LSD, LIFE and Death

Today I was astonished to find these two articles in front of my eyes and mind. Is it an example of profound accident or attention to awareness. I think both. Each article brings focus to death, the potential for change and the beauty in questioning and investigating life and death- one part art, science, nature and culture. Maybe 2008 will break out of the SAME and move to change. It is the two stories- one the death of Albert Hofman- inventor of LSD and the other is about artist Gregor Schneider.

International / Europe

Albert Hofmann, the Father of LSD, Dies at 102
Published: April 30, 2008
Mr. Hofmann synthesized LSD in 1938 but did not discover its psychopharmacological effects until five years later, when he accidentally ingested the substance.

There is nothing perverse about a dying person in an art galleryVilified for wanting to put death on display, the artist reveals the concept behind the controversy

Gregor Schneider
Saturday April 26, 2008

For years, I have a dreamed of a room in which people can die in peace. It’s a simple room: flooded with light, with a wooden floor. It is a copy of a room I once saw at the Museum Haus Lange-Haus Esters in Krefeld, Germany; a marvellous piece of classically modern architecture that concentrates on the basics. I have recreated this room – as an artist, that is what I do – and at the moment, it is standing right here in my studio. Any minute it could be dismantled, put on a plane and reinstalled anywhere in the world, for someone nearing the end of their days and who wants to die in a humane and harmonious environment.

I’m not a naive person, but I don’t think there is anything wrong or perverse about this dream. I think it’s quite innocent. So it has been rather a shock to me that for the last week I have been receiving death threats by phone and email.

It started at the beginning of the week, when I mentioned my project about death and dying in an interview with a reporter from the Art Newspaper. I didn’t think much of it, as I have talked to curators about this at length since 1996, and there have been several mentions in exhibition catalogues.

The reporter was very interested and wrote an article about it. Two sentences from this article have been quoted repeatedly: “I want to display a person dying naturally in the piece or somebody who has just died. My aim is to show the beauty of death.”

I did say those things, and I still mean them. Of course I expected reactions. But I didn’t expect that quite so many publications would quote me without putting the statements into context. Within a few days, thousands of articles appeared across the world relying only on these two soundbites. In a way, I am not surprised that they have triggered some absolutely horrific images in the heads of journalists and readers. And yet I am still astonished by the nature of the comments I received, and disturbed by their vulgarity and violence. I received threats in multiple languages, some of them absurd, some of them seriously threatening.

Someone emailed to suggest I should be “slaughtered” and given “the Jesus treatment”. Someone else emailed: “Why don’t you kill your mother and show her to us while he’s [sic] dying?” Another told me my artworks were “degenerate”. The reaction in Britain has been more balanced – I guess people find it easier to talk and even laugh about death there. After Damien Hirst and the Young British Artists, perhaps they are more used to artists pushing a few boundaries as well.

The irony is that I have never been the type of artist who courts controversy for controversy’s sake. I was trained as a painter; my first exhibition of paintings was in 1985. Even back then I was fascinated by the portrayal of inner spaces in art: rooms you cannot enter, places that cannot communicate with the outside world. Gradually I realised that sculpture, and eventually architecture, enabled me to investigate this fascination in a more direct way. Nowadays I mainly build and recreate rooms.

Of course I am not the first artist who is interested in death as a subject. I doubt that those who call me “degenerate” would say the same about Michelangelo’s statue of David – and yet we know that Michelangelo used to cut up dead people to study their anatomy. Is that not much more shocking than what I am proposing to do?

I find the public portrayal of death on TV and on the internet violent and cruel; it lacks grace and respect for the human spirit. But I don’t think there is anything cruel in the reality of death in itself: there has to be more humane way of presenting it.

I think our culture needs to reinvestigate the way we deal with death. It has not just become a taboo, it is something that we actively try to push out of our daily lives. People used to die within the family. These days, many die in hospitals, locked away from the public.

From what I have seen with my own eyes, the conditions of dying in German hospitals are scandalously brutal and bleak. And it’s not much better in Britain. When I put on my installation about private spaces in two flats in east London in 2004, I used to have to walk past the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel every morning. One day, I saw a woman who had escaped the hospital and was screaming as doctors were treating her on the road. Was it a humane place to die? I don’t think so.

