On the 2nd of December of this year, my therapist officially diagnosed me with substance dependence. This has not come as a shock to myself or to anybody else with whom I’ve shared this information. For months – or perhaps years – friends have told me that the way I conduct my life errs on the side of excess, particularly when discussing the amounts of alcohol I put into my body and the frequency with which I imbibe.
This project, Lush, is an extension of an earlier group of work that I created entitled Analgesic, in which I presented images of substances next to self-portraits taken after my consumption of said substances. For Lush, I have specifically focused on alcohol, my most accessible and most socially acceptable drug.
The process begins with getting very drunk. Each time I’ve indulged I’ve purposely stuck to one sort of alcohol — beer, wine, tequila, vodka, et cetera. Towards the end of the night, I take a self-portrait with a disposable camera, which through the course of this project I’ve discovered is the only camera I can reliably use while intoxicated. After having the negatives processed, I soak them in the same alcohol I had been drinking. The negatives are hung up to dry and later scanned and used to make large scale prints. When I take the prints home, alcohol is poured onto and brushed over them and there they are left to soak until they’ve absorbed all of the liquid.
I’ve aspired to create a sculptural, multi-sensory experience that needs to be seen, smelled, walked around, and examined fully. The pieces have been doused in liquid and occasionally accidentally torn. They smell — in fact, they absolutely reek. They are warped and wavy. I’ve chosen to hang the prints from the ceiling so that they are confrontational and so that viewers inhabit the same space as the pieces. Ideally, it would almost be as if viewers would enter the alcoholic world I inhabit.
This is the second time I have created a series of work that consciously deals with my dependence on substances but neither of them have evolved into any kind of serious self-reflection. I can objectively consider both my life and the work that I’m creating and recognize that I may be treading in extremes, but as of yet I have not felt inspired to make permanent changes to my lifestyle. The process of creating these pieces, rather, is an attempt at consciousness and honesty. I desire to see myself as I am and to be honest with myself about my flaws, minor or major.