Temporal Slip in Crystal Architectures: Meth Museums, Meth Labs in Space, & The Meth-Architecture-Organism
Posted by Regrette Etcetera on November 11, 2010
– “Laura”: Mourning in The Contemporary Meth museum & Topographies of Meth Hells
– Practice Meth Labs: Emergency Sim-Architecture
– Practice Meth Labs 2: The First Ever Meth-Lab in Space
– Moving into A Meth Lab: The Toxic-domestic regrets of innocent families
– Domestic Alchemy & The Meth-Organism in Architecture
Watch this first.
This is a smart meth PSA. For once. Much more sophisticated than the usual fare of lost innocence/violent teenager imagery… And to be crystal clear, I love meth. I’ll come with you Laura. An indeed the writing of this is ‘inspired’ by the recent wave of double/triple strength meth that hit the scene in Sydney & has everyone talking to Tina. The Fauxists have long evinced a fascination with drugs and architectural spacetime, and in Laura’s museum, We’ve picked up on some particularly potent motifs of meth-time.
In what is obviously the blank bright cavernous interior of a contemporay art space- rather than the dark stuffiness of a traditional museum?- split-channel videos and wallpapered paintings blatantly quoting Takashi Murakami mimic the art-viewing experience, of experience scoured & framed by the white cube-void.
We are led into an exhibition that could well be entitled “Laura: The Mourning of Straight Time”. Laura wanders spaces of temporal slip, arrayed with visions and objects of her/a lost adolescence and childhood. Indeed, at centre, the contrasting of meth-time, meth-desire with straight time is the central tenet to most of the PSA’s of this ilk. The notion of ‘straight time’, as deployed by Halberstam, and developed by Jose Esteban Munoz, describes the ‘autonaturalizing temporality’ that is produced by the structures of heteronormativity (broadly), and its proprietary deployment of work, recreation, family, the body etc. Straight time promises that there is no future for non-normative individuals/groups, as the only futurity promised is that of reproductive majoritarian heterosexuality, the family, and the spectacle of the state refurbishing its ranks through covert & subsidized acts of reproduction. It is impoverished and toxic for ‘others’ who do not feel the privilege of majoritatian belonging, normative tastes, and ‘rational’ expectations.
In the forced re-imposition of straight time, Laura is ‘offered’ a hypertextual multiverse of access to her potential paths and parallel lives framed totally as loss (“A museum of what she lost to meth”). In a screaming re-accession/dismissal of her childhood(s), Laura bodily skirts a claustrophobic installation of cards, only to thrash against/through the birthday/card field-archive (reminiscent of the ‘house of cards’ or dominoes, and bringing to mind Derrida’s ‘Archive trauma’) that someone has arranged so perfectly, through the accumulated weight of sticky intentions and ties, forming a path.
Straight Time again. This parallel lives/lost potential device is common throughout anti-meth ads & lit. Alongside the overwhelming preponderance of before-and-after mugshots of crystal-ravaged countenances (these are in fact the predominant image found if you type “Meth” into Google- see image above- and are a makeup artists database for the swathe of tele-features destined to proliferate as the ‘meth-emergency’ continues), there are a number of campaigns that traffic in a cosy mix of regret and straight time, like the infamous “Lost Me to Meth” series, and in particular the ‘gay’ ‘Lost Me To Meth’ video below.
There is a voyeuristic-cum-panoptic quality to this video, which is verified by the surveillance camera’s robotic jerkiness and zoom in the closing moments. We now know that Laura’s ‘exploration’ is under supervision, the video lays bare it’s self-producing mechanisms as panoptic document. Much can be read from this. ‘They’ have made this museum and are letting her suffer through it for ‘the Great Lesson’, surveiled from and shoring up their own righteous position and importantly, chronology. There is a deep Catholicism in this. In meeting an omnipresent god, whose monitoring angels have recorded your every move and intention, how else could you experience ‘what you had lost’ like this?
In reiterating chronology (or more accurately the chronotopic timespace relations of amphetamines) , We remember that some years into the study of the ‘states’ grouped under the umbrella ADHD, came the realization that the ADHD ‘sufferers’ perceived the flow of time quite differently to the majority. Thus pharmaceutical speed and meth treatments, which had already proven to re-align the occupation of aberrant attention were then understood to actually correct and align the perception of time passing. In other words, amphetamines- strictly administered- became known to be effective agents of hegemonic/straight time, whether in the kindergarten child, or the jacked-out military fighter jet-pilot. That the pseudoephedrine of common cold medications designed to keep Us work-ready is the key ingredient of meth, doubles the irony of the endless castigation of the self-administering meth-freak’s mis/overuse of time.
