California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way

Organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), The Peabody Essex Museum celebrates the innovation and pervasiveness of midcentury modern design with their exhibition ’Living in a Modern Way’.

The work of legendary designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Richard Neutra, and Greta Magnusson Grossman are explored, as is the sociological and geographical context which gave rise to this unprecedented design movement.

Have a look until 6th of July, 2014 at The Peabody Essex Museum, located in the Special Exhibition Galleries. More info here.

I love God, I love Jesus, I read my Bible, but I have a really hard time going to church. Mainly because when I think about compassion, affection, serenity, and a belief that there is something holy in every person and thing, I think about Buddhists, not Christians. Christians consume and judge, but it isn’t supposed to be that way. We’ve really missed the mark. We’re too busy living the churches way like modern day Pharisees, and we’ve forgotten what God’s way even looks like. It looks like love. Love and respect for every one and every thing. Let’s get back to that.

The Evolutionary & Ecological Importance Of Psychedelic Plants

“…it is almost as if the vegetal world assigned certain plants to be the diplomats and teachers to our young confused species, to help put us on a different path than the one we have chosen, racing to ecological decimation and self-extinction. How else to explain the consistent messages received in mushroom, ayahuasca, iboga, and peyote visions of a world out of balance, of the need to take responsibility, of the vast empathic sentience of the Gaian Mind? …In the same way that we garden plants, teacher plants like ayahuasca seem to garden us when we digest them” [1]

That our indigenous ancestors were more connected to the earth than we are is not up for debate. Also up for little debate is that the destruction of our environment is increasing at an alarming rate, threatening the premature extinction of our species, due to the modern way of life in which humans live more on nature than with it. When we started believing we could control life, we in many ways lost touch with the innate wildness within ourselves and the world around us. Simply put, we became less human.

When the earth still existed as a luscious place, rich in great plant diversity and wild land, people were more conscious and aware of the interconnectedness of all life forms -and more importantly, perhaps, that “things” like plants are living, intelligent organisms. As a result, the earth flourished. Many attribute these enhanced levels of consciousness in which the world seemed more alive and people believed there was no separation between themselves and nature to the leap in consciousness provoked by psychedelic plants, long hailed as “visionary plants.”

In fact, sacred use of psychedelic mushrooms, in which they were worshiped as vehicles with divine messages imperative to the well-being of man, can be traced as far back as the late Neolithic age. Proof can be found at the Tassili Plateau in Southern Algeria. Tassili Plateau looks almost like a maze of some sort, made out of stone escarpments chiseled by the wind into numerous narrow perpendicular corridors decorated with rock paintings of shamans dancing with psychedelic mushrooms in their hands and sprouting from their bodies. The image of mushrooms sprouting from their bodies is often interpreted as a representation of their ability to enhance and emanate the spirit when ingested.

One of the more well-known theories regarding the historical role of psychedelics in evolution is Terrence McKenna’s Stone Ape theory. McKenna believed the evolutionary lineage of homo sapiens could be traced back to psychedelic mushrooms in the grasslands of Africa, claiming it acted as a “tremendous force for directing the evolution of human beings away from that of the anthropoid apes and toward the unique adaptation that we see as special human beings today.” [3]

Biochemical Relationship Between Psychedelic Plants And The Human Brain

“Why is there overlapping biochemistry between certain plants and human brains? One proposal is that there is an evolving niche, one that is necessitated by an ecosystem whose survival is threatened.” -Kim A. Dawson [2]

Further fueling the idea that psychedelic plants play an important ecological and evolutionary role is the fact that psychedelic plants contain psychoactive chemicals that are strikingly similar to those found in the human brain, enabling them to act as synergetic keys that dissolve illusions of separateness from the natural world and other life forms, thereby restoring biochemical unity. The entheogenic chemicals in psychedelic plants responsible for shifting a person’s consciousness to reveal their inextricable interconnectedness with nature are remarkably similar to ones found in the human brain, such as indoleamine neuro-hormones like serotonin and melatonin regulate states of consciousness.

