We’re really pleased to have the loan of a dream machine coming from Dreamstate and hope to have this installed and running as part of the show. This machine will be just one of the devices for changing consciousness we will have on display. We’ll also have on show a range of pipes and vaporizing technologies, from ancient to the very latest.
Andy Romanoff, who was one of the original Hog Farmers, has generously donated some of his calling cards to the museum. These are from his incarnation as ‘Captain Gas’, the gas in question being a huge cylinder of nitrous oxide. Andy was first turned on to nitrous by Ken Kesey while sitting in the Hog Farm bus he lived on, parked in Joyce Mitchell’s driveway in Malibu. The rest, as they say, is history (to find out more check out the article by Andy and the reflections by his daughter).
The Psychedelic Museum now has four original calling cards. We plan to keep two for the museum and display these at our Breaking Convention show and to auction the other two, at Andy’s suggestion, to raise funds for the museum. Stay tuned to this blog and our Facebook page for details!
Finally, we’re really grateful to those wonderful people who have supported our next pop-up exhibition via our crowd funding page, all those folks who have offered help on the day, and people who are providing objects for us to share at the Breaking Convention show.
Hope to see you at Breaking Convention, and thanks again for all your support!
This three-day exhibition opened with an evening event featuring a panel discussion on the links between 1960s psychedelic music and culture, and the persistent fascination of Carroll’s work. The limited size of the venue meant that only 90 tickets were available and these sold out weeks ahead of the show. This was a clear indication of the demand for events of this type. In Britain there are numerous scientific and social events related to psychedelics, but there is obviously a thirst for engaging, intellectual commentary and reflection on psychedelic arts and culture. We’ve taken note and will try to enable larger groups to attend in future as far as possible!
Alice’s Adventures… and the Psychedelic Museum also received some welcome publicity by being recommended by The List and Time Out (and the prestigious Psychedelic Press), as well getting positive mentions by many other listing sites.
The panel discussion, featured Andy Roberts, Jake Fior, Sophia Satchell-Baeza, and John Coulthart himself, ably facilitated by our own Nikki Wyrd. An hour of informed and erudite conversation held the attention of the audience, who asked some thoughtful questions in the half hour Q&A session. We talked of many things, including laudanum, migraines, feminism, pastoral idylls vs authoritarian society, bands (including The Beatles), mathematics, and cinematic representations of the Alice story.
Over 600 people visited the exhibition, which was very well received. Below are some pictures of the event for your enjoyment. If you attended and have images, video or audio you’d like to share please get in touch with us, via firstname.lastname@example.org The opening panel discussion was recorded, and once our sound man has improved the quality, we will upload that too.
Alexander Korzer-Robinson Shadow Boxes
Detail of artwork by Civilized Punk
Nikki in ace curator mode
Andy presents the marvels of Psychedelic Press UK
Blotter art by John Coulthart
A visitor is captivated
Our mission statement
A visitor gets up close and personal with the work of artist Christiaan Nagel
Art by Greg Lindsay-Smith, and more amazing objects
Many thanks to the team at The Horse Hospital, and to all those amazing people who gave freely of their time and enthusiasm, in order to make this exhibition happen.
Special thanks to the panel members:
John Coulthart – A World Fantasy Award-winning artist and designer, John’s first public illustration was for the Hawkwind album Church of Hawkwind in 1982. His illustration and design work has appeared on many book covers and album sleeves, while his comic art is collected in two books: The Haunter of the Dark, a volume of HP Lovecraft adaptations which features a collaboration with Alan Moore, and Lord Horror: Reverbstorm, a graphic novel created with writer David Britton. http://www.johncoulthart.com/pantechnicon/wonderland.html
Andy Roberts – Andy is an historian of British psychedelic counterculture and LSD. Musically, he has been severely influenced and affected by the Grateful Dead, the Incredible String Band and Dr Strangely Strange among a host of others. He first fell down the rabbit hole in 1972 and has been exploring the labyrinth of passages ever since. He has written, co-written or contributed to fifteen books on subjects as diverse as cryptozoology, UFOs, folklore survivals, government files on the anomalous, and psychedelic drugs.
