Art under the Influence


The argument of mind expansion through imbibing substances be that alcohol or drugs has long been a point of discussion in artistic pursuits and in particular whether or not it improves what you produce.  Of course many is the artist, writer or band who has clung to this idea while slowly descending into irrelevance, idiocy and often death and talking of bands that did that the Doors spring nicely to mind, who of course took their name from Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, in which he describes his experiences when taking mescaline one afternoon.  I’ve read the book and must admit it didn’t do a great deal for me, perhaps because I was not sitting in a sunny garden after just taking some peyote.  I was musing on this recently as I came across a somewhat disturbing, voyeuristic but also fascinating collection of self portraits by the artist Bryan Lewis Saunders.  Since 1995 Bryan has been drawing a self portrait of himself every day and has currently over 8,000 of them, i’ve no idea whether he became bored as he was doing this but for reasons best known to himself he decided to add chemical substances to the mix and has been taking a different drug every day and then drawing the self portrait (I’ve included a few in the post), a frankly scarily dangerous escapade I’d have thought which is having a serious effect on Bryan as he himself describes

“After experiencing drastic changes in my environment, I looked for other experiences that might profoundly affect my perception of the self. So I devised another experiment where everyday I took a different drug and drew myself under the influence. Within weeks I became lethargic and suffered mild brain damage. I am still conducting this experiment but over greater lapses of time. I only take drugs that are given to me.”

I’m not sure what I think of it all (other than I wouldn’t recommend copying him) but there is an element of Hunter S Thompson’s gonzo journalism here which is fascinating.  Disturbing but fascinating and that is often what the best art is.