So as a cultural break between Christmas and New Years binging, lazing and screen-staring, I dragged my sorry ass to an exhibit at the Wellcome Collection, Euston. A little background on this magical place: I guess it’s primarily a museum – but I think their own tagline describes it best, ‘a free destination for the incurably curious’. Beautiful. Now I genuinely aim to go to every exhibit they have going, and this one had Time Out egging me to go even more…
High Society is basically a collection of drug-related paraphernalia, films, texts, images and general oddities from throughout history. There’s way too much to go into, so I just want to highlight some of my most memorable discoveries. Starting with Tracy Moffatt’s Laudanum. This super talented photographer, film maker and general pro hails from down under, specifically, Brisbane. I couldn’t get much info on this piece, but I can tell you it’s a series of black and white photographs, and you can pick up a book featuring some of the shots here. I can’t say I’ve ever experienced any opiate, but this series of distorted, surreal environments and sleepy shadowy figures really gave me an impression of the dreamlike stupor laudanum might bring about.
This image, Laudanum #03 kills me.
© Copyright of the Roselyn Oxley Gallery.
Now for a backwards-bicycle trip on LSD. Rodney Graham is the mastermind behing Photokinetoscope, 5 minutes of a 16mm film loop played on a projector alongside 15 minutes of a music, also looping, on a vinyl record player. The delight here is that the projector is activated when the needle on the record player hit the vinyl – courtesy of that Edison fella. It’s a little shaky as an invention compared to his usual standard, but it’s inaccuracy in synchronicity allows for some numerous and potentially amazing musical/visual combo’s. Graham was on LSD for his bike ride around the Tiergarten which forms most of the film, and all you really need to know is here. It really is an enjoyable visual/aural journey, and if you don’t ever get to experience it for yourself, at least check out the tune the artist created here.
Ok so what would a mind-altering drug related collection be without an appearance from Alice? I was really quite shocked that I hadn’t seen this 1966 rendition of Alice in Wonderland, a TV episode directed by Jonathan Miller. I’m still putting Jan Svankmejer’s version as my #01, but this is definitely up there. It’s sharp, black and white appearance and use of more humans rather than talking animals and objects, make for a less dreamlike take on the story, and it’s pretty clear it wasn’t a production aimed at children. Well have a watch and decide what your favourite version of Carroll’s masterpiece is.
Faaack enough b&w already. Time for some pretty colours. This was the moment that really made me want to hit the hallucinogens, and it came courtesy of Joshua White and his famous Joshua Light Show, which had it’s hey-day in the late 1960’s – early 1970’s in Fillmore East, NYC. (Nice interview with him here btw). The ultimate stereotypical hippy backdrop for the bands and artists who played here, bubbly shapes in bright colours moving slowly around. Far out man. The best part really is what’s going on behind the projection screen. The ultimate laboratory. Vinyls, beer and bottles of coloured liquid. Oh how I wish I snuck my camera out, but these should explain it well enough:
And so concludes my trip around the Wellcome Collection’s High Society, running 11th November ’10 – 27th February ’11. You in London? Go see. It’s free!