The Brain Without Organs: Psychedelic Drugs and Emancipation
Warren Neidich

In the past few years the artistic community has begun to understand the importance of having a say in what we should do with our brain as the noted philosopher Catherine Malabou has suggested. We no longer want a flexible brain imposed from without, sculpted by neoliberalism to do its bidding, but rather a proactive brain, which constructs a world according to an alternative logic, rendering, instead, a poetic and emancipated brain. The artistic community has been resistant to incorporating the knowledge of neuroscience into its repertoire of artistic and creative apparatuses and devices, fearing its message might seem reductive and deterministic. But recently an acceleration in the technologies interfacing with the brain, such as brain-computer interfaces, neural dust, cortical implants and optokinetics, as well as the burgeoning fields of consumer neuroscience, institutional neurolinguistic programming and neuroeconomics have created an emergency, necessitating a post-humanistic response. We want a material brain that is noisy, empathic and open. Not an optimized one that can work longer hours in front of computer screen more efficiently! This is the point from which The Brain Without Organs: Art, Psychedelic Drugs and Emancipation takes off.

Artists and poets have long understood the importance of mind expansion as a space of inspiration. Many a wordsmith has scribbled down a line or two while inebriated. Since 1960 psychedelic drugs have guided them on journeys to formerly inaccessible areas of consciousness, all in the spirit of finding expressions in sublime syllabic and imagistic concatenations. Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in psychedelics, especially, Ayahuasca. Its role as a serotonergic analogue with tremendous healing powers has led to its recent popularity. Noteworthy is its neuro-trophic potential, increasing neuroplasticity, especially, in the treatment of depression and drug addiction. However its role in eliciting mystic journeys is by far the most important factor in its rise in popularity, spurring an entire tourist industry around its use. Experts in the field of art history, shamanistic practices, curating, psychoanalysis and neuroscience have been assembled here to address the role of these drugs in their designated fields of interest. Keeping in mind the recuperative powers of capitalism we want to consider whether art and drugs might provide a way out of the conundrum, just on the horizon, of neuro-totalitarianism.

With: Warren Neidich, John C. Welchman, Daniel Pinchbeck, Florencia Portocarrero, Lars Bang Larsen.

Warren Neidich is the founder and director of the Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art and Professor of Art at the Kunsthochscule Berlin-Weissensee. He studied photography, neuroscience, medicine, ophthalmology and architecture. He is author of Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism Part 1, 2 (Archive, 2013), Cognitive Architecture: From Biopolitics to Noo-Politics (010 Publishers, 2009) and Blow-up: Photography, Cinema and the Brain (DAP, 2003). The third volume of the Psychopathologies series is forthcoming with Archive Books in 2017 alongside Neidich’s collected essays in German published by Merve Verlag. His solo exhibitions in the Netherlands have been held at venues including: Fons Welters Gallery, Amsterdam; Onomatopee, Eindhoven; and SKOR Foundation, Amsterdam. Neidich is represented by the Barbara Seiler Gallery, Zurich.