‘Rave as Ecology: Plugging in’
A feature article for Berfrois Magazine that reflects on the experience of raving as attuned to the philosophical work of Timothy Morton and his concept of ‘ecognosis’, or ‘Dark Ecology’.
The central thematic is that, contrary to conservative views of rave culture as merely a recent form of social escapism, raving is far more concerned with access. Following from Lacan and Morton, this ‘access’ that is played out in rave culture is access to the Real: the ecological symbiosis of human and non-human, subject, object and other.
“In 2011, Urbanomic published Fanged Noumena, a collection of writings from influential British philosopher turned NRx posterboy Nick Land. Along with writers such as Sadie Plant and Kodwo Eshun, Land had spent the 1990s in Britain traversing a hysteria of alienating forces, from the further onslaught of neoliberal capital to the emergent roles of algorithmic technologies and cyberspace. Given this climate, he was no stranger to the ruthless affectivity of electronic music and rave culture in expressing these social tendencies, following its descent into the darker techno derivatives of what Simon Reynolds called the ’90s “hardcore continuum”, a sonic wormhole stretching from Doomcore to Jungle to Gabber.
For Land, raving was a lucid expression of our nascent posthumanism, a place where identity fractured as we came to embody new cybernetic pleasures. It is for this reason that in one of two epigraphs introducing Land’s texts, the late Mark Fisher quotes his little known essay, ‘”No Future”, an ode to the intensities of ’90s techno-culture. Along with Land, Fisher recognised rave music’s inherent necro-libidinal charge; its ability to express wider cultural forces. He quotes, rave was our “impending human extinction becoming accessible as a dancefloor.”
For the past five years or so I have watched this psychic extinction play out. Every weekend, thousands continue to cram into derelict warehouses, mildew archways and fetid cauldrons. All hellbent on chemical highs and loops of acidic bass. Bodies are carved out of the dark terrain by schizophrenic lasers, their movements pulsing through dense smoke like military optics laced with amphetamine. Catatonic stares and abject grins aligned toward the fortified DJ booth, its messianic presence infusing each dancer with a sermonic frenzy. Given its darker side it isn’t hard to see the apocalyptic edge of raving. Crowds of half-vacant minds and wonky irises; anaemic thoughts chewed up like pulp.
Raves and rave culture are for many a pristine example of contemporary escapism. Where the young go to ‘get away’ from the responsibilities of daily life or the onslaught of social alienation; burying their heads in the warm bosom of synthetic drum kits and modular FX. A collective orgasm mixed with wild entropy. For some this is just another sordid example of a generation gone completely wrong; living for the weekend, albeit with a uniquely dystopian edge; the latest wave of youth to be sucked into the hypnotic prism of low frequencies, dry mouths and euphoric highs. In this case, raves are not simply a dystopia in waiting but a real time eschatology; a hyperstition of full-blown planetary meltdown.”