Growing up in the Toronto rave scene in the early millennia has been a massive influence in my spirituality and lifestyle. The rave scene and electronic music has always encouraged and promoted creativity and self love by providing an inclusive safe space for the LGBT+ community and BIPOCS like myself. There we were free to dress and act the way we wanted, and danced the way we felt. The magnitude of the whole experience was very liberating. I learned that self expression was okay because individuality is what defines you.
I was 16 years old when I went to my first rave at the legendary Palais Royale in Toronto in 2001. Everyone wore colourful bohemian clothing and outlandish costumes- gas masks, steampunk goggles, fairy wings, multi coloured beaded bracelets stacked from their wrist to their elbows, feather boas, and tie dyed clothes. Neon was everywhere- the outfits, accessories, the walls, the lights! It was my first time ever hearing techno music and experiencing indoor laser light shows. I was captivated!
Ever since then, I’ve been collecting flyers from the events that I’ve attended. I was lucky enough to add flyer art into my work from before my time, in the late 90s, from ravers who moved on from the scene.
My parents saw any forms of self expression such as my colourful clothes, body piercings, and tattoos, as an affront to our Pilipino traditions and the model minority personas that they cultivated in this country. I wasn't allowed to hold on to the identity I created for myself in the rave scene and I had to take down my flyer collection that had once filled my bedroom walls. I moved in and out of home a few times. The first time I came back, I was forced to cut my dreads, take out my piercings, in exchange for a more conservative style.
We now live in a digital age where production companies rarely print out flyers, and people just mark their attendance on social media. Rave flyers were souvenirs of the events, of the venues and the DJS that preformed, proof that you saw legendary headliners such as Andy C, Nicky Blackmarket, Ed Rush & Optical, and Kenny Ken live. Throughout the past two decades, Toronto has traded in a lot of its abandoned warehouses and clubs, which hosted a lot of these raves, for condo development, shifting the focus of night life production companies from all year round events, to summer time outdoor festivals that now usually take place during the day, and in valleys, out of the way places that can be hard to get to.
Collaging was a way for me to preserve these memories by using the invites that I was attracted to the most. My work is heavily influenced by visionary art, a style that is embraced by the electronic music culture. I explore spiritual symbolism through patterns, colour therapy, imagery and sacred geometry. I wanted to take my audience back to those glorious days, as if they were looking at a rave through the lenses of a dreamlike kaleidoscope, and feel with me the high I felt as the music pulsed through my soul, the flashing lights and colours, the sensation of fabric against my skin as I danced, and the love and acceptance of the crowd that were just as unique and beautiful as I felt!
My series ‘The Garden’, is an homage to an amazing era of Toronto’s nightlife before gentrification and the lost art form of invites.