The Drug as Working Material Lars Bang Larsen

The Drug as Working Material
Or, the user’s guide to new materialism

Lecture by Lars Bang Larsen
Fri, 20 May 2022, 7 pm

In the last half of the twentieth century, psychedelic drug taking developed its own counter-tradition for the critique of reason. Today, as psychedelic drugs are gaining respectability through the socially and subject-oriented modes of legalisation, commercialisation and scientific research, the question is how to insist on their unconstitutional and irritable potentials that informed artists who have created work from hallucinogenic methods and experiences.

Maybe the materiality of the trip offers a genealogy for a psychedelic critique. The Swedish artist Sture Johannesson (1935–2018) awarded agency to the drug and said that in the late 1960s, ‘The drug was a working material that created its own environment, its own culture.” Conceived in this way, in a premonition of contemporary theory that grapples with non-human forces, the drug is an actant, an intervener, a catalyst for a countercultural way of perceiving, in Jane Bennett’s sense of this term: “a cultivated, patient, sensory attentiveness to nonhuman forces operating outside and inside the human body.” (Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter, 2010).

Through the work of contemporary and late modern artists and writers, I will in my talk test psychedelia against different concepts of materialism and materialisation, and think out loud about the politics of this possibility.

Art historian and writer Lars Bang Larsen has produced a body of research and curatorial work that explores the boundaries of the Western schema of the social and the aesthetic, connecting art to larger histories of ideas. He has tracked art made in the context of countercultures—including spiritualism, psychedelia, and activism—that has produced mixed and emergent forms of experience and (non-)knowledge. He is director of art and research at Art Hub in Copenhagen.

Admission free!