Understanding rave as a performative dimension of protest

©️ Bassiani [Facebook]

This week on International Wednesday: Following historical events in London and Berlin, recent demonstrations in Georgia raise the question of what it means to be a free human. Club culture has created a platform for the youth to express their freedom and individuality. RAVEolution is much more than dancing and playing music  it is about the fight against the state on progressive values.

At some point in life, you will consider experiencing the real rave. You will wonder whether dancing to electronic music in a psychedelic atmosphere of random groups of people is a story you want to tell your kids. Either way, thinking about how dance revolution fuels fundamental changes in various political landscapes, will most likely not be on your to-do list. So let me immediately inform you about this particular mode of being.

Youth-oriented underground social gatherings constantly try to create a safe space for practicing different genres of liberation. To obtain absolute freedom from oppression, fear, and pain, groups of people frequently protest against mechanisms and systems that limit their freedom in the first place.     

The spaces dedicated to modern forms of protest define the nature of demonstration. The consequences of the practice of different contemporary forms of protest, contribute to the development of ideological and political agendas of the society. Therefore, looking at change-driven protests and their uniquely characterized forms of expression becomes crucial for understanding political frameworks through which club culture, and particularly rave becomes a performative dimension of protest.

Georgia’s RAVEolution

One of the recent change driven demonstrations were held as a response to the operation carried out by Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs. On May 11th, 2018 special forces invaded and raided two techno clubs in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Violently kicking innocent people out of the club caused an instant mobilization of protesters.

The demonstration against raids triggered a complete disregard for the legitimacy of political institutions and, therefore, created a substantial ground for political disobedience. The most attention-grabbing part of the three-day protest was the public assembly and expression of public’s strong sense of disobeying by playing techno and dancing to it.

What caused the original protest however, was the initial intention of these raids: to use violence as a tool for instilling fear in people. Club culture in Tbilisi has gone beyond pure entertainment since it generates spaces and communities for progressive values. The conservative, radically religious social groups of Georgia are under threat by the spread of values that techno club scene has helped promote as communities and social circles shaped around these clubs represent the main hub of progressive values of Georgian society. Club culture is a societal wonder, it is so outstandingly capable, vital and life-changing part of the culture, it is so central to the development of progressive values that Georgians were ready to risk their lives to protect them.

Bassiani and other clubs have created a platform throughwhich Georgian youth translates its freedom of expression and freedom of speech, which is why this demonstration, in their own words, was not about music, dance or even drugs necessarily, but was about fighting against the state in a war on progressive values and freedom. The slogan of this “RAVEolution” quite straightforwardly portrayed the Georgian warrior spirit: “We dance together, we fight together.”

We dance together, we fight together.

©️ Bassiani [Facebook]
The newly established tools of choreopolitics that introduce dimensions to protest might not be so new though. Decades ago, the UK and Germany witnessed how choreopolitics played a crucial role in structuring the form of protest, as well as, the symbolization of it.

Origins of Rave

Rave as a word itself was first utilized as a part of the late 1980s to portray the subculture that emerged from the British acid house movement. The UK has historical experience with rave protests and police brutality. Section 63 of the 1994 Criminal Justice Act presented a law that forbade raving. The law prohibited social affairs and helped the police attack and actively raid city’s underground communities, halting anything they perceived as suspicious. In response to these acts, 5000 individuals protested in the streets of London to protect their rights.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was another historical moment that generated major growth in bringing people together through the phenomenon of rave. After the epic fall, around two million people from both sides of Berlin raved for two days. Abolishment of the division between East and West Berlin introduced a new era of freedom. A new default, that everything was conceivable, prompted the blast of another type of youth culture: techno.

West and East Germans at the Brandenburger Gate in 1989.

The expansion of technoculture from the mid-80s to late-90s, derived from moments, experiences and stories shared by different DJs, clubbers, managers, producers, bouncers and most importantly ravers. Ravers actively channeled their freedom through techno.  

For decades club culture has been bringing new life to cities, experimenting with free spaces, and re-thinking capacities through which diverse communities can coexist together. Club scenes carry their deeply rooted values concerning freedom and promote them by creating a foundation for basic subcultural aesthetics.

Every decade has witnessed a movement whose heritage has given a noteworthy take at the circumstances that brought forth them and the social inclines that originated from them. London, Berlin and now Tbilisi are rewriting history by sharing these experiences through which they collectively produce an astonishing set of valuable performative fabrics. And by doing so, they are constantly reshaping the idea of what it means to be a free human in the age of RAVEolution.