My very first job as a teenager was with an undertaker, here in Reydt in the industrial west of Germany. I used to carry coffins from the church to the hole in ground. It was a well-paid job, mainly because no one wanted to do it. The other people I worked with were an alcoholic and a disabled man. It tells you something about the fear we have of death that we get the people at the bottom of the social ladder to handle our dead. Shouldn’t this last journey be the most intimate and personal journey in a person’s life?

More recently, I had first-hand experience with death when my father died. I wanted to give him a personal farewell, something that spoke of our relationship, so I wanted to design a personalised gravestone made of lead. It turned out to be nearly impossible: there are so many rules. In my view, the dying should be able to define the rituals and sites of their funeral themselves.

I grew up in a Catholic environment – I was even an acolyte in my local church for more than five years. My feeling is that the church used to provide us with rituals and ceremonies appropriate for death, but in a secular age, don’t we need to create our own?

For my project, I am not proposing that I would bring about someone’s death, or stage it. Nor am I suggesting that I would encourage someone who wants to take their own life. All I want to do is offer a room, a space in which they spend their last hours as they wish. Whether it is a public event or a private event, that is entirely up to them and their relatives.

I have also considered building a room for giving birth in. But I’m not sure there is much of a need for it; I have seen the sort of rooms people give birth in these days, and they are fine. Husbands are encouraged to take part in the process – everyone works together to make it a positive experience. I would like it if we can make a death a similarly positive experience.

Not all responses to my project have been negative. The Jesuit priest Friedhelm Mennekes has supported my project. He feels that there is a need to engage in a serious way with death, to show it as it really is. And there have been emails from people who have expressed interest in taking part. I don’t know if I will get back to these people yet, but the project will go ahead. There is one person in particular I could imagine working with. Of course, no one can tell when it will happen – that’s the deal with death.

To those who call me a coward for not putting myself up for the project, I would just like to say: when my time is up, I myself would like to die in one of my rooms in the private part of a museum. I live for my art, so I would like to die surrounded by art too. My aim would be to find a way of death that is beautiful and fulfilled: I couldn’t image a better place than a gallery to do so.

· Gregor Schneider was talking to Philip Oltermann. His exhibition, Doublings, is at the Museum Franz Gertsch in Burgdorf, Switzerland, until 15 June © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008


Artist as TOOL


Brooklyn, NY is getting closer to sprouting its vision for the 21st century with a design by the international architecture/art star Frank Gehry. Gehry’s complex of buildings will amass housing, shopping and a sports arena. For the obvious reasons in America there will be no cultural component for the arts. One might argue they already have the Brooklyn Academy of Music and a museum anchored into the park. Isn’t this enough for the city who is second to that of Manhattan? I think differently, Brooklyn is the city that houses the most artists per acre of any soil on this planet! It is like the corn industry in the middle of America, once it took root, it has become infectious and grows like a weed. In New York it started at the first subway stop out of ‘the city’ and now it is at the tenth or more. People are trying to hold onto a certain neighborhood status even though they are over nine stops out of the real center.

In recent months I have been reading, from California, the horror and tragedy of certain artist occupied buildings in Brooklyn. No, the news never seems to break from a building in Manhattan because the high economy has helped push an exodus of the cultural producers(artists, writers, dancers, actors and designers) from the island over to the mainland of Brooklyn. Cheap rents, space, pioneering neighborhoods and a sense of community have attracted the shift. Soon Manhattan will be secured and occupied by the international portfolios of the super wealthy and the tourist. Sad as it seems it has become closer to the truth in just the two years since I have relocated from Brooklyn. The issue is getting the attention of the city government and they have formed teams and entertained meetings that try to understand the consequence of this plight.

Why do I go into this stuff? Well, it is based in a theory that I have concerning the artist as tool and I use tool in the most degrading way. After the success of Soho and then Tribeca, each have become valuable neighborhoods that artists originally pioneered, the developers got smart. The developer uses the artist as a bookmark and allows them the fiction of a few productive years in a post industrial loft space. During this time the renter usually has no heat or very little (business hours), cold water (that is likely positioned in the communal hall) and no conveniences on the street. If they build it, as artist triumphantly do, the rest will come. Wow! Does this not describe the last decade? The devastating conclusion to this NYC story is that the developers do not renew leases and start fixing everything from the sidewalk to the stand pipes and put it all up for sale.

