How are Hallucinations represented in Contemporary Arts?
To rationally understand hallucinations, one might need to begin from thinking about the human consciousness. Humans receive various sensory signals, such as visual, audial and sensual stimuli, and make sense of the outside world by processing this stimuli into the existing meaning webs in our minds. According to the neuroscientist Anil Seth — who does research on consciousness — perception depends as much as or more on the meaning construction processes within our brain than on our sensory signals. In his words, “…we don’t just passively perceive the world, we actively generate it.” The hallucinations that people report on altered states, or in psychosis, are situations in which people over predict their sensory signals. Seth summarizes hallucinations to be uncontrolled perceptions of our brains and perceptions to be controlled predictions. He concludes his equations with that in fact, “we are actually hallucinating all the time and calling it reality when we agree to it’’.
After an infection that damaged the sensory areas of his brain, portrait artist Arthur Ellis has lost his sight in 2006, which is also when his scary hallucinations began. “you can’t just close your eyes and it disappears” the artist say and he adds “but you learn how to cope with it”. When looking at the pre-sight loss works of Arthur, one finds esthetic portrait drawings that presents us the world that we know of. In his post-sight-loss work as in the drawing “Friendly Heart” (2010) however, we are introduced to more abstract lines and less friendly figures. One can assume a human like figure on the left side of the drawing and shape of a heart on the right side. Listening to his interview, it is possible to speculate that he is making peace with his scary hallucinations in this artwork.
Where does Ellis’ work stand when considering Seth’s explanation of hallucinations? When Ellis had his sight, he produced work that was more in line with everyone else’s perceptions, hence we wouldn’t call it hallucinations. Once the way he perceives the world change and his mind is trying to make up for the missing parts, his mind in line with his work become more abstract and while looking at the output we can accompany him in his struggle to make peace with the unusual ways of perceiving. While Arthurs altering state was triggered by a bacterial infection, others had different ways of reaching at hallucinations.
‘Psychedelic’ can be defined as mind manifesting. Magic mushrooms, marijuana and ecstasy pills… Hippi artists of the 60’s consumed varying substances to look into their minds, experiment different realities and manifested themselves through art. Such substances, interrupt the signals and meaning constructions of the mind and trigger hallucinating. Robert Horvitz’ “Page from my Diary: 22 September-4 October 1972’’ (1972) has hallucination depictions with similarities and contrasts to the drawings of Ellis. Horvitz in his details, enjoys being lost in an unkown. We can speculate this from his abstract geometric patterns’ confidence versus Ellis’ uncertain sketches trying not to scare us figures implying heart. While Ellis was trying to over-predict his perception maybe with too little sensory signal in his brain; on Robert’s work we can assume that he is having too much data in the pink matter, thanks to the strong sensual stimuli effects of the substances.
Another psychedelic work, Jim Lambie’s Zobop (1999) can be read as a more proposing example of what Ellis did accidentally and Roberts did deliberately. In his ‘Zobop’ installations, Jim puts colored tapes on the floor along the indentions of the walls. The end product is parallel and circumferential lines of colored strips under the visitors feet. Zobop, allegedly deals with changing the world, by changing the floors. The artist in his interview argues that we are in an anti-carpeting age as we color walls, we color doors, but not floors. The question he raises is, do we keep the floors empty so as to feel more solid when we step on the ground? Zobop aims to take our feet off of the usual ground and step into a new hallucinative psychedelic reality.
When meaning making is altered, human expression is altered. Hallucinations — out of control imaginations — surface in contemporary art with different artists and different forms. Investigating the alteration in art forms with references to neuroscience, may help the viewer think about how gullible human perception is and consider what reality constructions might mean in other settings.
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2000/sep/30/weekend.jonathanjones http://www.blindartist.co.uk/pre-sightoss-artwork/ https://singjupost.com/anil-seth-your-brain-hallucinates-your-conscious-reality-full- transcript/