Step back in time: Immersive VR experience recreates rave culture at Centre PHI

Photo by Maya Ruel.

Experience the thrill, music, and underground atmosphere of 1980s illegal raves within the confines of virtual reality.

How did it feel to attend a rave with thousands of other people in the United Kingdom during the 1980s? Such a unique experience is unparalleled, but artist Darren Emerson has recreated its essence in his interactive VR experience In Pursuit of Repetitive Beats, which is currently open to the public at Centre PHI. 

In Pursuit of Repetitive Beats is both a documentary and an immersive experience. The player embarks on an adventure that brings them back to 1989, when illegal raves were regularly organized throughout the country in uncanny locations, such as abandoned warehouses.  About 40 minutes long, the VR experience is both informative and entertaining. The player is provided a headset, headphones, and a sort of backpack that vibrates to the rhythm of the soundtrack.

The playroom is located on the second floor of the museum. Adorned with blacklights, the room is divided into six sections where players can move around during their experience. Once the headset and headphones are on, though, it is impossible to tell that there are other people in the room. It is an individual adventure and the VR setup makes the player feel cut off from reality completely. 

The graphics are breathtaking. At the beginning, the player sits in the car with ravers, watching the road roll by in the darkness of the night. Then, the player hangs out with these same ravers in a bedroom with walls covered in posters of 80s bands before getting sucked into the radio and surrounded by colors, vibrations and music. After visiting the police precinct and learning about the investigations that illegal raves led to at the time, the player enters a warehouse and experiences a rave in the fashion of 1989. Throughout these different scenes are scattered testimonials from important actors of the rave scene in the 80s. 
Interested? This VR experience is featured at Centre PHI from Feb. 7 to April 28. Centre PHI is known for the diversity and uniqueness of its exhibitions and displays. It showcases art pieces from underground artists and allows the public to experiment with all types of mediums and technology. Colored: The Unknown Life of Claudette Colvin is another VR experience currently featured that will be open to the public until April 28.

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