The magic and the real essence of the Rave Scene, the need of having joy in our life and using art as medicine is what Vinca Petersen shares with us with this interview and her photography.
When and what made you feel like immersing yourself into the Rave Scene?
I ran off to live in London from a small village at the age of 17. I met a punk boy and we broke into an empty house an squatted it. We went to lots of music gigs and took recreational drugs such as acid and discovered a whole social scene of other people living in squats or low grade housing all over London and other towns. It was like the family I was missing in my own life. I was the youngest of 6 children but our family never felt as comfortable as it felt with this new found 'chosen family' of drop outs and creative, alternative thinking, politically left wing people.
I had heard about raves but didnt go to one for a while. Then one night a friend took me to one and gave me half an E and that was it – I danced all night and hung out in the womens toilets having such fun!
"All races, all ages, all backgrounds. It was like 'coming home' to me. It was like finding my place on earth".
Could you descrive from your own feelings and experience what is the Rave Scene for you?
After my first rave experience I was totally hooked. It was such FUN and everyone was friendly and open. All races, all ages, all backgrounds. It was like 'coming home' to me. It was like finding my place on earth.
I still believe in it totally. Although now its a state of mind not of body for me.
What was the feeling of not belonging to a concrete place and having absolute freedom to actually belong to the present moment of the place you were?
You said it. Absolute freedom.
"We existed in the present moment-we didn't worry, think about the future".
How did you know where to find the raves…how was possible to know to which country you could go? How was the connection and communication between people from the Rave Scene?
We used phonelines – you would call a number and either a person or an answering machine would give information. There were flyers that everyone shared. Zines with info. Word of mouth. Pirate radio stations. Rumours, Guesses. Many mistakes and wrong turns! Driving around for hours trying to hear the music!
What does it mean to share this experiences between different generations, starting from children to adults? How this difference between ages affects in sharing this kind of adventures…what is the good and the bad part from it?
The same as any community. The young have the energy the old are wise.
What was the power of the music from this experiences for you? If you could descrive in three words what did you feel inside of you when dancing in a rave, which ones would you choose?
Connection, happiness, tribalism.
"Art is a form of commiunication. A way of reaching out to people. A way of making people think about things".
What’s the effect of feeling the contrast of the noise during the night and the calm during the day?
The music was never turned off! When the police came or the petrol for the generator ran out, or the dj;s were all exhausted, late at night, after many nights.... the music went off and we missed it! Rave music was not all electronic dance music remember – dj's played a lot of Reggae, HipHop and Dub music and some punk too.
What is the relationship and the power of the presence of substances in the Rave Scene? What is the best and the worst part of it?
There are good drugs – the ones that make you connect and feel good and dance and even halucinate. And there are bad drugs that make you introvert, dis-connected and addicted. You can see clearly the two different effects.
Personally, I took drugs but less and less. Once you had felt the feeling of unity and happiness from taking Extasy for example – you could feel the same feeling just by dancing and listening to the music without taking drugs.
"Life should always be interesting. If I feel it is not, I change what I am doing or add something interesting into it".
How does it feel meeting so many new people, sharing so many intense and extreme moments with them and knowing that maybe you are not going to see them again?
We existed in the present moment – we didn't worry/think about the future. Also we were a community and stayed together or met up in different places so there was always the chance to see someone again.
What was your inner feeling for having the urge or need to capture all the moments you were living with your camera?
I had taken photographs since I was 7. My dad photographed and developed photos of the family all his life. It was natural for me to take photos. I didnt really think about it. It was an intrinsic urge.
When was the first connection between you and a camera?
At the age of 7 I had my own. Before that I watched my father photograph.
What do you try to express through your photography, what’s your relationship with it? What story are you telling with your photography?
My story as a reflection of everyones story.... with a bit extra dose of freedom.
How do you feel when you look back at all these memories? And why did you decide to share them with the world, what’s your message behind all your work?
I have always shared my photography. In photo albums for my friends, then I published No System which was like a family photo album for the free party community. Then two more books Future Fantasy and Deuce and a Quarter. But the biggest is the installation A Life Of Subversive Joy which is nearly 900 photos, flyers, etc and diary notes which I put on the wall of the Saatchi Gallery last summer. This next Spring 2021 it will be up once again at the V&A Dundee. In that installation I tell my story from a child to the present day – it started much smaller but as I was installing it, it just grew and grew and grew. It took me 10 days working non-stop to put it up. It was the most generous art piece I have made!
"I have always thought that humans need joy, play and adventure to have the best mental health".
When did your desire for doing humanitarian work start? What was the impulse for doing it?
It started when I was in my late 20's. I suppose at an age when we stop being so self-obsessed and want to affect the world positively.
I remember thinking, right, I have a truck, I like driving, I like adventure and I want to do 'something good' so I decided to start transporting aid. The first journey I joined with an already organised team going to orphanges in Chernobyl, Ukraine. After that I organised my own trips.
How did your interest in helping neglected, abandoned and isolated humans living in the margins and your relationship with eastern-europe countries start?
I went to art college when my son was 2 (I was 34) and started to read about Joseph Beuys and his ideas of Social Sculpture. I decided this idea of Social Sculpture was an exciting way of merging all the things which were important to me. Adventure, humanitarian work and art so I created Future Youth Project (FYP). It was my art work but also a charity. I wanted to keep the charity small so that all the money went straight to those we were helping and not be spent on wages and buildings. I looked for a way of helping in a small way but making a great change.
So, when I found the group of men and boys with special needs languishing in a remote 'orphange' in south eastern Ukraine, I knew that we could change their lives. And we have. We've been giving them an education for 10 years now and also art therapy. Before they had nothing. They just sat all day in a room, rocking, self harming and fighting. Now they read, write, sing, sew and paint and their carers see them as humans.
What’s the meaning of using art in your activism for you, and how do you do it?
Art is a form of communication. A way of reaching out to people. A way of making people think about things.
What do you want to give to life after achieving all your experiences until nowadays, and what do you need life to give to you?
I continue to enjoy the humanitarian work with my charity FYP which brings me self worth and joy as well as helping others – a win/win situation!
Life should always be interesting. If I feel it is not, I change what I am doing or add something interesting into it. I just bought a new mini bus for FYP and I will be driving it to Ukraine next year and also around the UK having conversations with the public about JOY. I have always thought that humans need joy, play and adventure to have the best mental health... these things are sometimes considered unimportant in an over-serious world. I try to change that when I can!
If you could have a chat with Vinca from your youth, what would you tell her?
I wouldn't say anything, I'd just dance all night with her and her friends and then fall asleep in the sunshine in the morning.
Interview by Katrin Vankova