Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jan 2006
Source: Redlands Daily Facts (CA)
Copyright: 2006 Redlands Daily Facts
Author: Darcie Flansburg, Staff Writer


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 

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.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman