Cycles, Loops, Figures of 8, and a tracing of a Dishonest Rave

           BROKEN RECORD
We have been involved in The Gathering since the beginning, and in many ways, it is the reason any of this is happening. It was The Gathering that pulled me out of the UK, and held me in Cyprus for 8 years. This is the last tracing of our thoughts about the event as we wrap up the final preparations. The project that preceded Becoming, which Becoming grew out of, was initiated at The Gathering, and featured Honest Electronics more than anyone. We may have transitioned, and may use a different name, but our relationship with Honest Electronics hasn’t changed. It was asked this year that, as Becoming, we could assist the label with virtual hosting and promotional work, so we made them an info site (here︎︎︎), and have been assisting with graphics, archiving and organizing visual materials from previous years, producing videos and so on.
           On top of this, we were invited to organize a small exhibition or installation at one of The Gathering 8’s pre-parties. We made video material to project over the walls, we collected memorabilia, tickets, posters, infographics and wristbands from the years past and pinned them all over the walls. We set up a table in the centre of the room that featured all the magazines our old project, Crossdressing Diogenes, produced, and bookmarked all the places where we talk about Honest Electronics & The Gathering.
           For this installation we also produced a flyer︎︎︎ which attempted to build a bridge between the current moment and the moment where it all began for us. The Gathering 8 ! has been making us think about cycles, loops, figures of 8. We felt it would be interesting to use this 8th iteration, where we are ironically returning to an older site, and where we are returning to a paradigm that matches the first iteration, to dwell on what it means to come back around.
           The piece begins talking about my master’s thesis, which is how everybody in Cyprus first knew me; I was the person doing their thesis about raving in Cyprus and the Underground scene here. As you might imagine, a lot of people were interested to know what came of that Thesis, but there never came a time when publishing it felt right. It has been 8 years since I started that Thesis and since I made Honest Electronics my point of fixation, and as we rapidly approach leaving Cyprus for a significant amount of time, The Gathering 8 has become an opportunity for me to find closure, or to accept the on-coming end of a really formative part of my life. I found something 8 years ago and I followed it all the way here, right up to the moment of writing the text that featured on the exhibition flyer:

“The conclusion of my Master’s thesis, all those years ago, was that rave culture was never intrinsically subversive; it was contingently subversive. As an extension of this, the same had to be said about tripping. There is nothing intrinsically meaningful or restorative or subversive about dropping acid, whether such a thing can save someone or condemn them is contingent. That is not to say there is nothing special about raving or tripping, but simply that there is a lot more going on here, and that no practices under the sun are innately meaningful, or intrinsically ethical. In the bigger picture, what you do is not what really matters, but why you do it, or at what future you aim your actions. This applies to taking acid and raving, as much as it does to violence.
       When we think about the conditions that gave way to the free party movement and sound system culture, it was primarily an act of resisting black exclusion from private clubs and venues. If no one was really allowing black people into the clubs (which were primarily playing black music), it is no wonder that all of these rejected people would assemble around DIY sound systems in the backstreets together. This is exactly what would have made raves anti-hegemonic, as they were an act of resistance that actively created an alternative reality that sought to undermine the systemic structures that ostracized them in the first place.
        The arguments of the thesis included the example of Yoga. Within Buddhism, the practice of Yoga absolutely must be accompanied by rigorous practice of ethics and philosophy. It is a 1:1:1 ratio between Sila, Panna, Samadhi, and even children’s stories teach that too much of any of those three leads to imbalance. Imbalance in Ayur Vedic philosophy is to be understood as sickness. Relatively famous teachers like Kakuin or KamalaShima have said outright that practicing Yoga or Meditation without a deep and passionate embrace of Buddhist ethics and philosophy produces zombies. Isn’t that the same word you sometimes hear about raves? All those zombies at 10am. “Do you know what you are dancing for?”.
       This is quite a different concept entirely to a modern consumer rave or club night, yet, the problem is that they appear very similar on the surface. From a certain perspective, it all looks like people gathering around a DJ and a soundsystem, dancing together, but this surface image betrays the complex difference below the surface. The only conclusion I could draw from this was that there is nothing intrinsically revolutionary about raving, and that subversiveness is entirely contingent upon the particular future you are trying to bring about. The radical afrofuturist imaginary behind the early practices of rave culture is what made the practices subversive.
        One thing that unites us as neoliberal subjects is a sense of feeling lost in the noise of the information age, being overwhelmed by hyperreality, a universe of endless derivative representations that never seem to lead to any reality. It is hard to know what is real anymore, or what to believe in, if anything. Capitalism is ultimately nihilistic, and to dwell in capital is to become lost in meaninglessness. The sign, “do you know what you’re dancing for?”, perhaps better written as “we”, is really asking this question about nihilism — do you think this needs to mean anything?
        This might be worth remembering the next time someone talks about the end of the future, as all it takes for the future to disappear is for people to stop aiming at it. The end of the future is the consequence of the nihilism of capital, and the consequence of capitalist subjects losing sight of philosophy and ethics, either in the form of mindless raving or mindless yoga.
        Some critics go so far as to say that Neoliberalism died in 2008, but it lives on in a zombie form because no new ideology has risen up to usurp it. I might suggest that Neoliberalism completed itself through death, having created a meaningless world where its own death would not mean its end.”

