The New Psychedelica 18.08.11

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The word "psychedelia" has an unfortunate odour to it: stale joss stick, mouldering paperback of alternative philosophy, unlaundered tie-dye. Shrouded in this mustiness, the ideology of hallucination has lost its sense of relevance and subversive force at a time when culture and society have never been more hallucinatory. The New Psychedelica, a small but forceful show at Eindhoven's MU gallery, aims to rehabilitate the word and the ideas for a world where our sense of the real is fizzing away into pixels and static.

The show is, first, an aural assault; many of the 16 works on display are video pieces, several of those have sound, and they compete to form an ambient noise that ranges from the merely arrhythmic to the outright panic-inducing. Curator Francesca Gavin says she wanted to create a threatening space. It certainly couldn't be called welcoming. But the works, all created for the show, soon reward when they emerge from the general barrage of sound and light.

Immediately confronting the visitor is Jeremy Shaw's This Transition Will Never End, a looping video of "wormhole" or "warp jump" effects from TV and film, a constant blaze of special effects simulating the breakdown of spacetime. The most impressive physical presence is Jim Drain's The Last Days of the Academy – hanging sheets of wood and metal, including pieces of furniture, riddled with holes and splashed with two video projections, one showing a heavy metal concert and a second, near-subliminal layer from a film about lengthening your orgasm with tantric methods. Quieter, but somehow similar, is Daniel Keller and Nik Kosmas's Look Into My Eyes – twin teleprompters spooling text from a guide to erotic hypnosis, a simple yet deeply unsettling comment on the conduits of power politics and the manufacture of consent. On a far wall are Antoine Catala's TV Blobs, live Dutch TV transmissions turned into floating, bouncing, multi-lobed polyps, with distorted sound. Television, the ultimate top-down modernist framework, which coats even the strangest and most unpalatable images in sticky, living-room familiarity, is made deeply uncomfortable and threatening. As I watched, night-vision footage of the bombardment of Libya frolicked on the wall in the cheerful fashion of an early MTV video effect.

But today's real hallucinatory action takes place in the computer. Among the computer works, Jimmy Joe Roche's Electric Piss Test really stands out. It's a fractured, dissolving, collapsing video that occasionally swims to form a coherent image only to lose it again in a burst of interference. But the interference is digital – the boiling pixels, fritzing fragments and machine greens and blues that are revealed when an online clip or digital TV broadcast breaks down. It suggests that the ones and zeroes that are the stuff of the modern world, far from being hard-edged and rational, are a hallucinatory soup as potent as any chemical experience. But it's almost more disturbing when an image appears and the brain scurries to comprehend it. You sense the horrible possibilities inherent in the manipulation of reality that 
has become routine. The New Psychedelica is a tiny pill with the power to wreak havoc on perception.

The New Psychedelica. MU, Eindhoven. Until 5 June 2011

 

Image

Jimmy Joe Roche

 

Words

William Wiles

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The New Psychedelica aims to rehabilitate the word and the ideas for a world where our sense of the real is fizzing away into pixels and static

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