23 July — 24 July 2011

This exhibition was an attempt to create a dialogue between artistic interpretation and psychedelic experience. To critique – via a single allegorical intervention – some of the norms that govern the standard hermeneutic situation of a viewer engaging an artwork and deciding to say or write something formally ʻmeaningfulʼ about it.


The exhibition was devised by curator Paul Pieroni in response to an invitation from Wysing Arts Centre to produce a project with the resident artists from the Department of Psychedelic Studies.

On display in the main gallery were four artworks, respectively by Kate Owens, Hilary Koob-Sassen, Damien Roach and Mark Essen. At the far end of the gallery was a film. The film documents an earlier encounter between each of the works on display and Lawrence Upton and Benedict Taylor.

In their collaborative performances Upton and Taylor channelled a poetical mode of reading artworks that transgresses the basic rules and codes of artistic language and interpretation. In this qualified sense, Pieroni  considered their actions productively and positively ‘psychedelic’.

Psychedelic experience has a very interesting relationship with language. In a psychedelic state (e.g. a DMT trip) formal symbolic structures seem to fracture and crumble away. Such experiences (however defined) propose new and variegated modes of enunciation that push language and meaning to their very limits (and sometime well beyond). In effect, psychedelic experience cannot be quantified by the toolbox that regular linguistic structures provide. It pushes things further…

Upton and Taylors reading of works by the residency artists is an example of a psychedelic symbolic possibility within the mode of seeing and speaking about art. And while of course we need regular standards within artistic interpretation (in the same way as we need normal language), by momentarily exposing normative hermeneutic procedure to a converse force (here psychedelic language), we enact a temporary reframing of the situation, exposing for a short time a truly perverse set of possibilities lying internal and ever-present to the mechanisms of meaning itself…