You guys, the viewer feels like they might die, like the air is getting sucked out and the sounds and vibration make you feel like your heart might fail but really, you’re fine. It’s a simulation!
I feel my audience is ready to look at the hard stuff.
– Desert Monkey Dust 2024, Rosemary Carroll
The above is not a recap of the MAPS Psychedelic Science Conference in Denver, it’s a poem. The conference was where tender souls journeyed willingly into a maw that was itself inside the maw of Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station, an immersive corporate art experience where you trade memories in the form of currency. A Cosmic Egg is harnessed by the Department of Transportation, because one dimension isn’t enough and you can enter four dimensions(floors.) There you will encounter violently aggressive art that maximizes every single thing via the imagination of a robot serf hell bent on the Singularity.
Sometimes the acid hits and no matter how gross things are, everything is beautiful. Other times the acid hits and everything that’s dirty and corrupt is made visible. Every surface is sleazy and there’s no escape, you just have to work with it.
This is the Claire’s Jewelry Store Cult of Isis vibe in Kesha’s high anxiety video for Eat the Acid, a song on her new album Gag Order. Kesha’s beautiful sweaty face is being pawed by hands, lots of hands, fingers going in her mouth, some hands cradling her face tenderly, others robotically. Yep, that’s what being a pop star looks like when seen psychedelically. A cautionary tale about acid in this day and age stands out.
“Been dodging gods I didn’t want…. I’d gotten used to being lost…I never felt like I belonged…Turns out my Mama wasn’t wrong…You said, don’t ever eat the acid if you don’t want to be changed like it changed me.”
The sound is television crime scene creepy. The whole song sort of stays in one place. The hands don’t stop pawing her face throughout the whole video. She doesn’t freak out but her suffering builds. Lyrics flicker in moments towards positivity, “Everything’s alright…. now’s your time.” Phrases often said in bursts of psychedelic insight become slogans here, part of the paralyzed freak out. Seems like her trip tells the truth but doesn’t arrange around wholeness but something jagged and irreconcilable, and permanent.
“Is the only way to ease loneliness to agree to everything?”
Katy Bohinc asks this in Scorpio Poems, a video series. She orates while situating herself in various glamour shots appropriate for the #escapetoparadise #luxuryporn #beachescape genre. She is a New York poet, but as a data scientist, publisher and marketer with time working in Beijing, she defies type. Another type of poet is on Instagram, like the bestselling Rupi Kaur whose feed resembles that of a breathworker or microdose advocate. Meanwhile women all over Instagram, just regular assed women, thousands of them the world over – aspire to have the Instagram page of a Brazilian drug runner’s trophy wife. Like it’s just what you do.
This is the hyper commodified pop imagery videographer Kezi Ban is exploring in Scorpio Poems. Katy communes with nature in verdant grass, rises from the water in a romantic Greco homo swimming pool, gets all emotional about politics in dramatic red light, hops around in a hazmat suit, swings over tide pools in a wet white tank top. There are drone shots over waterfalls. Looks like a Plant Medicine Travel Writer’s Insta Feed. Did a sugar Daddy pay for this? My reflexive judging is uncontrollable, then I’m drawn in quickly by the self-anointed faith of this goddess saturated in the archetypal sludge of marketing imagery, that also happens to be beautiful, that also contains magical language. I’m busted. How did I ever think it was ok to look at a woman with that kind of attitude?
“And from experience, rhyme is a direct derivative of dying brain cells and desire
Sophistication is a particularly hot orgasm
but society is not reality
just a bitch we’re all married to”
– From Kernels
Katy’s beauty in word and persona manages to be both classical, earnest and ridiculous all at once. These are survival poems that clearly demand a new form, that of video, to come alive in. Pleasure and embodiment guide the way here. It’s an inspiring ethic I can get behind when strategizing a new and different approach.
McKenzie Wark gets behind this ethic in her book Raving. Author of Gamer Theory and A Hacker Manifesto, McKenzie knows how to throw down a critical theory culture read on fugitive zones, junk space and the liminal. In Raving, she writes about her micro scene of transgender ravers in Bushwick. She begins the book by framing her own liberation on the dance floor with a lot of Fred Moten and Mark Fisher references. Gender, covid times and raving having roots in black street culture are examined through expected academic critical theory frameworks. This felt like a strained attempt to fit experience into a conceptual structure that she herself helped build but now can’t contain what’s really going on. Thankfully the heart of the book has many chapters packed with the banal things that happen at a rave- drug taking(mostly ketamine,) sex, rejection, co-workers, her feet in Converse sneakers, her slinky dress, and fleeting epiphanies and deep beats that fuck the soul but have no currency in normcore daylight. It is here where the action outdoes any conceptual thinking imposed upon it and we become explorers together. It made me think of Michelle Tea’s Valencia and how much I have missed reading prose born of a chaotic addled queer night world.
I’m talking about writing that doesn’t try to disappear the unavoidable contaminant, that co-exists with it, even finds a way to evolve a new style just enough so the contaminant doesn’t ruin everything. In Diogenes on the Road, a lime green zine, Rosemary Carroll takes on the art market, small town politics, trip sitting and the faux niche herbalist alchemy algorithms on our scroll. Rosemary is firstly a choreographer. Her work in the Dionysian yet brutally disciplined, fringe of the fringe art form that is dance, informs these poems with the flow of a prophet goddess and the elocution of a drunk child maniac savant living in the bottom of a well.
“In 2024 I want to take DESERT MONKEY DUST further and install a salt lamp that’s crafted with my urine. Urine colored with methylene blue, chloroquine, primaquine, levodopa, Vitamin B12, beets, fava beans, rhubarb and senna. A Zen den that kills, where people go to heal from drugs, but are just given tea and they die. DESERT MONKEY DUST 2024. It will be an interactive installation where you go in the salt lamp to get better but it’s really a torture chamber where you feel like you might die from a drug overdose and cute harm reduction docents come up and ask you if you’re “okay?” and offer you some tea and tell you to “breathe.” There’s an intern from the community hidden in the walls of the salt lamp and who secretly takes pictures of you and the docents with an expired polaroid which is then made into the wallpaper of the secret backroom party lounge!!!!”
– Rosemary Carroll “Diogenes on the Road” https://rosemarycarroll.weebly.com/store/p1/DIOGENES.html
She’s available to perform at the Psychedelic Science Conference 2024. Her rates are sliding scale from $14,000 – Five Star Poolside Cabana Maca Smoothie.
Raving By McKenzie Wark 136 pp. Duke University Press. $15.95
Diogenes on the Road By Rosemary Carroll Self-published. $12.00
Main image from Katy Bohinc’s JERUSALEM
CORRECTION: This article has been updated with the following information: Katy Bohinc previously worked in Beijing, not Shanghai, and Kezi Ban, not Katy Bohinc, is the videographer of Scorpio Poems.