The district of D.U.M.B.O. (down under the manhattan bridge overpass), Brooklyn turned overnight and now you can get chocolate from Jacque Torres and Starbuck’s coffee for the other hand. In the past you would not be lucky to find a quart of milk in this district. Yes this is a neighborhood with a few barriers(the expressway, Farragut projects and the East river) that prevent a scene like Willaimsburg from spilling so far out but it created what all developers would like to happen, demand over supply. Taking this into account I firm up my belief that this is the real future of New York City. ‘No man is an island’, cries out from my childhood, and I wonder if it is the artists that find the island for the man to take control over, and every step of the way the man hides behind the ‘good’ work they do for the arts? It definitely appears to be going this way and I think this can be viewed as a critique of the frantic art collecting going on currently with the contemporary art world. Here is an idea maybe they should start having art and design fairs in the neighborhoods these artists live? I then wonder who would be empowered by this sustainable way of creating an economy around the arts?

SAVE robert smithson’s spiral jetty, 1970

SAVE robert smithson’s spiral jetty, 1970

This is one of the worst examples of America caring for its public art. It brings sadness to my mind. Thinking…feeling the slightest chance this seminal work will be harmed. Think about the future for once America!

look at this site for more info-

my sent letter(please send yours)-

February 7, 2008

Jonathan Jemming
Public Lands Policy Analyst
Public Lands Policy Coordination Office
5110 State Office Building
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114

Via email:

RE: Application #8853

Dear Mr. Jemming,

I full heartedly object to anything happening in and around the seminal work Spiral Jetty by the artist Robert Smithson. This work should be cherished by the state of Utah and this includes its government officers. One would never propose to drill near the Washington Monument. I view this artwork as a comparable monument to a different era of American history. To further my objection I would like to bring Utah’s attention to the tragic death Robert Smithson had fall upon him and the consequence of this is a very limited body of completed public work. As a citizen of this country I plead with the state of Utah to find it within themselves to be a generous steward to a grand vision for all in the global landscape.

The Spiral Jetty brings me hope and inspiration. It is a work that has vision well beyond its time of creation. As the world turns to repairing itself from the destruction of 20th century industry, the Spiral Jetty reclaims that space in its beautiful location (Great Salt Lake) and presents the viewer with a glimpse of something bigger. Just as nature has allowed the Spiral Jetty to come back to its magnificence so should the state of Utah. Make a statement and allow the federal government the opportunity to preserve this truly spectacular piece of Land Art from the 20th century.


let’s talk about WOOD…

Martin Puryear. (American, born 1941). Untitled. 2001

I have not been able to shake the impression Martin Puryear’s survey show at MoMA, NYC had on me. I was educated in the 90’s art canon where youth and concept held vogue and the sculpted object and artists like Martin Puryear had many naysayers. I will set out in this essay to discuss the subjects of quality vs. quantity, craft, conceptualism, authorship and sustainability.

Martin Puryear’s work contains a confidence in form and finish while allowing its completed state to hold on to the organic. It becomes ‘timeless’ without diluting its core natural state of rough textures, shaped dimensional boards and muted colors from the landscape . There is no reason not to place it on the same museum floor as Brancusi’s ‘Bird in Space’ and the Futurist’s ‘Running Man’. Puryear looks to the object to sum up the whole of culture and ones placement in the built landscape.

We are in the 21st century, one might proclaim, and I feel this makes Puryear’s work stronger. Puryear is able to hold the chisel and be relevant in contemporary culture. He confronts the ‘Walmart’ attitude of this country with his quality over quantity. His chisel cuts through the current climate of art as Marcel DuChamp did with his early urinal as readymade.  Both utilitarian tools sculpt humanity into a manageable, viewable form that takes hold of history and the exhibition space.


Martin Puryear. (American, born 1941). Untitled. 2001


gore.jpgA man who has brought the seed to the masses. The Noble Peace Prize is a well deserved award for the hard working, popularly elected president of 2000. Since this sad loss, he has crusaded like a champion for the things that matter most to the future of civilization. Power to the ever growing four letter word GORE!


02arctxlarge1.jpgIt is sad that we let it get this far away from us. The irony of this century will be the melting ice and the bigger issue- lack of water. How does this come to be? If you think war has a lot of casualties just remove the source of water from a community and see its tragic consequence. The melt is on…


prince.gifjust trying to understand how LOVE relates to Richard PRINCE…the american icon?