Following such time-slippages in an institutional space (the ‘angels in the architecture’ of Paul Simon), We are left to wonder what other types of museum or archive Laura’s ‘monument’, her thanatological themepark, could inhabit, and how the space would then determine the psycho-emotional possibilities of the ‘exploration’. In other words, how would Meth-life-time be displayed in the educational, didactic displays and chronological layouts of the traditional museum? Would the dark and dusty halls of old not be more suited to the junky’s history? (Perhaps best located architecturally in smack-poet Michael Dransfield’s mythic ancestral mansion ‘Courland Penders’, into which he built his nostalgia for an older civilization).
Which implies the question: Is there something about the contemporary art space that is inherently schizoid? And what of the museum in the supercomputer or database? Would not the Virtual Reality Meth-Hell, the simulated gaming space of a million mediated selves, be just as ‘efficient’?
What indeed is the architecture here? The architecture of Laura’s Museum is essentially and exactly a topology of hell and morality, which always is busy designing it’s Hells and their populations. In viewing Laura’s Museum, We must then imagine the labyrinthine institution that would hold all of the lost experiences and lives of Meth Users, or others similarly abject (according to any particular morality and vision of upward mobility etc.) We can safely predict that their overseers consume an all-to-common diet of the traditional Borges, Dante, Piranesi, Bentham… with updates by Philip K. Dick, EST, Italo Calvino, Landmark Forum…
How did she enter? Where from? How does she exit? Who and where are the museum staff? Do they visit their own janatorial hells too? Are these replete with corporate hierachies they could have ascended if they’d just bleached their skin more rigorously? Screams can be heard from behind the walls. In the next room(s), the 4th world poor are flayed by streams of better lives, the children of junkies are hired for cameo roles in their parents films, all the while producing material for their own future museums. Rooms lit by myriad screens, editors compiling endless footage of speculative lives, possibilities, permutations, for the judgement & the primal scream…
But before We exponentially expand Laura’s museum into a city-state, other associations beckon…
For example, We are aware here of the somewhat uncanny crossover’s with Mike Kelley’s work, notably his confrontation with architecture and “repressed memory syndrome” (the “Study for Repressed Spatial Relationships” series) and his work “Educational Complex”: an architectural model composed of replicas of every school Kelley ever attended, with areas which he couldn’t remember left blank.
Further, Kelley’s performances, with their implication of childhood objects and memories (later of trauma, sexuality, loss etc) brought into the contemporary art space, often function by creating agglomerations, dialogues, and taxonomies of (often handmade) soft toys in gallery space. Like Laura’s childhood bear and bed, Kelley’s toys are set in scientific-philosophic arrays and dialogues, animated with mourning and the abjection of memory, and draw on the calculus of object-affect and regression that Laura’s overseers obviously employ.
As another small detour, for a moment consider the videographic architecture of the equivalent Acid morality-museum. What would be the moralist’s didactic media space for the acid-freak? As Erik Davis writes, psychedelics are perhaps best seen as media, and in fact are a lot like information overload, however, We believe, baroque the iconographic-semiotic framework. Similarly, McLuhan saw psychedelics as “chemical simulations of our environment”, which allow users to achieve empathy with the “archaic echo chamber of the electronic media”. And indeed, the metaphors of psychedelics are of media, not message (‘tune in’ & ‘turn on’… and trust the psychedelic apparatus). Or alternatively of LSD: “When you get the message, hang up the phone”.
In many ways, according to Davis, 60’s/70’s freak spirituality simply reproduced industrial society’s belief in quick-fix technological solutions- the ‘plug & play’ nirvana of the gadget happy Americans. An instantaneous ‘out’/’in’ often set amidst the high-tech sensory assault of the happening (think Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test/Grateful Dead), resulting in forms of technological fetishism. So what are the acid-heads missing from the museum? Would this museum be an internet/advertising space?
