Matthew Spiegelman
Officioné

Spirit Emanation of M.P., 2007
digital c-print
17 1/2 x 14 inches
edition of 6 + 1 AP
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September 8 - October 13, 2007

Recently, my uncle, who has been sober for 15 years, reminisced about how he and my mom used to get high on her deck when they were younger.  He said that she called it her office, as in step into my office or let’s go discuss this in my office.  Sometimes she would call it the office but in Spanish.  She would call it officione.  But officione is not a Spanish word, it’s not even Italian.   It’s a made up word using the same grammatical theory that says adding an o to the end of an English word makes it a Spanish one.  For short, she would call it ione or phonetically: ee-o-nee.  

They used to repeat the word to each other when one or the other was thinking of heading out onto the deck to smoke a joint.  The word became an inside joke and they started to use it all the time, only not to just signify getting high.  It was a phrase used to signify the freedom of doing what you want and the ability to do what you want.  Mainly, I think it was used to signify the excitement that went along with that freedom.  EE-O-NEE!  It came out fast and short like a zinger, a punch-line, a note.

It was a secret word for sure, a password of sorts to gain access to the magic deck off the bedroom.  To the casual observer, the deck was just a deck with some beach chairs and few cans of Tab lying around.  But for the initiated, it was a place to go to get stoned, to relax and get some sun (some rays, as they said too.)  The word, though, was the pass to get them ready for the deck.  It was an open expression, a primer for their brains; it was a mental space to go before they got stoned.  Just like the deck was a real place, the word was an ephemeral place to go and get high.  After some time, they didn’t need the deck anymore, just the word.  The word could take them where they needed to go.

This is where I began my project: in search of an ephemeral place to get high.  The high before the drug induced high.  It appeared to me as a spiritual place, a place of relaxation and calm, longing, anticipation, and excitement.  To anticipate a recurring state of bliss is to maintain a certain state of mind.  That state of mind is the unconscious fabrication of a convincing illusion.  Likewise, to make art is to maintain a certain state of mind.  Insofar as it is an interpretation of one’s own perceived reality, no matter how unreal the result may be.  And no matter how unconscious and innate the creation of the artwork may be, the artist must function in a state of heightened awareness similar to that of a spiritual awakening or amidst the revelations of a magical illusion. 

This idea of spirituality and illusion is where the original premise for my project synthesized.  While exploring it, I found inspiration in the paraphernalia and iconography of stoners, tokers, and hippies as well as in the myth and magic of the late 19th century movement of Psychic or Spirit Photography.  Using sources such as marijuana gardens, smokers and smoking apparatus, tie-dyed clothing, beaded curtains, and dreadlocks, I arrived at a place where, above all, the photographic image is employed as an optical illusion.  A place where ephemerality, spirituality, magic, and the transformation of the corporeal interact with the mechanism of photographic rendering in its modernly multi-faceted forms:  view camera, ink-jet, c-print, photograms, scans, polaroids, and digital collage.

-Matthew Spiegelman