Momentarily, Site Gallery becomes curator Francesca Gavin’s own mix-tape, a pieced together compilation of artist’s work that furthers the legacy and embellishes the myth of the rave culture that died out in the 90s.
Gavin’s vibrant group exhibition, ‘E-Vapor-8’, could perhaps be considered a psychedelic utopian proposition that sees the 90s phenomenon now being referenced and re-packaged from the vantage point of hindsight. Through the work of both established and emerging artists, rave culture, which lingers in our cultural imaginings, forges a new future that is set to reverberate on into contemporary visual art.
Daniel Swan’s video piece, ‘Plane Drift V’, is positioned at the gallery’s entrance and forms a surreal prelude to the exhibition. Gliding through extraordinarily detailed three-dimensional interior dreamscapes, it might suggest that the gallery that follows can also take on a strange new existence.
Rhys Coren’s animation and sound installation, ‘If We Can Dance Together’, displays colourful jittering patterns from three floor-based TV monitors and fills the space with dance music. Meanwhile, Petra Cortright dances to her own tune in her webcam video performance ‘Lara Practice’.
Harry Burden’s ‘The New Accident (ChromaLusion) 3’, is a cast of a car-crash crumpled bonnet, coated with iridescent paint and like the music, it begs a movement from the viewer to observe fully its luminous colour changes, from purple to green, splaying out across its crushed surface.
The exhibition in the larger gallery space is a rave of auditory bodies, where installations wildly jostle for position, pushing, elbowing and bumping against their neighbours. Projectors positioned on high shelves throw beams across the gallery like flashing, coloured club lights in the darkened space.
Lucy Stokton’s video, ‘TFBGLZ1’, picks at reality and pulls at its fraying seams. Her floor-based TV screen feels like an open trapdoor through which the foundations of the gallery start to move and flow in constant change. Travess Smalley’s ‘Wave Transcendence’ also assumes a metaphysical presence. This large-scale video projection enters the lofty arena of abstract expressionist painting, its liquid-like and slow moving surfaces melt on the gallery wall.
Jeremy Deller’s smiley face print, ‘Untitled’, glows under ultraviolet light and becomes a sort of exhibition onlooker, striding the decades as rave’s unperturbed figurehead and asks, ‘Did he change your life?’
Gavin perhaps operates as though a DJ, a real post-modern magpie, furnishing a gallery as though a nest with all things loud, brightly coloured and psychedelic. A vague theoretical standpoint takes a backseat to technological and aesthetic references that actually do become rather powerful driving forces in the development of this new visual future that Gavin proposes and her exhibition begins to unlock.
A first-hand visit to this immersive show is needed to experience ‘E-Vapor-8’ at its fullest. Musical sound installations and large-scale projected videos create an atmosphere that can only be felt directly and requires our apprehension rather than intellect to come to life. Perhaps this is why rave culture and its legacy grows in popularity with artists now crowbarring its coffin for creative inspiration.