Gavin Watson: RAVING ’89

13 May – 21 Jun 2010

Raving ’89 is an exhibition by celebrated British photographer Gavin Watson. 

Documenting the subterranean rave and acid house culture that emerged across the UK in the late 80s, Raving ’89 is a captivating chronicle of a grassroots social and cultural movement.

20 years after the event, Raving ’89 details the acute tensions underpinning early acid house culture. Watson’s work celebrates the pure hedonistic energy of the so called “second summer of love”: drugs and music fuelling an ecstatic sense of cross cultural social emancipation. Viewed from a contemporary perspective, however, these images also remind us of what was waiting in the wings in the form of The Criminal Justice Act (1994). With its specific impositions against Rave (notoriously of the definition of “repetitive beats”), the Act delivered a knock out blow to a scene captured in an untarnished state by Watson back in 1989. Between two opposites, Raving ’89 strikes an uneasy balance; at once celebratory while at times stiflingly melancholic.

Raving 89 is presented as continuous slide show accompanied by a soundtrack of period sounds mixed by Neville Watson (co-author of a monograph produced by DJ History to accompany this project).

Raving ’89 comes to SPACE following its American debut at New York’s White Columns (Oct/Nov 2009). Gavin Watson (b.1965) lives and work in the U.K. His photographs have been exhibited widely and published in three monographs: (1994, U.S. edition 2001); Skins & Punks (2008); and Raving ‘89(2009).