Growing up in the Toronto rave scene in the early millennium has been a massive influence for my spirituality and lifestyle. The rave scene and electronic music have 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 dance the way we felt. The magnitude of the whole experience was liberating. I learned that self expression is right 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!
Since then, I’ve been collecting flyers from the events that I’ve attended. I was lucky to add late-90s flyer art from ravers who had moved on from the scene.
My parents saw any form of self expression such as my colourful clothes, body piercings, and tattoos as an affront to our Filipino traditions and the model minority personas 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 frequently in my teenage years. The first time I came back, I was forced to cut my dreads and take out my piercings in exchange for a more conservative style. Every time I moved back home, I didn’t want to keep redisplaying my flyer collection in my bedroom. There were a lot of them, and it was something I had to inevitably take down the next time I was forced out. Collaging allowed me to condense my collection by cutting out and combining the most vibrant images of these flyers together.
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, the venues and the DJs that performed. They were 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. This shifted the focus of night life production companies from all year round events to summertime outdoor festivals that now usually take place during the day in valleys and obscure locations. Collaging was a way for me to preserve these memories.
My work is heavily influenced by visionary art, a style that is embraced by the electronic music scene. I explore spiritual symbolism through patterns, colour therapy, imagery and sacred geometry. In my series, I use the original flyers that have been in circulation at the time of the event and none are photocopied. Some of the flyers contain a reflective component or a glossy finish which gives each flyer a different aesthetic; that element is lost if photocopied. Other collage artists use shared photo banks, collage apps, mainstream magazine advertisements and vintage illustrations to generate their images. Resulting in their work to be similar in style. My approach to collaging is specific and my resource materials are limited. Not everyone has access to the images I use which gives my work its uniqueness and rarity.
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. I want them to feel 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 a homage to this lost art form of invitation, to an amazing era of Toronto’s nightlife before gentrification, and to make sure these remarkable designs from these phenomenally talented graphic artists aren't forgotten.
Behind the Scenes
History of Toronto rave flyers
Much Music profile of Toronto rave flyers, 2001. Video curtesy of Prototype Design.
This particular medium has been extremely difficult to source, rave flyer printing has become a thing of the past in the digital age we live in. I want take the time and show my utmost gratitude to The Flyer Vault, who has contributed hundreds of duplicates from their collection towards my art. Thank you so much! The Flyer Vault has been archiving flyers, posters, magazines and concerts listings from all genres from Toronto dating back to the early 90s. If you have the time, please support The Flyer Vault and follow them on Instagram at @theflyervault or check out their website: https://www.theflyervault.com . They also have a book out too!
Got Rave flyers?
If you're a Toronto rave flyer collector and would like to contribute to my collage art, please don't hesitate to message me. Send me an email at: email@example.com
Prints now Available
Limited edition fine art prints of my series is now available upon request. Please send me a message to discuss pricing.