in their bedroom making DIY music on their desktops.
Z IS FOR ZOMBY
Producer and DJ Zomby is the foremost rave revivalist in contemporary music. His album Where Where You in 92 released in 2008 was a homage to hardcore, made with period resonant equipment like Atari computers and Akai samplers. 2013’s With Love had echoed the atmosphere of 1990s darkcore techno. His Dazed rave mixtape is still addictive listening.