Seen from this vantage point, the Meth PSA’s, and especially ‘Laura’, mobilize elements of the heady epochal melding of Acid freak (60’s), New Age (primal scream therapy) (70’s), and corporate Success seminars (90’s)- and indeed the easy slippage of New Age semiotics into the corporate environs- in dealing with postmodern anxieties around the maintanence of the self, proper/functional trajectories, and the identity media-multiverse. In the video museum in which Everyone is You-as-lost-You, the overseers/seminar leaders are photogenic messiahs trying to deprogram the TV-bred abjection out of you. A recent, succinct rendering of this is Brody Condon’s amazing LARP Seminar “Level 5” performance at the Hammer Museum, September 4-5, 2010: VIDEO HERE
Staying with Brody’s use of 70’s regression ‘processing’ techniques for a moment, We can draw links between these interventionist psychological tools and the horrific 1950’s torture-psychology experiments that they emanated from. Laura’s museum- in both its surveillance-experimental and infantilizing nature- could thus be seen as a kind of circling ‘back’ to the CIA’s clandestine Operation Bluebird (think drug-and-noise/media-and-electroshock-forced schizophrenia) and indeed Ewan Cameron’s MKULTRA ‘regression’ experiments, which added LSD to the mix. Indeed, you’d only need to cut the text out of the Laura video to make it a performance-art video piece.
Setting aside Brody, and indeed McLuhan, We believe the theorist Paul Virilio- whose theories of speed, dromology, telepresence and videography warfare and their effects on architecture, identity and ‘the’ body- are better suited to thinking through the Meth-time museum, and nature of the meth-media link. But again, We digress! This is another essay entirely!
All in all, Laura’s museum seems like a somewhat benign behavioural punishment. In being made to experience these narratives- the loss is not liberty, her body etc- but straight time, memory, family. And frankly, We think they can keep it.
The following sections then, explore the architectures and cultural symbolics of meth-labs, taken here as reproduced meth-labs to follow the logic of the preceding.
Practice Meth Labs: Emergency Sim-Architecture
(Note: All images in this section by the Center for Land Use Interpretation)
Meth is fast becoming a national emergency. As labs proliferate, it saturates the US, and the trade from Mexico increases. Importantly, Meth doesn’t skyhook (or bootstrap?) with the relative cultural indulgence of cocaine, but is something much more poor, queer, abject. ‘Worse than Heroin’, it has quickly become the central drug bogeyman.
As explored in Our upcoming article “Amputees in Mock-Afghanistanian Mud: Military Simulation-Urbanism, Performance and the Future of Global Warfare” (which deals with the architectural simulation of war games and virtual sims, military urbanism and cryptogeography), there is a growing network of cryptogeographic mock-towns and villages used for simulation, training and re-enactments of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and indeed for the future of 3rd World urban warfare. In this case though, the mock urban spaces are intended to simulate non-military and law enforcement emergencies. The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) has undertaken an investigation into these emergency mock-towns, spread across the US mainland.
As CLUI (Link) explain:
“Another architecture is rising in the expanding landscape of preparedness. Condensed simulacrum of our existing urban environments are forming within our communities, where the first responders to emergencies, on a small or large scale, practice their craft of dealing with disaster. The scenario grounds of emergency training include mock hazardous material spills, train wrecks, building collapse, fires, and debris strewn landscapes. The police contend with civil decay, robberies, hostage situations, looting, riots, and snipers in mini Main Street environments called situation simulation villages , tactical training sites, or Hogan’s Alleys , where live weapons or small dye-filled simunition rounds complete the realism of the scenario. Whether they are made for police or fire departments, these training sites are stylized versions of ordinary places, with the extraordinary horrors of the anticipated future applied to them on a routine basis. In disaster situations, from car accidents to riots to earthquakes to terrorist attacks, when order breaks down, the worlds of police, fire departments, and the military, coming to our defense, merge to become the reigning order – the emergency state”.
Photographs from CLUI’s work show the towns to be replete with a series of practice/simulation meth labs, in which actors play out the part of tweakers. In what may be a lost chapter of “A scanner, darkly”, many of the rooms in these sim-labs,have no real ceilings, and the action is watched and filmed from overhead catwalks by supervisors monitoring the officers’ skills. The photo series in this section by CLUI documents these simulated training labs, a kind of Meth-architectural double uncanny.
This meth-emergency architecture has spawned another meth-museum. Though here, the police experience all they are missing. Baudrillard’s false-false teeth can be heard grinding from his grave.
