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« Web Archives | Main | Bagatelles (Visual Version) »

May 28, 2006

What Are You On, Anyway?

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

This endless photograph reminds me of bleary, long-ago hours with foreign chemicals goosing my brain. Is there any way the traditional arts can compete with this spacey cyberenvironment, at least on its own druggy terms? Did you know that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both took LSD trips>? And doesn't this just blow your mind? Conlon Nancarrow, look out. (Sample some of Nancarrow's music here.)

Long ago, I ventured the thought that a good way to think of the contrast between post-'60s American art and earlier American art is in terms of the intoxicant that was currently in vogue. Much post-'60s American art -- with its emphasis on conceptual hijinks and wipe-me-out sensory overload -- is basically trying to recreate a drug experience, while a lot of earlier American art (cocky/depressive, fizzy/grandiose, gallant/pugnacious) reflects the influence of booze.

John Markoff's book about how the counterculture influenced and shaped the computer revolution can be bought here. Here's a list of well-known people who have spoken publically about taking LSD. Here's an interview in which Gates pointedly doesn't deny taking LSD.



posted by Michael at May 28, 2006


Hey man, what was really groovy to look at back when I was getting experienced was Dali, Redon, Moreau and H Bosch. And the best music was classical, I remember the Berg dead kid concerto and the Mahler Ninth and Beethoven 7th. Everybody had a copy of "Quartet for the End of Time" and some Shankar laying around.

Psychedelics can be intellectually liberating for those who need liberation and are open to it. I remember Ram Dass giving a yogi 600 mics and the yogi showed no noticable reaction. Course, the yogi grew up with Indian art. Talk about input overload.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on May 29, 2006 2:22 AM

Cruising through my server stats I noticed your link to my Uncontrollable Semantics (undirection). This works seems to have gone slightly viral as of late and it is interested to see all the comments relating it to drug use. While I find this to be a compliment in one way: that is has a hypnotizing or surreal impact, I am always a bit confused by the constant connection between odd artwork or interactive work and being high. If I did do rec drugs (at least not anymore) I might enjoy playing with the work. But in terms of creating it, it would be nigh impossible to address the tech, artistic and site mapping concerns while under the influence of anything beyond strong tea.

And in fact, that work is dumbed down considerably in terms of complexity. Take some one of my most recent works:

it forces the user to actually think more than just react. and others of mine are (as well as much of cyberart) are equally difficult to explore and understand:

I suppose I understand the reference, and normally dont care. But since your blog involves intelligent discussion of these issues, I wanted to share my thoughts.

And by the way, we cyberarts are insanely jealous of the traditional arts. You can buy a painting or sculpture, but I get nothing (aside from a University job) for my work. Can you sell a file?
Would I even want to?

cheers, Jason Nelson

Posted by: Jason Nelson on May 29, 2006 2:31 AM

Bob -- That's certainly the list. It all seemed like such a revelation at the time, didn't it? Funny how, in popcult terms we seem to be going through something semi-similar now. All the swirls and patterns, and the girls in their long, swaying Hindu-cyber skirt -- it's psychedelia all over again.

Jason -- That's some amazing work you do. I hope no one took me to be saying that you were on drugs when you did it, just that you're working in a culture/time when the assumption is that a fair amount of art will deliver a drug-like experience. I'd love to hear more about working as a cyber-artist. Making money from it has got to be a major challenge. I was talking to a gallery owner the other day who told me she dealt in modern art -- Warhol, Johns, etc. "Any conceptual or electronic stuff?" I asked. "None," she said. "Too hard to make money at it. There's nothing material to sell."

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 29, 2006 9:04 AM

Wow - don't miss the link. Especially don't miss the "var. 7 - harmonics - 120 tines, reversed" variation.

Posted by: Ethan Herdrick on May 30, 2006 1:24 AM


No I didnt think that you were suggesting anything other than what you said that certainly much of the immersive nature of digital work acts on the brain as an out of body experience.

As far as selling or making a living as a cyberartist, I do think there are some possibilities. I always use the analogy of company building entrances. Often large corporations spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on sculptures or paintings to adorn their public spaces. But what about the growing net giants. There public spaces are virtual. So shouldn't there be trend towards having them buy digital artworks for their sites? I think many people confuse digital art with web design. Sure, there are some artistic sites out there. But much like a building has function and artistic form, and then artworks are bought to fill the spaces in that structure. Similarly net artworks could be placed within corporate websites or on people's personal sites (the art collector lets say).

Sadly, I have no contacts within the net giants, so I would not know where to begin even asking them to support net(cyber) art. Maybe one of your readers might back channel a contact or two, just to start exploring the idea.

Posted by: Jason Nelson on May 30, 2006 1:35 AM

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