Week 9 Searcher Post

The topic this week is Perception and Psychedelia. I gained a better understanding after reading all the assigned readings. However, at first, I just associate these two concepts closely and simply with patterns we see. Patterns have the visual power to affect our senses, creating possible uneasy feelings or even hallucinations. For example, everyone has seen those pictures with lines that trick your eyes. You might see curved lines when they are straight or see a still pattern with a swirl slowly spinning when it is in fact completely still. Some other patterns make you dizzy. If you stare long enough, you might see dots and circles coming out in your vision.

“Hallucinations are directly related to states of excitation and arousal of the central nervous system, which are coupled with a functional disorganization of the part of the brain that regulates incoming stimuli.” (Ronald Siegel) Brakhage pointed out that hallucinations do not come from external stimuli. This view is in sync with the definition of the act of “seeing”, which is receptive, generating images internally, rather than actively “looking”.

I believe that Harry Smith (whose early abstraction works from 1946-1957 I linked above) is closely related to this week’s topic. First of all, Harry Everett Smith is an artist who was involved in a wide range of fields, an important influence in the Beat Generation, and an active figure in the Hippie movement. Like lots of artists at the time, Smith advocated the use of drugs like weed, LSD, and mushrooms to aid sensory enhancement and achieve stimulation to create art. He described seeing and hearing things in drug experiences. The sounds he heard also became a major inspiration for the music he composed for his films.

Smith’s artwork style resembles many of the films we are watching this week. His films involve lots of abstract geometrical patterns. There are simple lines, shapes, and images like light dots, curves, and close-eye visions. Occasionally, solid items are presented in a weird dimension of color and space.

p.s. Smith was an acquaintance of Jordan Belson and the Whitney brothers (James Whitney and John Whitney), whose works we deal with in class.

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