Practice Meth Labs: The First Meth-Lab in Space
In what may be one of the headiest Meta-Meth-architectural dreams, a Nasa contractor has built a meth lab in space.
And doesn’t it feel like We’ve been waiting to utter that sentence Our whole lives?
High above the online Second Life region called The Unknown is a small dark island floating in the upper stratosphere, which is an unlikely location to build a meth lab. Unless, say, you’re roleplaying a drug dealer with a dirigible- or as it turns out in this case, you’re a metaverse developer who wants to demonstrate SL’s utility as a simulation training tool for individuals who need to recognize real meth labs.
Fred Fuchs (the NASA contractor), has done what no meth lab cook has ever done before. He has taken a meth lab to the final frontier, where no police have ever been before. Yet, that is exactly what he wants law enforcement agents to do. Find his meth lab. Fuchs wants all cops to know – when it comes to meth labs, they should expect the unexpected. Fuchs has hidden his meth lab so well, that even the DEA would have a hard time finding it or the pre-cursor chemicals or cooked meth that are located inside his lab.
Floating far above universities, corporate headquarters, and other buildings lies Fuch’s unreachable and untouchable meth lab, in a space where no one would think about investigating – in space. If the pigs are lucky enough to find out how to get to Second Life, they still have to find the lab, which might have asking other people on Second Life about where he is.
The space lab was built based on photos from police websites, and in Fuchs’ words: “We hope to encourage use of SL for training law enforcement and social workers. We found that a walk-thru helped other types of clients think about ways they could use SL… I wrote simulations for the International Space Station. Accuracy in simulations is ‘my thing'”
The lab is located high above Firesabre headquarters, though experienced SL explorers will know how to find it: direct SLurl teleport at this link.
Is this the ultimate timespace architecture and media of Meth?
Moving into A Meth Lab
“Meth labs, however, always have possibilities, being made and wrecked at the same time”.
With the proliferation of the meth lab, necessarily comes the proliferation the ex-lab. With so many homes potentially contaminated by methamphetamine production, meth experts estimate that thousands to tens of thousands of people have discovered that what they thought was the American dream–a nice home for the family–is actually an American nightmare, and the potential cause of a range of health problems and a stack of medical bills. For a vague, under-reported vision of the scope of ex-labs, visit the US DEA’s “Clandestine Labratory Register”, or peruse the list for a state like California
Here We take a brief tour of these toxic homes, which were once used to cook, and thence appear on the real estate market after the fire, the bust, or the move. Generally, a sensible estate agent will avoid mentioning the house’s past, and as We’ll see, there are many “innocent American families” now coming to inhabit ex-labs. Note: Meth labs don’t adhere to class real-estate boundaries.
The Times point out that meth production chemicals “can permeate drywall, carpets, insulation and air ducts, causing respiratory ailments and other health problems.” It also quoted experts to the effect that living in a former meth house puts children at greater risk of developing learning disabilities or long-term respiratory and skin problems. And the risk wasn’t limited to kids. A 2007 study in Denver found that more than 70% of the police who were called in to inspect meth labs later reported health problems. Upon moving into a meth house, people have experienced short-term health problems ranging from migraines and respiratory difficulties to skin irritation and burns. Long-term problems are less well known, but the results from a 2009 study in Toxological Sciences suggest that methamphetamine chemicals may cause cancer in humans. And because children have small, developing bodies and a tendency to play on the ground and architectural surfaces and lick or put things in their mouths, they are especially susceptible to adverse health effects from meth toxins in a building. “When we go into a [meth] lab, if there are children, the first thing we do is take the children to the hospital and assess them for contamination,” said Narcotics officer Jeff Smith.
Now, Discover Magazine has published a must-read update on the extent of the problem – and it makes for a sobering read. Apparently, about the only thing you can do if you find your house has been a meth lab is tear the whole place apart down to the bare studs and start over, with new electrical, new insulation, new plumbing, and new drywall. Even if a meth house is cleaned properly, some experts worry that meth toxins may hang around.
Meth Lab Homes (http://methlabhomes.com), a site dedicated to those who’ve unwittingly bought Meth houses, and to preventing anyone else from doing so, goes into a more practical side of Meth-Estate. From their ‘MethLab 101’ guide to how to pick meth architecture clues and traces, under titles like “Stains”, “Strange Plumbing”, and including tell-tale aftereffects of a meth lab, sections detailing the lacklustre housekeeping habits of tweakers, to lists of possible warning smells, worth reproducing in its heady entirety here:
What does a meth lab smell like?
