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Altered States: Substances in Contemporary Art

Milena Mercer
Hatje Cantz
20 × 24.5 cm
320 pp
Theory, Catalogue

People have always consumed substances for purposes other than nutrition – for healing, for intoxication, to expand the consciousness, in religious rituals, for self-optimization, in protest or out of boredom. The changing categorization of a substance – whether as a pharmaceutical, drug, hormone, or doping agent – suggests that this differentiation has less to do with the effects or dangers of a substance. Rather, hidden behind individual attitudes toward substances, you find an entire social history shaped by questions of race, gender, class, and economic interests. This international group show presented twelve artistic positions that approach the topic through photography, video, sculpture, installation, and performance. The exhibition critically questions the societal view and handling of substances, and sheds a light on global consequences as well as future potentials.

The essays from the interdisciplinary conference examine the topic from the viewpoint of, among others, criminology, psychology, art history, philosophy, neuroscience, and sexology. They ask questions about the effects and potential of various substances, their societal context as well as the associated individual and collective responsibility. The latest (natural) scientific knowledge is linked with central ethical questions.

  1. Altered States

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