The exploration of light art installations as a creative expression extends into the underground realm of raving, where artificial light and music intertwine to deliver the ultimate, multi-sensorial bodily experience. The typical rave scene ambiance is often in a dark space, highlighted with LED lights. The combination of dancing for hours, with repetitive beats of electronic music induces a state of trance, simulating a sort of out-of-body experience. Raving has become a daring weekend escape from the normalities imposed by modern society, and continues to be a place of pure freedom and creative expression.
The rave scene erupted in London during the 1980s, and acted as a sort of utopia especially for the youth looking for an escape from the increasingly anxious society. Raves created a sense of belonging; they have become a meeting place without prejudice where anyone can openly participate under the unification of music and dance. It did not take long before the authorities caught on to the squatting of abandoned buildings and the use of illicit drugs, so police began raiding any known parties. In order to avoid getting caught, the locations were kept low-key and often changed at the last minute, sometimes even diverting fake addresses in flyers.
1992 short documentary about raves in Los Angeles co-produced, co-directed and edited by Ken Lawrence
The intersection of music and art goes hand-in-hand, so it's no wonder that this cultural phenomenon has attracted artists from many genres. In the early years of its growing popularity, the original way to advertise raves was through the use of flyers. This media of communication gave artists the possibility to offer their visuals and give them exposure to the general public. The rave also acted as an exhibition space for performance artists, or for installation works that created an ambiance for the audience.
MACAO is an independent, volunteer-run center for art and research, currently squatting an abandoned, ex-slaughter house in the Calvairate district in Milan. Since 2016, MACAO has hosted its annual Saturnalia festival which welcomes the summer solstice and includes light shows, international and local DJ sets all weekend long. I was lucky enough to attend the last one in 2019, and I anxiously await for - hopefully - its return this summer.
Mexico-based design studio Cocolab creates interactive multimedia installations, where art and technology are fused together to deliver a unique experience. One of their latest projects, Weaving, is a combination of light installation, video, and music, which inspired the viewer to use their imagination in creating their own narrative.
From illegal squats in abandoned warehouses, to private tunnels or chic clubs, rave culture is still very in action. Even during the global pandemic, some DJs are offering their beats to keep the community alive and hopeful of the future. The French company Cercle produces films and broadcasts international DJs in unique, historic - simply breathtaking locations. They continue to host eclectic DJ sets, releasing their sessions all available through their YouTube channel. They understand the importance of the electronic music community, and playing music at home and dancing like no one’s watching has been a major therapeutic release for many during this past year.
A type of rave simulation is good for the soul - it’s a sort of ritual to get dressed, dim the lights, and play some music. The creative expression of dance, music, fashion, and art are all interconnected, and they all influence each other. A space can be activated in the presence of artists, thus transforming the experience for the audience - or spectators. While we continue to be subjected to the four-walls in our home, we can still manipulate, and amplify our space. We may not be dancing closely and rubbing our sweaty bodies next to each other lately, but the rave community is still very alive and is re-energizing until we can all go out and dance, all night long.