Trippin on Mandrake

This post is based upon certain instances of weirdness that happen in Oni Buchannan’s The Mandrake Vehicles. But first possibly an exploration of the effects of the ingestion of Mandrake (a member of the nightshade family alongside eggplant and potato) is needed. Check out the wikipedia page to learn some basics (that mandrake root contains a delirio-hallucinogenic chemical called hyoscyamine, for example)  then move on to some of erowid’s (a drug FAQ vault) user accounts of their experiences with the drug. For a particularly telling example, check out “Mistaken Package” (under ‘Retrospective/Summary’).

Drowsiness; contact with the dream world; circular thoughts; ecstasy; sexual arousal; energy; [possible] hallucinations; potential for self-induced poisoning (surprising nobody talks about ODing…but maybe then they wouldn’t be able to write their reports).

The Mandrake Vehicles contains three parts that seem to be reflective of either stages in a single experience or a collection of mental stages/thoughts/thought progressions in a collection of mandrake experiences. In the first piece, the (Shockwave) animations of the letters present themselves as being rather simplified in comparison to the two later ones–little color is used and the detritus words at the bottoms of page animate twice (carTOON pg 2 and reZZZZstorative pg 6) in seemingly arbitrary ways–and the series of text formations capture the perspective of the Mandrake plant: alienating to the human reader yet relatively simple in descriptions of the screams of the root being pulled and sky covering trowel in a layer of blue reflection: people pulling mandrake. The poems progressively move out of this mode of focus and the piece grows increasingly complex as human involvement/relationship with the mandrake becomes more realized. Death; agricultural infrastructure; blessed plant: heal us, make us better. The come-up; the re-rationalization of ideas; the ceremony; the process; the beginning.

Part two is more complex: greens are introduced among the black floating letters, and more words are animated on pg 3 (flame glows, drool drools, seance shadows across the page, and helium floats out and over the text). Death is brought up and the lives of humans, the systems of humans are the systems of the mandrake. Rhizomatic roots broken in death–mandrake teach us how to heal ourselves again: we do the same to you; we know why you scream. Ritualism is covered, but the textual formations become increasingly winding, twisted and esoteric. It becomes difficult to know exactly what is going on–what each word is doing specifically–but (I think) this is where the detritus words come in: they color the frame in that they get thrown away. As the reader, it helps to see words like seance and doze and Zoroastrian to place all of the other-worldly language of the formal text body into focus through our own systems of information processing and connection (see: Hayles pgs 54-5) but to know that they are “detritus” as Buchanan says means that their place in the body of the work is merely transient. They are not what he is talking about–these words get in the way of the core meaning of the text, but their function is an important one in grounding the reader and conveying the drug-induced sense of introspection/meditation (unlike the author of “Mistaken Packages”) that pears down and pears down and pears down initial jumbles of thoughts of the external world into centralized, abstract, intensely personal (w/o external signifiers) fears, motivations, misgivings, habits et all. Such is the reason some psychologists believe psycho-tropic drugs can be used to help the mentally ill.

Part 3 presents the come down, the re-organization of ideas, the movement towards clarity and relaxation after mania. The greens of part two have been replaced with golds and browns, the yellow of the inside of a mandrake flower, dried stalks; the letters no longer animate with flashes of color (or as is the case on pg 6 or pt 2, glowing red letters themselves) and rely more on their process of movement as visual effect (aorta beats on pg 3); the words themselves are coming more into focus in terms of their external, real-world connection and fears and misgivings present in part one (and rearing their ugly heads in part two: isolation, death, lack of meaning, profundity of meaning) are now moved into a more focused stream and connected to the ‘living’ world. It is important to remember that all of these animated text blocks are individual movies: each frame is a new process of self-discovery and self-cleaning. Even though we might be coming out of the trip by the last poem (where the U.S. is mentioned directly alongside media coverage, politics and a slaughterhouse-as-exit-sign) this is still a movie in the series of movies and the reader’s perception will always be the reader’s perception (at whatever time they’re having it) (as will the author’s) and in the process of trying to remove perception, to kill that rational, linear-thinking part of the brain we must remember that a certain degree of change happens (see: psychology of psychedelic use) and that normal will never be normal again (not that it ever was to start with). Buchanan is experimenting with this: how can we get to the core? and once we’ve gotten there, does it make sense for anyone else? I don’t really know if it matters; I don’t understand the way that Buchanan does, but I don’t know if that matters; if in the process the brain had to experience congruent/parallel modes of thinking, had to move through thoughts as though they were washing over you or part of a large interconnected, disjointed film, then I think his point was made: like Woolf says: it’s about the experience that feeelllinng

–Josh Barnes


~ by hobodreams on February 22, 2010.

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