– Smells like a hospital due to the common use of ethyl ether as an anesthetic. Nasal irritant. Ether-like: Aromatic, sweet odor often accompanied by a sweet taste.
– Smells like paint thinners, paint removers, adhesives, and cleaning fluids. Type of odor often found in auto body shops or furniture refinishing shops. Eye and nasal irritant.
– Smells like odor found in vinegar, mayonnaise, salad dressings or pickled food. Pungent, acrid, or sour smell. Eye irritant.
– Smells like wet diapers, glass cleaners, cattle feed-lots, or fertilizers. A sharp, irritating odor. Eye and nasal irritant.
See also Methlab Homes’ video: Meth homes are a costly cleanup.
The site also collects the (often tawdry) stories of ‘innocent families’ who’ve mistakenly bought a Meth house. Most feature a narrative of revelation, suspicion. Accounts of the architectural details, clues, and invisible effects of the Meth architecture, and how it has come to effect their lives/psyche. Our personal favorite: The Bates Family: Three tours in Iraq and and now a meth lab home.
Domestic Alchemy & The Meth-Organism in Architecture
“Black Acid Co-op” is the work of the New York artists Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe. It is the third incarnation of “Hello Meth Lab in the Sun,” which opened last spring at Ballroom Marfa, Texas.
The heart of the piece is the meth kitchen, crawling with plastic tubes, jammed with glass jugs and beakers and littered with full and empty boxes of the over-the-counter cold medicines that are chief among the ingredients of the drug’s simple but dangerous recipe. In a grim before and after, this kitchen is reached through a ghost of itself: the charred remains of another lab in conjoined trailers destroyed by a meth-making explosion.
Careful attention to detail is obvious throughout this mammoth effort. Nothing is accidental. The room-by-room shifts in reality have been aptly compared to jump-cut scenes in a film, with each door or — more likely — each hole in the wall introducing a different form of delusional retreat from the larger world, with architectural space and chronologic markers standing in for moral movement (like the geologic/geographic-moral equivalence in Conrad’s Kurtz). The varieties of societal detachment wending through the piece are echoed in recurring meditations on voyeurism, display and the remove of art and the museum. According to their press, Black Acid Co-Op is the moniker for a “counter-culture enclave embedded in the metropolis”. In this incarnation, the artists focus on the production of illegal drugs and “sites of sub-cultural groups and how they are situated in the larger urban environment”. The installation expands on the notions relating to the connection between counter-culture and industrial society “resulting in a spatial collage that extends itself into a vast architectural setting”.
The Meth Lab here is a site of transubstantiation and transmutation in which highly illegal and universally scorned alchemical practice wages war with straight time and architecture. The legal, everyday domestic objects- batteries, cold meds, vacuum hoses- are cooked into Uppers and $ using alchemy’s method of homespun experimentalism, bonding unlikely ingredients and ushering in a secular, psychosis-mysticism that infects the spaces. In the lab not only are materials transformed, their intended uses are subverted along with consumerism’s tenets of freedom, happiness and choice. The lightly veiled intimacy between the lawful and the deviant is put on display.
Psychosis, decrepitude and paranoia are explicated architecturally, invoking the rituals of occult production and space. And what is perhaps subliminal in the meth labs explored above, becomes obvious here- that the architecture and paraphenalia of the meth lab is an organism. Ducts, wires and tubes traverse rooms creating a semblance of an organism: architecture as body, electricity as capillaries, and volumes as organs. As an architectural hybridization and transformation, the intended use of many of the sites is bent: factories have become homes, kitchens, car trunks, trucks, etc are used as labs.
Disappointingly, as another example of sim-meth, this time trafficking in the abject affect of the meth-space, this gallery Meth Lab suggested fear, anxiety, paranoia, and intoxication from a comfortable, almost academic remove. These artists don’t attempt to get “political”- although you could get Marxist about the practice of fabricating an expensive facsimile of down-rent environs for “aesthetic” consumption in downtown NYC. Instead, Meth Lab collapsed the old triad of transgressivity- sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll- into a architectural cliche fit for family (i.e art community) viewing.