HEX, DRUGS AND DAMAGE CONTROL: Phenomenology, Pharmaceuticals and Catharsis in Performance Art 1976-1992
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AbstractKindly made available on this repository by permission of the publisher - published version can be accessed via https://inter-lelieu.org/inter/inter-archive/
In the text I explore how and why I made radical art with the aid drugs to produce altered states of consciousness as a means for conflict transformation. I explore examples of my own formative engagement with mind altering substances (alcohol, prescribed medication, street and pharmaceutical grade drugs) that were used in combination with performance art in Belfast during the nineteen seventies and through my travels in the 1980’s.
For the purposes of the text I draw attention to selected examples of early and later performance work from the period 1976-1992. I explore the various discursive elements that helped shape this work and how I was trying to formulate a strategy for an ‘experimental exercise of freedom’ that utilised a combination of mind, mood and body elevators with physical ritual, to achieve psychic catharsis as a means for liberation from a colonial/cultural conditioning.
In 1966, while LSD was still legal, various artists took interest in the exploration of our cognitive potential and the conquest of our “internal freedom” (Timothy Leary), as well as the multiplication of our creative abilities. They would freely use psychotropic drugs in order to attain altered states and to modify their consciousness. In search of new forms of existence, they became interested in Oriental philosophies and also in South American shamanism (ayahuasca, peyote, etc.). This edition of INTER ART ACTUEL wishes to explore, fifty years after the fact, how chemical prostheses have been replaced by “technological supplements” (Derrida). In 2016, is art still concerned with “the doors of perception” (Huxley, quoting Blake)? Are artists seeking increased levels of awareness, or rather to transform the human, as advocated by transhumanism (H+)? With the current backdrop of our deteriorating environment and the extinction of the human race, in this anthropocene era, do we still have utopias for intelligent collective lives, or means for surviving while keeping our humanity intact? Do we need spiritual shortcuts, psychic accelerators or cultural shock therapy?
Stitt, A. (2016) 'HEX, DRUGS AND DAMAGE CONTROL: Phenomenology, Pharmaceuticals and Catharsis in Performance Art 1976-1992', Inter, Art Actuel 123 : Addictions et conscience augmentée : les suppléments chimiques et électroniques
Addictions and Increased Awareness. Chemical and Electronic Supplements, pp.26-33