‘What the rest of us see only under influence of mescalin, the artist is congenitally equipped to see all the time. His perception is not limited to what is biologically or socially useful. A little of the knowledge belonging to Mind at Large oozes past the reducing valve of brain and ego, into his consciousness. It is a knowledge of the intrinsic significance of every existent.’ – Aldous Huxley - Doors of Perception, p. 33

It is hard not to notice; the interest in mind-altering substances and -practices is on the rise. Some even speak about a new psychedelic revolution and eagerly look forward to the possibilities it might bring.

Mind-altering substances, breathing and meditation techniques, music or dance,.. they all have the power to generate a different state of consciousness. They make us perceive and understand our inner world and the world around us in a different way. The ecstatic experience can be understood as an outlier in the scope of altered states of consciousness. Artefact takes this ecstatic experience as a starting point and lens to delve deeper into a variety of altered states of consciousness, the intentions behind them and the contexts in which they take place.

In the West, accounts of ecstatic experiences are usually associated with and limited to the context of religion, sex or drugs. However, The Ecstatic Being takes a much broader scope, looking at ecstasy as a self-chosen state of metamorphosis, a transformation. Sometimes described as a loss of self or ego, it is perhaps better understood as a heightened form of subjectivity; a super-clear awareness of one's own mind and body stripped of dominant cognitive filters. It is primarily an 'embodied experience', a bodily experience that is felt rather than thought-through.

An ecstatic experience temporarily overrules the dominant frameworks of knowledge that help determine how we view ourselves and the world. In the West, our knowledge system is mainly characterised by a cognitive, linear way of thinking and reasoning. It broadly involves a rational understanding expressed mainly through language. An ecstatic experience allows us to understand in a different way what lies beyond this dominant framework of knowledge. The ecstatic experience provides access, as it were, to another form of knowing and understanding.

This exhibition aims to look at these mind-bending practices and altered states of consciousness with an open mind, without judgment, but with an attentiveness to the conditions that make us crave them and the complex and multi-layered ways in which they are present within our society. In The Ecstatic Being, it is the artworks that give insight into what might exist outside of what we think we know. And perhaps this changes the way we give meaning to all that is inside and outside of us.

With work by Julius Bockelt, Fia Cielen, Laurie Dall’Ava, Nan Goldin, Tom Hannes, Hanne Lippard, Henri Michaux, Warre Mulder, Matt Mullican, Laure Prouvost, Ben Russell, Selkie, Jeanne Susplugas, Emma Talbot, Myrthe Van der Mark and Sophie Whettnall.

Curator: Karen Verschooren

A huge thank you to Jan Godderis, Erik Thys, Stéphane Symons, Anouk De Clercq, Grace Ndiritu, Shana Moulton, Laura Herman, Anna Stoppa, Zeynep Kubat, the students of KASK curatorial studies (academic year 2021-2022) and all participating artists for the invaluable conversations and insights that formed the basis of this exhibition.