For this show curator and artist Carsten Höller employed reality to expand drugs. Drugs were present by proxy - videos and films; excerpts from a TV documentary from the 50s in which a cheerfully Brylcreemed volunteer ingests LSD as an experiment; and a collage of trips depicted in the media and collected by Höller, titled Trips (1999). Other works included artists' films, documentaries and pop promos which describe the effects of a broad range of pleasantly dangerous psychotropic chemicals, including ethyl alcohol - the flavoured one they give you at gallery openings to help you appreciate art.
The subject of Erin McKim's video Errol Flynn's Bar (1991), is the appropriation of her roaming camera by some drunk, young American prats she attempted to document ceremonially preparing to kill a chicken as their form of wretched amusement. A defiant soliloquy made to the camera by a principal would-be-chicken-killer is as revealing of the nature of the passive participation of the viewer, in relation to alcoholic dysfunction, as of the defiances of the drunk youth himself. The subject of Errol Flynn's Bar, is, in its own sad way, that of the golden triangle of drugs, art and religion - religion being the sacrifice of the chicken, alcohol the drugs, and the inflamed ego-poetry of the drunken prat some kind of art. In this way the video also explores the origins of the creative-destructive impulse, from alcohol as a sort of glorified glue sniffing, through to the wet-lipped poetic and alcoholic sacrifice of Dylan Thomas.
Thomas Schmitt's Huautla (1999) documents the ritualistic preparation and ingestion of psylocybin. The liberal willingness to accord native people a special, highly revered status, along with special consideration of their religious beliefs, is compromised in the subtle ending of this film. The camera slowly pans from the open fire, candles and esoteric dried vegetable toxin to a shelf which serves a devotional focus, upon which rest a number of framed, kitsch pastel reproductions of Catholic imagery. This deranged contemplation of magico-Catholicism and hallucination is a cocktail that beggars the imagination and is echoed in exterior shots which show poor corrugated iron roofs covered by very large, expensive, parabolic aerials - technological equivalents of spiritual receptors, perhaps.
The Rolling Stones video, directed by David Fincher in 1995 for their cover of Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone is - leaving aside some scholarly minutiae about this great but wearily triumphalist song - a successful study in chemical dysphoria. Holographic photography has been cleverly animated to give an impression of simultaneously moving yet not moving; effects experienced by the video's female protagonist - the rolling stone herself. Fincher created better than usual visual equivalents for the cognitive lapsing and disjunctive amnesias of the stoned or post-stoned person, while showing more stereotypical examples such as getting lost in the tube, falling downstairs, puking up while everyone else is cool and groovy and falling out of Rolls Royces into private Stones gigs. Keith Richards, however, appears bonnie and healthy, the consequence of some kind of drugs underdose.
Rodney Graham's Halcion Sleep (1994), which shows the artist contentedly asleep in the back of a car where he has been put after taking the eponymous sleeping tablet, democratically and logically broadens Holler's drugs palette. Halcion Sleep is deeply literal and intentionally deeply boring: one of the points of it, perhaps, is that it is a vanity for artists to try to depict what is, by definition, an interiorised experience - unless it's Yellow Submarine, you've got the Beatles and 400 or so animators working for you, and you know that everyone is going to spliff up before going in the cinema. Although there are a few exceptions - some amphetamine psychosis somewhere would have been nice - 'Drugs' was satisfyingly comprehensive, and nearly as real as unreality itself.