Psychoactive chemicals, which were created millions of years ago before the existence of mankind, were generated by the serotonin molecule, making it of no surprise that they are serotonergic activators that influence the serotonin receptors in the neural networks of all life forms. However, they do not activate all serotonergic receptors. Rather, they activate selective receptors in the brain to produce specific effects in the neural networks. Although psychedelics, also known as “serotonergic neurognostics,” have an impact on various 5-HT receptors, they have the greatest impact on 5-HT2a receptors, which are found throughout the human body. Areas with high concentrations of 5-HT2a receptors, namely the gastrointestinal system, immune system, cardiovascular system, and the brain, are affected the most due to their intrinsic, overlapping biochemistry with the serotonergic activating nature of psychedelic plants. In the brain, the cerebral cortex, thalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, and olfactory bulb are strongly affected, leading to alterations in hippocampal processing of sensory data and learning, altered gene expression, and heightened visual processing. Essentially, sensory gating (discussed in this previous article on the doors of perception) is altered, allowing more sensory input to reach consciousness.

Although a large portion of modern day society holds negative views regarding the use of psychedelic plants, the significant overlapping biochemistry of psychedelic plants and the human brain makes it quite difficult to continue to adhere to the belief that they are harmful and should be avoided, much less that they hold no relevance to our existence and well-being. It is hard to fathom that their remarkably similar biochemistry is of no importance on an ecological scale. Clearly, we are not as “separate” from the natural world and plants, such as psychedelics, as we may have been led to believe.

2. Dawson, K. A. The Ecological Niche of Psychedelics. Maps Bulletin. 6(1)

while i’m on a role i’ll just keep going with my trip insights…

people think they’re doing a good deed by not littering but in reality, putting rubbish in a bin just ends in it being buried under the earth or burnt. either way it’s polluting the natural environment. us humans are such parasites and we’ve convinced ourselves that putting rubbish in a bin leads to us not damaging the natural environment when in fact our very existence, or specifically the way we live in modern society, is damaging the natural environment. 


Prompt #3 - Watch video art IRL

I saw Ryan Trecartin’s Re’Search Wait’S on the third floor of the NGV International. Ryan Trecartin is a young ‘post-internet’ artist from California. The show Re’Search Wait’s focuses on the subject matter of life in a ‘post-internet’ age, thus the videos revolve around and comment on teenagers’ lives in the modern world in a somewhat abstract and humorous way.

 The footage on show was almost an assault to the senses as there was so much going on content wise. The videos were brightly coloured, fast paced and all had their own audio tracks. There was also audio playing over the entire exhibition (the audio for the individual works was on headphones) and intricate installation aspects set up around several of the videos, such as beds and a lounge room-esque scene. The videos shown were mostly performance based pieces, in which one or more people at all times were talking/singing/ranting at the camera - the subjects had very over exaggerated personalities and warped voices. Unusual makeup and costumes featured heavily to further enhance the character of the people in the pieces. There was rapid movement, the cutting was hectic with more than one scene playing over another often. Text was also put over the video at intervals and different snippets of songs and audio effects were cut in frantically overall giving this piece an almost neurotic feel.

I loved this exhibition, I thought it was so exciting, there was so much to look at and take in. The installation aspect greatly appealed to me, the exhibition was set up so that each piece was given ample space to accomodate for the different feel of each piece but at the same time it felt like going through different rooms of a house (furniture included). I felt this exhibition being shown as an installation drew me in ten fold to what it would have if the exhibition had just been layed out in a white cube or even a black cube setting. It really strengthened the theme of the entire exhibition as well, as it gave the impression of a teenagers home.

I thought the audio playing over the entire exhibition was great too, it went well with all the videos playing, so much so that I  didn’t even feel like I was missing out when I was watching the works without having the headphones on and playing the specific audio for each piece.

Some of the video works in this exhibition reminded me of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, perhaps because of the abrasive content and definitely because of the use of a variety of angles and styles within the shots. I can definitely relate this work to internet culture now in general but I think it’s almost in a league of its own, Trecartins exhibition as a whole is unlike anything I have really experienced before.

If you haven’t seen it already I highly recommend it.