Ecstasy: In and about Altered States

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Paul Schimmel, Lisa Mark, Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Museum of Contemporary Art, 2005 - Art - 252 pages
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Ecstasy acts as an intersection in which structures of human consciousness meet a range of contemporary art practices. Each work in Ecstasy, which accompanies an exhibition at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, enacts its own particular intervention into human consciousness -- surprising us, questioning familiar realities, and suggesting alternative ways of ordering experience -- through installation, painting, sculpture, and new media.Ecstasy traces two lines of contemporary inquiry into surrealism's fixation with altered states of consciousness. One follows the tradition of artists attempting to capture metaphysical conditions in representational form -- as seen in the wall-scale, resin-suspended pill paintings of Fred Tomaselli; Charles Ray's photographic self portrait, Yes, which depicts the artist on LSD; and Franz Ackermann's recent Mental Maps, abstract paintings that represent cities using his own subjective form of GPS. The other trajectory explores the notion of phenomenological experience through works that play on disjunctions in scale, or disrupt our means for spatial orientation. In Carsten Holler's Upside Down Mushroom Room, for example, the ceiling and floor appear to change places, while in Jeppe Hein's Moving Walls, museum walls begin to close in on the viewer. The 2,200 hand-painted polymer psilocybin mushrooms of Roxy Paine's Psilocybe Cubensis Field, meanwhile, suggests other possibilities for altering our sense of reality.These and the other bold and imaginative works in Ecstasy challenge conventional notions of interactivity while creating a heightened sensory experience for the viewer. Six essays accompany the artworks, considering such topics as the relationship of altered states to art-making, both as the manifestation of the artist's state of mind and as an experiential effect created for the viewer; drugs and the process of self-observation in literary works; and the "dark side" of altered consciousness.Distributed for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

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Ecstasy: in and about altered states

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Accompanying a recent exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) that examined "ecstasy" in its many senses as it evolved in the art world, this nicely designed, illustrated, and ... Read full review


Directors Foreword 21
Transcendence and Immanence in Some Art of Today 138
Double Vision 152

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About the author (2005)


Paul Schimmel is Chief Curator of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

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