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Haroon Mirza’s ‘Entheogens’ exhibition explores the connection between sound, light, and psychoactive plants

Thursday 05th, January 2017 / 14:12
By Coralie Kourany

VANCOUVER — This month, Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery welcomes British artist Haroon Mirza’s first solo exhibition in Canada. Internationally known for his interactive multimedia installations, Mirza began his exploration with plant medicine a couple years ago, studying the healing properties of psychoactive species of plants. In researching their history, Mirza became aware of their potential in healing psychiatric and physical ailments — symptoms of trauma, as well as addiction. Plant medicine has been traditionally used for thousands of years and, as a result of their psychotropic properties, has been used in ritualistic, transcendental religious practices, offering an alternative understanding between the relationship of language, art, and religion.

Through his discoveries in psychedelic psychotherapy, Mirza chose to undertake his own aesthetic sensibility he had felt both visually and acoustically through his own experimentations. “Entheogens” presents his invested interested in geometric abstraction and photorealism, which are portrayed through raw live electricity. The artist kept a visual record of his explorations, starting by taking spore prints and making electro and acid etchings of Psilocybin Cubensis, a species of psychoactive mushroom. By running electricity through the cap of the mushroom, the spore print etched a unique pattern onto copper PCB blanks. Mirza explored alterations of this concept and added components of light and sound through an amp and speakers — an immersive live visual and audio interference that, he states, is “Like music composed by light.”

By demonstrating the fact that the information and signals we perceive are reduced to various frequencies of wavelengths of sound and light within the electromagnetic spectrum, Mirza tunes into an alternative theory of technological knowledge and suggests that there are infinitely more signals of frequencies that humans are incapable of seeing, as their brains are not yet developed enough to identify.

“It wasn’t a single experience that encouraged me to explore this subject, but experience itself,” Mirza explains. “My self awareness has been elevated in that consciousness is way more complex and incredible than we can possible imagine.”

In his creative process, Mirza’s manipulation of electric current creates a way for the audience to understand the relation between sound, light waves, and entheogens. As the viewers engage in the “Physicality of the work itself; its aesthetic and technicality,” they are encouraged to think about these plants — and, in turn, common Western perceptions towards psychedelic drugs — in greater detail, to understand a deeper root of our humanity.

“Entheogens” runs at the Contemporary Art Gallery from January 13 – March 19.

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