Viva Arte Viva! The Art of Jeremy Shaw, Or A Psychonaut in Venice

I’m never quite sure where Terence will pop up. I was recently alerted by an artist acquaintance, Ken Weathersby (who interviewed Terence in 1996–related post forthcoming), to an appearance by Terence at this year’s Venice Biennale Arte international exhibition, titled Viva Arte Viva, the 57th incarnation of a major art show in Italy running from May through November. The exhibition is composed primarily of nine ‘Trans-pavilions’: The Pavilion Arts and Books, The Pavilion of Joys and Fears, The Pavilion of the Common, The Pavilion of the Earth, The Pavilion of Traditions, The Pavilion of the Shamans, The Dionysian Pavilion, The Pavilion of Colours, and The Pavilion of Time and Infinity. In addition, there are two major project spaces: The Artists Practices Project, which houses “a series of short videos made by the artists about themselves and their way of working,” and Unpacking My Library, a project inspired by Walter Benjamin’s spectacular 1931 essay of the same name, which allows the artists to display a list of their favorite books.

It is within the Unpacking My Library project that Terence was spotted. Among artist Jeremy Shaw‘s list of favorite books was The Archaic Revival.

Some of Shaw’s work is quite explicitly influenced by psychedelics.

The available snippet from his contribution to the Artists Practices Project, a 20-minute video called Liminals, seems reminiscent of a 5-meo-DMT experience. Ben Davis, writing for artnet, found Shaw’s video to have been his “favorite discovery” of the entire exhibition serving as a sort of microcosmic “internal critique” of the disposition of the broader Viva Arte Viva experience, which he describes as a sort of “half-thought-through primitivism.” The film takes place in “future times, [and] as the certainty of human extinction comes to weigh more and more on the species, a group called the ‘Liminals’ form a sort of cult, trying to restimulate the parts of their brain that activate the lost sense of religious belief.” Davis offers a tantalizing outtake of the narration from Liminals: “Thus, the quest of the Liminals, and of periphery Altraist cultures in general, to incite evolutionary advancement in an effort to save humanity is more consistent with the types of reactionary developmental syndromes found in societies during End Times than a plausible attempt for redemption. Nonetheless, their diligence and commitment to such fantastical ideas is rather fascinating.”

This is the frontier that we stand on the edge of. This is what history has been about. History has been some kind of suicide plot for 15,000 years. Not a moment passed that the plot was not advanced closer and closer and closer to completion. And, now, in the 20th century, you know, we see that this thing – this transcendental object at the end of time, this attractor – that chose us out of the animal kingdom, and sculpted the neocortex, opposed the thumb, stood us on our hind legs, gave us binocular vision – this thing is calling us toward itself across aeons of cosmic time. We are asked to mirror it, and as we mirror it, we become more of its essence. And, as we become more of its essence, we leave behind the animal organization that we were cast in, in the beginning. And what is this about? Who knows? Is this a drama of cosmic redemption? Is it the transcendental other at the end of time? Is it a gnostic daemon? What is it? We do not know. But I really believe we are in the era when we will come to know. And what the psychedelics are, are periscopes in the temporal dimension. If you want to see a little bit into the future, elevate your psychedelic periscope outside of the three dimensional continuum and peer around.   -Terence McKenna

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