Jeremy Shaw‘s videos, photographs and sculptural objects reveal a wide-ranging interest in the activities and representations of youth subcultures. His 8-channel work DMT (2004) presents Shaw and 7 others taking the drug derived from the Ayahuasca vine. DMT is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring hallucinogen that is ingested in the course of traditional shamanistic rituals in the Amazon basin. Also known as Yagé—or the Amazonian Spirit Vine—DMT blocks the human body’s inhibitors to chemicals produced by the pineal gland; chemicals normally experienced only in ecstatic moments of extreme bodily stress such as death or childbirth. In recounting their short but intense experience on DMT—the text of which Shaw has overlaid on the original film—the artist and his fellow imbibers fall back on images and metaphors provided by mass-media, consumer driven youth culture. DMT raises questions about youth culture, its ability to address ‘real’ experience and the role of the artist—as shaman?—within that culture. While Shaw’s subjects may experiment with DMT, they can neither duplicate its original cultural significance, nor ground their ecstatic experiences in a socially guided context.
A graduate of the Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver, DMT is the first exhibition of the Jeremy Shaw’s work in the United States. The video DMT recently appeared in the exhibition I Really Should… at Lisson Gallery in London as well as in a solo exhibition at Presentation House in Vancouver. Shaw’s work has been the focus of solo exhibitions at Chrisenhale Gallery in London and Tracey Lawrence Gallery in Vancouver. In 2006, Shaw’s work will be the focus of a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto.