Imagine this: You a) set up a white chair with a video camera pointing toward it, you b) spend lots of money on expensive drugs, and then you c) convince seven of your most gullible friends (plus yourself) to take the drug and sit on that white chair, while you record them tripping out in unconscious states, moaning, groaning and screaming. Sound like fun? This is the synopsis of Vancouver-based multimedia artist Jeremy Shaw’s latest project, DMT. Based on the recreational intake of hallucinogenic drugs, his eight-channel video project shows the results of a lethargic psychedelic drug experience that, unfortunately, only lasts 10 minutes. Most sit drooling, smiling and nodding while a few freak out. After they experienced the drug, they were instructed to try to explain what the feeling was like, and this was used as a metaphor for language barriers we experience as human beings. These words were then superimposed as subtitles. While some friends had profound experiences from the short intense high, others were not so insightful. “Whoa,” says one, “I don’t know where the fuck I was.” On the upside, Shaw’s experiment shows the artists’ willingness to enter unpredictable circumstances in his project-a quality that is not seen often enough in contemporary art-and his willingness to make bold, uninformed statements. But on the downside, it confirms that drugs are there for one reason: to escape reality because you want to disguise your inability to deal with life’s problems as “fun.” We really must ask ourselves: Is this what educated, middle class kids do with their money and time? Is this all they have to say? You’re given the spotlight, public space, and this is the statement you make? Well, it seems like it’s definitely connected with being hip and cool. But I wouldn’t know what that’s like. (Nadja Sayej)

Dir. Jeremy Shaw