Sophia Satchell-Baeza – Sophia is an AHRC PhD candidate in the film studies department at King’s College, London. Her thesis on British psychedelic films and light shows in the “long 1960s” analyses the ways in which psychedelia gets taken up and discussed across avant-garde and more mainstream contexts. She has written on film, psychedelia and visual culture for magazines and journals including Sight & Sound, Wonderland, Shindig! and i-D.
Museum director Rob Dickins (of Psychedelic Press UK fame) has started the ball rolling for another exhibition in London. This is being tentatively timetabled for May. Stay tuned to this channel and our Facebook page for more information as details are confirmed!
Artists on display in Alice’s Adventures in Underground Culture
The Psychedelic Museum was officially launched on Halloween of this year, and just a couple of weeks later, on Friday the 18th November the museum presented its first public show. This historic event took place at the Psychedelic Press Journal’s cover art exhibition ‘Eyes of Albion’ at The Kennington Residency, London. These combined events attracted over 200 visitors on this one evening, despite the cold weather.
I had travelled from north Devon with some choice artefacts, while two of my co-directors, Andy Roberts and Rob Dickins had brought their contributions from north Wales and southeast London respectively (Rob bringing two iconic pieces from the collection of Dave King). The Psychedelic Museum holds a ‘distributed collection‘, where the things it can call upon to exhibit remain in the ownership and care of the donor. As well as allowing the collection to grow rapidly, this methodology echoes the collective grass-roots approaches often found amongst psychedelic communities of modern times.
Curating our own space
Bowl for party food
If only they could talk…
Arranging the objects on the wall and plinths was a fairly simple task, although Andy’s periodicals, badges, objets d’art and books had to be placed on the table to look somewhat less car boot sale (he will admit himself that he is not versed in curatorial aesthetics). The real business of the day began when the people arrived and started to wonder about the things and their stories; thus, five hours filled with dozens of enthused conversations began. These often moved on to other, related topics, and showed how the simple fact of being in the physical presence of something can change us. At this, Andy proved an eloquent advocate, talking with animated delight about his badges and keepsakes.
The container of capsules from the first LSD therapeutic study of recent years (shown above left) was marvelled at, especially by some researchers of Imperial College who had come to see the art. It sat beside a small sculpture dating from a few years later, a cause of much curiosity to the room! Izawa (2011) is a mixed media artwork. This collaborative piece was created by a group of magicians based in Sheffield. Izawa is the physical representation of the ‘spirit of the psychedelic gnosis’ and has been imbued with magical power with the aim of ‘liberating the psychedelic gnosis’. (Gnosis in this context is a synonym for altered or extraordinary state of consciousness of the type attained through the use of psychedelic drugs.)
In another part of the exhibition many of our visitors realised the enormous significance of the Hoffman blotter art on display, signed by Dennis McKenna, Ann and Sasha Shulgin, Stanislav Grof, and James Fadiman.
One aspect of a museum which I had not anticipated was the way it collects not just objects of the past, but present day people who have common interests, into the same location. And, by providing conversation pieces, they have reasons to initiate discussions. Pilgrims of their own paths, following their own threads of interest, a museum provides a loom upon which new conversations and interactions are woven.
Physical objects act as fossils of encounters; psychedelic objects infinitely more so. They mark times of meetings between minds, environments, ideas and often substances. Genesis P. Orridge’s t-shirt (design by Val Denham) provoked nostalgia and bemused looks in equal measure, from those who had, or had not, heard of Psychic TV. Either way, pioneers of electronic noise music Throbbing Gristle, and the late 20th century resurgence in body modification were soon mentioned.
