Intoxicants (Symposium)

Intoxicants, part of Witte de With’s current exhibition, Art In The Age Of…Energy and Raw Material, explores psychoactive drugs as a raw material and a technology for biochemical mutation.

Taking the recent video Seroquel (2014), by artist Sidsel Meineche Hansen as its focus, invited speakers explore the interaction between body and drug in connection to what the writer and philosopher Paul B. Preciado defines as the ‘pharmacopornographic era’. In our pharmacopornographic society “the models for body-control are micro-prosthetic…power acts through molecules that incorporate themselves into our immune system; silicone takes the shape of our breasts; neurotransmitters alter our perception and behavior…” The bimolecular and organic structure of the body, in Preciado’s view, is the last hiding place for bio-political systems of control. Seroquel continues Meineche Hansen’s ongoing work on micro-politics of nervousness, by approaching psychopharmaceuticals in the bio-chemical production of subjectivity.

Mike Jay, author of High Society: Mind-Altering Drugs in History and Culture, traces the trans-historical nature of our relationship to drugs, particularly the circulation and exchange of cocaine and opium as pharmaceutical substances in the 19th Century, interrogating the difference between pharmaceutical and illicit drugs, their emergence, and how, in the 21st century, the boundary between these categories is dissolving.

Anna Manubens will unpack the research behind her upcoming curatorial project, Visceral Blue. The exhibition looks at financial capitalism as a form of visceral intoxication whereby credit logic and speculation on value have a psychic and somatic effect. From this view-point, the current prominence of “affective blueness” –an expression used to bypass normative concepts such as “depression”– is approached as a consequence of the neoliberal exigencies but also, and more importantly, as a form of dissent with regards those very exigencies.

Sofia Lemos examines the inherent tension between material and immaterial realms in pharmaceutical drug development and the role of medical image making within these. Exploring present-day biotechnological entrepreneurship and the overlaps with service, health-care and pharmaceutical industries, she will interrogate the bio-informational paradigm and computational tools developed to represent our genome. What consequences are there for the new systems of representation of the body rendered in molecular genetics, as against those generated through more conventional methods of wet-lab drug development?

ALBERT HOFMANN – PERCEPTIONS will be screened throughout the week in the public programming space at Witte de With. The film is a portrait of Dr. Hofmann, a man otherwise known as the father of LSD. Working his whole life for the pharmaceutical giant Sandoz in Basel Switzerland, Albert Hofmann lived what might seem a typical Swiss lifestyle, both modest and well organised. The accidental discovery of LSD however, changed his life forever. Using conferences Hofmann gave, and archives from Swiss and American television, the film delves into the story of this adventure to the present, where LSD is being used in a therapeutic context, officially sponsored by the government in Switzerland.

From 6:00 pm we offer soup and bread (€3,50), the program starts at 6:30 pm.

The event will be streamed live through the Witte de With website, and can be followed on Twitter.


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