MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART TRIES TO CAPTURE METAPHYSICAL STATES
LOS ANGELES -- Outside the Museum of Contemporary Art's Geffen venue, a man passes out fliers. The flier reads "Entheogens and Us Victims of the Other War," an outsiders opinion on the museums exhibit, "Ecstasy: In and About Altered States." The exhibit itself attempts to capture metaphysical states in representational form and stimulates similar experiences for the viewer. The art includes installation, painting, sculpture, video, photography and new media. The venue is full of spaces to hold various art media. Rooms are used for deeper, more isolated physical experiences and art pieces are displayed in between each room, covering every wall. The title of the exhibit suggests that the artwork, as viewed by the spectator, creates imagery similar to something induced by the street drug methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as "ecstasy." The drug is chemically related to amphetamine and mescaline, and is used illicitly for its euphoric and hallucinogenic effects.
According to Greek etymology, the word "ecstasy" means leaving one's position and going "outside oneself," creating a sublime state of mind.
Though the drug can alter physical states, the results of most hallucinogens are entirely mental and are rarely experienced in the same way. The exhibit also speaks to the experience of the onlooker in a sense that art may not always be entirely understood from an outside perspective.
In his piece "Yes," artist Charles Ray presents a photo of himself while under the influence of lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. At first glance, the picture appears as normal as any other. It is knowledge of Ray's drug-induced experience that causes the viewer to think differently about the piece, while seeking the deeper context.
This experience speaks first to our preconceived notions of what altered states "look" like and secondly to the mental, as opposed to physical, experience that drugs induce. Another artist uses well-known pieces of art to present a distorted perspective of the works. Taking a piece such as Rembrandt's "Flora," painter Glenn Brown of England obscures the painting enough so that it is still recognizable, but unfamiliar. Unlike the source works, his paintings have an almost completely flat, gleaming surface, with little to no visible texture.
Using the slightest of brushes, Brown sets out to undermine the viewer's psychological and technical expectations of painting. Brown's art work is an example of the representational form of altered states, as well as produces an inducing affect in the viewer.
In one room of the museum, Massimo Bartolini of Italy sets out to physically and mentally destabilize the viewer's sense of spatial orientation through simple environments with his piece, "Head n 8." Bartolini calls his work "animated architecture."
"Head n 8" is a white room in which the corners of the room have been rounded so that the meeting points between the four corners of the room are indeterminate. With no visual cues to anchor the viewer, the room creates a sense of weightlessness. The room is further accentuated with a Southwestern painting that hovers on the left wall, almost floating with the viewer. Bartolini's piece produces a deeper altered state in that it's physical space caters to the visual experience.
Video reels, blinking lights, water falls of LSD and tiny pills of Play-doh do not only attempt to represent, but also verify that art itself is, as well as produces, altered states of consciousness.
The message of the exhibit appears to speak to the use of Entheogens ( cannabis, peyote, ayahuasca and mushrooms ) as a means of truly connecting with the sacred and divine.
"As spiritual sacraments, Entheogens have often been targets for repression both religious and fear inspired repression by misinformed societies which know them not. If used properly, in moderation, Entheogens are safe," reads exhibit literature.
The literature promotes the responsible use of Entheogens, stating also that the artists featured in the exhibit should not be punished for their actions. It states that Entheogens have "been used for thousands of years as medicinal and as sacraments for celebrating life, nature and God."
In today's age of intoxicating information, in which some aspects of reality have become almost hallucinatory, these works allow for new perspectives on our increasingly complex existence.
Redlands Daily Facts (CA)
Copyright: 2006 Redlands Daily Facts