Saturday, June 6, 2009
Fear and Loathing in the Art World
Two bags of grass? Check. Seventy-five pellets of mescaline? Check. Five sheets of high-powered blotter acid? Check. Challenge, Dose and Adventure cards? What!!?? In a move that would put a smirk on Hunter S Thompson's face is a mixed media work of art that you may have seen in some form or another on the Interweb from Los Angeles artist Jonathan Baldwin.
Estoy Pacheco has been sitting on this story for a couple of weeks but wanted to hold off and mark the anniversary of the Gonzo journalist's first foray into amyl nitrates oh so many years ago. Today is that day! And while we can no longer get into the mind of the good doctor we can delve into the mind of the artist.
"...a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers..."
Reality is a strange concept. Creating abstract works of art is an even stranger reality, especially art based on another art form as Fear and Loathing: The Board Game is. Jonathon wanted to capture the "reckless adventure" of the Thompson's work by "combining it with common themes of errant behavior - a mobile suitcase that houses 'drugs' and a game that commits you to an entire weekend of fun or tragedy."
Channeling Raoul Duke isn't recommended at the best of times but if one could one may find parallels in Duke's thought processes and Baldwin's source of inspiration. "Most of my creative inspiration comes from trying to capture a part of the world that many people don't usually think about or even knows exists," he says while adding that finding the right combination of "exploring, teaching, and visual stimulation is key to my creative process."
So how much drugs did the artist partake in while formulating his work? You'd be surprised to learn that Baldwin insists that he did not experiment himself. "Drugs are never part of my creative process," he says adamantly. "They might spark some creative catalyst but the execution is mostly a sober process."
When pressed further he is willing to admit that, "During the design/building of the
game I think I almost OD'd on caffeine..." Baldwin also finds inspiration in music. "I don't think my muscles would work properly without some form of music in the background...at the moment I am listening to: Fever Ray, DJ Rupture, Dan Deacon and A Tribe Called Quest."
"Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get into locked a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can."
Like a good chemist, Baldwin researched his "drugs." "To balance out the juvenile, the game is systematically detailed in organic chemistry to anchor down to a valuable lesson." if nothing else Fear and Loathing: The Board Game is a study in detail. Baldwin went to the trouble of creating the aforementioned Challenge, Dose and Adventure game cards. "I wrote all of the cards and all of the rules. I learned all of the science behind the chemistry from Erowid. and the Something Awful Forums."
For those of you out there who are not up to speed on your pharmaceuticals, Erowid is a source of info on psychoactive plants and chemicals. As for something awful...nothing good comes from something awful.
Baldwin also sees a correlation between science and his art. The graduate from the University of Southern California's Roski School of Fine Arts has used his natural curiosity to explore scientific principles for as long as he can remember. "I am as interested in the process behind creation of art as I am the final product. The same applies for various scientific fields - I am always curious to find out how a theory or study came about and how it will affect the rest of humanity. In that way, art and design are a form of manipulation in the subconscious and it's interesting to work with that idea."
"There was only one road back to L.A. - U.S. Interstate 15. Just a flat-out high speed burn through Baker and Barstow and Berdoo. Then onto the Hollywood Freeway, and straight on into frantic oblivion. Safety. Obscurity. Just another freak, in the freak kingdom."
Fear and Loathing: The Board Game is an involved work of art with many different components and paraphernalia not readily available. As an art director on independent films, Baldwin learned a thing or two about acquiring props on the cheap. A talent that came in handy in assembling Fear and Loathing: The Board Game. "I bought most of the materials at hardware/thrift/craft stores, but the
medicine bottles were definitely the hardest to obtain since only a pharmacist can handle unlabeled prescription bottles." Fortunately for the artist he was able "to find a rather shady medical supply store..."
Shady medical supply stores aside Baldwin has to issue a disclaimer with his work. Owing to potential legal issues there is no dosage scale or glass pipe included with his work. two items essential for any good trip but not necessarily essential for good art. These legal issues also hampered his attempts at marketing his work as an actual board game. "I tried to market it once, but was respectfully declined due to liability."
To cover our ass Estoy Pacheco is posting his own disclaimer - all quotes not attributed to the artist Jonathan Baldwin are attributed to the author Hunter S Thompson and his work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.