By linking together moments of equivalent mind states from across geography and time, feeling our empathic resonance with fellow human beings in sheer awe at simply existing, psychedelic culture offers a glimpse into a world of familiar scenery. We can vividly imagine, to some degree, the visions encountered by those people 4,000 years ago in northwest Argentina, in a cave 3,860m above sea level, with their DMT pipe made of a puma bone; the bright colours, the intense patterns and twisting mandalas. The artefacts created and appreciated by those who have undertaken psychedelic adventures shows the undeniable commonality of our raw biological heritage, at the roots of so much of our diverse artistic and mythological interpretations of these, our most potent perceptions.
But what of the legacy of these psychedelically inclined cultures? Where can we find it recorded as an explicit narrative?
As the interest in psychedelics as medicines grows exponentially; hardly a week passes without the publication of some new research. How much of this research would have occurred without the growing interest in ayahuasca and peyote, of psilocybin mushroom species, amongst thousands of ordinary folk? …some of whom subsequently felt motivated to take up careers in science in order to research these molecules and their effects. The changes in our relationship with these substances will have great influence in how we construct our world: the intelligent use of psychedelic drugs promises (and evidence from research shows it delivers), opportunities for real world problem solving for engineers and scientists, highly effective methods for healing psychological damage, for easing our fears in the face of terminal illness, and much more.
We owe it to ourselves to tell the stories of those who have carried the torch of these drugs through the ages, through the gaol cells, through the furious anger of those righteous authority figures that declared the ‘War On (some) Drugs’.
Things – those material objects in an exhibition – provoke us to ask what, when, why, and who? Their value lies in the hands that have touched them, the eyes which were amazed in their presence. Like psychedelic substances themselves, while they can be represented (through photography or even 3D printing), there is a special value in the ‘medicine’ of the original, authentic and real. (You can, for example, watch as many trippy computer graphics as you like, but nothing compares to the authentic innerworld visions from a glass or two of ayahuasca!)
Re-imagining the world is a vital stage of any major cultural shift, and this is urgently needed now. Addressing the present through stories of the past, especially collective stories of how safe and intrinsic to the human animal is the desire to get high, can help inform our future. That these substances provide useful, healthy, enjoyable, life enhancing experiences for the vast majority of those who regularly use them is a fact; the work of the psychedelic museum, is to celebrate (though not of course without addressing difficult and contested ares of this subject) this psychedelic culture.
A museum of practices that have been criminalised and made secretive in the 20th century in most countries might provide those who enjoy such extraordinary states with validation. The traces of psychedelic culture are entwined throughout so many human activities, that only by grouping together categorically psychedelic artefacts can we show ourselves and others just how inseparable Homo sapiens and extraordinary states of consciousness have always been.
Choosing one’s state of consciousness, to be arational for a given period, gives us relief from the constant chore of concern. We return from a few hours of enhanced blissful contemplation or dancing to find our life has renewed colour; one of the most powerful predictors of life satisfaction is the knowledge that one has a mission in life. Psychedelic experiences can reveal to each of us, via an apocalyptic uncovering of the self and its relationships with others, what that mission might be.
Looking at our surroundings through psychedelicised eyes we see them anew. And this is perhaps the greatest benefit; to see, physically, the world as fresh, as open to possibility.
A table, three plinths, and a couple of hooks in the wall at an art exhibition in London which had around 200 visitors marks the first manifestation of a larger project. One day there will be a building with hundreds, thousands of things; each one telling a tale, providing a portal into other realms. Imaginative journeying, initiated by these psychedelic objects, might just take us into a future which looks a bit like the archaic past.
With huge gratitude to all those who have already contributed loans of their artefacts, and donations of time and money, to this embryonic project.
Please add your support if you can to our crowdfunding appeal towards a much bigger exhibition at the psychedelic consciousness conference Breaking Convention in London 2017, and the development of this project. You can find us on Facebook too.