To elaborate further on this, for me, The Gathering feels like a very rare moment of despectacularisation, a truly DIY, sponsorless and collectively organized instantiation of the politics of our community. It feels like one of the only events of its kind in Cyprus, a truly minimalist or cynical (read down to earth) event that does not claim to give you something that you pay for at the entrance, rather, The Gathering offers something that you can really participate in. If you attend as a consumer or if you attend with an expectation to be served, something about the experience may not quite add up. We’re not really buying a ticket to be served a meal, it is more of a process of crowdfunding and co-producing a collective transformative experience. You cannot buy a seat because there is no table. Everyone pays their way somehow, whether that be as a €50 contribution or through a contribution to the labour or organisation. Believe us when we say that the 50eu contribution is by far the easiest—one year they/we did 100 hours of collective digging to prepare an inverted stage. They/we (this could get tiring) didn’t hire a JCB, they just found two spades and a group of people who believed in the vision and who believed that such labour would create something special for people, something that can change people or surprise them.
           We learn so much from being out there in the immense heat, working collectively towards the establishment of the right conditions for a transformative collective experience to flower. We do not receive an experience, we make one together. It was Adorno who wrote that collective transformative experiences depend upon a group of people knowing how to enact them, and we continue to see the rave as a methodology for casting individuality aside and collectively building meaningful experiences together. For us, it is a model of the future, something that gestures towards a post-capitalist model of community-organised transformative experiences that can be powered by two rented generators and a lot of enthusiasm. We see within the practices of The Gathering traces of what Adorno was describing, a knowledge of transformative experiences passed down through the years; culture. We do not see just a rave, we see a situation set up that establishes the necessary conditions to communally enact a process that slowly brings about a change in how we experience ourselves. In the three days of camping in the immense heat of late July (45ºC in the shade) brings everyone into a completely different mode of experience. The music guides everyone through this passage of many days, it creates a sense of place, and a sense of momentum, at least when the DJ knows how to make it do this. Yet, it is not entirely an elaborate ploy to keep everyone in the desert until we melt into one liquid, the music is also the key to going further. Music can create the means of arriving at a certain experience, but it can also deliver the critical jilt to someone in that moment, and the music is organized around an interpretation of these principles, that over several days, DJs can pass energy to each other in a continuous relay, collectively building towards a series of critical moments.  
           Yet, it is not a matter of science, and there is no fixed way of doing this, and this is ultimately what I meant when I said that what made rave subversive was contingent. As the universe spins around and chaos unfolds, pulling off a rave can feel like aiming at a moving target that you can’t see; you can never be sure about each track you play, or each direction you think you’re taking, and you can never be certain that it is leading anywhere. There are just techniques, traditions, and martial arts, and a faith that we know what we’re dancing for. After all, what it is we are mining for here isn’t something objective, and isn’t something that can be located in any specific moment, it doesn’t happen like an intervention. We come out the otherside changed, somehow a different person, and what it is that we have faith in, is that this process will change how we understand ourselves and our community, and how we experience ourselves as a body, bit by bit, year by year.  
           As a final part of this tracing, we are really pleased to offer you a series of recordings from the most recent pre-The Gathering warm up rave held at an off-radar location on July 8th 2023. We offer you six two-hour recordings of the six DJs who played last week: Rotala, niko mas, YOLY (ex RAW SILVER), Nana, Joralsky, and Aristodemos. These recordings were live, and they contain all the technical problems and random occurences that come with a DIY-rave in the forest, and we invite you to imagine what is going on in the situation at every given moment, because while it is a work of art, it is not being presented here as something autonomous, because the real art piece is the moment created with the music, in that particular moment in time, in that particular place, and with those particular people in that social context. Yet, while this produced recording was not the aim of the event by any means, it does in many ways contain within it a tracing of everything that happened that night, it’s just blurry, indistinguishable. It is as if we held up tracing paper to the rave and this is what was left on the paper. These recordings are just the residue of something we did together with our friends, an impression of our attempt to participate in the rave tradition and build a transformative moment together—we hope you find something in it you can relate to.

Coming next: Pre-Gathering Podcast at Sessions
As our final contribution to production of The Gathering this year, we will be hosting a two-hour Pre-Gathering podcast that will be broadcast live from the rooftop of Sessions, the queer take over of SPEL (Contemporary Art Gallery in Nicosia). We have organized a series of small features, including some readings, some memories and a lot of music. We are scheduled for 19.54 (EET), the exact moment of sunset on Thursday 27th July. We will post the link when the time comes.

link to Sessions