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Melanie Bonajo toonde tijdens de bijeenkomst Nederlandwordtanders/Live #2 Nationaal op 11 september een film over de Stadssjamaan.

In opdracht van De Appel Arts Centre maakte kunstenaar Melanie Bonajo de korte film 'Night Soil, Fake Paradise'. “People all over the world are rational in dealing with sickness or health. It is often only our cultural blinkers that prevent us from seeing their rationality. In the recent years there has been a global expansion of a ‘medicine’ called Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is a psychedelic brew of various plant infusions. Its origin springs from ancient Amazon traditions. My question is why now, what does it mean, what are the potentials and are the consequences? This film shows us glimpses of a lost world, beyond the cliche image of a culture in which people start to re-use plants as a mental, physical and spiritual medicine to find a way to reconnected with some principles lost in our Western lifestyle.

A fresh view on mental health
The hypothesis I like to bring forward is that Ayahuasca can mean for this moment in time what LSD meant for the sixties. LSD influenced the rise of a counter culture who explored new ethical systems, sexual freedom, feminism, gay liberation, the peace-movement, anarchism, environmentalism, different ways of building relationships, revolutions in art and music and alternative economic models. It effected a fresh view on mental health, and was used in an elaborated range of conscious experiments. It stimulated a visual, non-linear creativity that influenced visionary developments in technology and influenced the communal ethos of the early personal computing industry and later the open source software movement. My personal opinion is that the use of LSD lost its power to society, because it is easy to consume individually and was used as recreation. Many of the users lost their search for a higher conscious in combination with political activism to a consumer oriented narcissistic, pleasure culture (parties and festivals).

Spiritual awakening
Ayahuasca on the other hand is a tea which is ritually brewed by an initiate and consumed in a (group)ceremony, most likely with a shaman. The ritualistic use of the substance is strongly connected to music, which influences the mental journey. Using "the medicine" in a ritual gives "meaning" to the experience. I am curious to how this ancient method can be applied and used to transform Modern culture. The use of Ayahuasca seems to point out elements lacking and proposes, in my opinion, an alternative ethical system to our culture. People who have consumed Ayahuasca report having spiritual revelations regarding their purpose on earth, the true nature of the universe as well as deep insight into how to be the best person they possibly can. This is viewed by many as a spiritual awakening and what’s often described as a rebirth. In addition it is often reported that individuals can gain access to higher spiritual dimensions and make contact with various spiritual or extra dimensional beings who can act as guides or healers. Western civilization is a loaded gun pointed at the head of this planet. The plants propose us a system based on empathy, love, caring, new ways of defining unconsciousness ( and much more) and brings forward a strong ecological consciousness to pragmatically make changes necessary for future generations(of all species) to live a healthy life on this planet.

Reconnect with the natural world
I research this topic from my point of interested in what influences “alternate states of consciousness” have on a society and the meaning of religion in a given time. This movie shows the huge disconnection most Dutch or Western people feel to nature and how they try to find a way to re-connect with the “ natural world” around them.
The video questions how to integrate "the relational, non material, intuitive and metaphoric language of the plant" in our mechanical, rational, scientific, technological materialistic driven culture. How do we pragmatically apply the spiritual psychedelic experience in to our daily life? What confusions does it bring along ? What stories can be retold? How has it individually influenced personal lives? Within contemporary/scientific psychedelic research or popular culture there is a Huge Black Hole when it comes down to the representation of the Female Voice. Therefore I am collecting mainly stories from females and try along the way figure out why this is so.

The world which we can perceive
Hallucinogens have been around since the beginning of human culture. They have influenced the way society is formed, how we define our relationships to each other and have a long history as a medicine to stimulate physical and mental healing. In most contemporary societies the use of Hallucinogens is prohibited. The term psychedelic is derived from the Greek words psyche, "soul, mind" and delein, "to manifest", hence "soul-manifesting", the implication being that psychedelics can access the soul and develop unused potentials of the human mind. They have the potential to make the spiritual visual, thus visible spirituality. (With spiritual I mean the perceivable non-material presence in all its shapes and definitions). In my opinion a life lived in the absence of the psychedelic experience is life trivialized, a life denied and enslaved to the ego. Most Western people are so alienated from what other cultures call “soul” that when they meet their soul they think it comes from another star system. Modern humans have a very narrow conception of what is possible with reality. The world which we perceive is a tiny fraction of the world which we can perceive, which is a tiny fraction of the perceivable world, you see. This movie brings that to the surface.”



Melanie Bonajo

Melanie is kunstenaar en woont afwisselend in New York en Amsterdam. "My work touches upon the paradoxes inherent in our future-based ideas of comfort. Through my videos, performances, photographs and installations I examine subjects related to progress that remove from the individual a sense of belonging and looks at how technological advances and commodity-based pleasures increase feelings of alienation within the individual. Captivated by concepts of the divine, I explore the spiritual emptiness of my generation, examines peoples’ shifting relationship with nature and try to understand existential questions by looking at our domestic situation, idea’s around classification, concepts of home, gender and attitudes towards value."