Friday, 21 August 2009

The Contemporary 5 Opening at Red Gate Gallery

The Contemporary 5 at Red Gate Gallery 14-27 August 2009
these are photos from the opening and the handout contained within the installation. The exhibition is still going until the 27th of August so go down and have a look while you can.

click here for more pics from the night

My affair with the lady in the pink…

I left New Zealand the 28th of February 2008.

After 3 months of travelling through Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, spending no more that a night or two in any city, on constant alert and constantly on the move, I made it to Vientiane (Laos capital) and decided to take some time out and let my guard down. I found the cheapest room in town in which to chill out, read, write and draw for a while.

Pretty soon I noticed that I was staying in a kind of a yaba den. Yaba( ya = pill and ba = crazy) in Lao language goes by many names; Duya, the lady in the pink or Yama to the Cambodians. After having read and heard how bad this drug was, I was utterly apposed to it (-at first-).

‘Stay away from the lady in the pink’ some would say, ‘she’ll get you into trouble here’.

After a couple of days I became friends with some of the locals and after watching them smoke Yaba I came to see their past time as ceremonial, the likes of which rivals a Japanese tea ceremony. The pieces that create the intricate roll of time, make up my installation. After watching for so long I felt a sense of a kind of spiritual attachment to it that I could see on the faces of my friends, so I decided to give it try (gotta try everything once, right?).

I smoked it a few times recreationally, when I would go out to clubs and bars at night. It would make me feel invincible and start my mind racing around trying to find itself. But, I could feel my mind and body aching for it in the morning, one day when I still had a few pills left from a night before I smoked them. My smoking quickly developed into something which could be described as habitual. During this time I had a Lao girlfriend, who was a heavier smoker herself, she was my connection, she would score for me (us) and come back and smoke life away with me - smoke till our tongues would bleed, smoking on average US$100 a day.

My whole mind set change quicker than I noticed and gave me a very sad and narrow outlook on life, spending day to day thinking only about one thing; smoking that small pink pill. As paranoia would settle in for the ride most days my girlfriend and I covered up the windows in my room so no one could see in or catch the trademark smell (‘ah, the smell, I think I will remember it for the rest of my days, like sweet strawberries’) We would only go out at night when it felt like the rest of the city was drunk and didn’t notice us so much. I was living a life of eternal and internal darkness. When you are awake for days on end your body soon tells you when it needs sleep. You start to get full body cramps, dizziness, night terrors and frequent blackouts. The only thing that would let my mind rest was to take Velium (cheap Chinese Valium).Pretty soon I was

see-sawing through the daze, weaks and eventually months. I was smoking Yaba to wake up and then to stay awake. When I needed to sleep, and on occasion eat, I mean a pure need for sleep! (when the paranoia wrenches your nerves constantly you soon are too scared to sleep you’re so afraid of what might happen if sleep takes hold. But you can feel your body soul and mind slipping out of reality and consciousness) I would have to take Velium or smoke the local ganja to come down and calm down.

After months of this ritualistic-self-destructive pattern I started to hallucinate and was hearing things on a daily basis. Looking back this was a reaction to the culture and the fact that I was able to pick up the Lao language quiet easily in order to understand what was going on around me, previously without my knowledge, I used to listen to the people talking and started to hear what I thought they were ‘really’ saying and tried to interpret what I believed was ‘really’ going on. These things I saw and heard were by no means positive, seeing shadows and hearing whispers within this environment that I had immersed myself in. Other side affects included the shakes, confusion, anxiety attacks, severe depression and the tendency towards self harm and thoughts of suicide.

My addiction and side affects were at their worst when I was eventually arrested, thrown in the back of a tuk tuk and put in the local prison for two nights. The two nights away were the first time I hadn’t smoked since the addiction took its grip months before. I went through major withdrawals during those nights in the dark and shitty (literally) cell. Being trapped in there was unbearable. The first thing on my mind was getting out of there. It came down to ‘giving’ the Lao police US$700 to get escorted across the border back to Thailand or spend the next 1 ½ years in a Lao prison.

With this obvious decision made I was back in Bangkok (Thailand), a day later still trying to come to grips my withdrawal while walking down Khao San Rd (the tourist street in Bangkok) on the 31st of October, the night of Halloween 2008. I tried to collect my thoughts and recreate a life which I had lost it Lao and trying to work out if all I had witnessed was fact or fantasy. (Bangkok is not the best place for this.) But I spent a few days recovering in a room and went over my options. I decided to pick up my travels where I left them (skipping the last part of Lao that I never made it to), flying from Bangkok to Phnom Penh (Cambodia) going through Cambodia and Vietnam, finishing off my travel intentions, making it here for Christmas with my English relatives in London.

While on the trail I did a lot of soul searching trying to figure out;

How could I be controlled by such a small pill? How could my life be wrapped up in this? Why was I so transfixed on a manufactured product which became what I felt to be my purpose for existence? I then started to think about how to get my life back, what I had been like before leaving NZ; working long hours in a high stress position as a studio manager for a commercial printers spending my time, life and soul making advertising for products that were often just as useless and yet idolized as the little pink pill had been for me.

Once in London it was set in my mind to take back my art practice which I had neglected without conviction for many years. Using my experiences/or lack thereof, it was time to fall back onto art, to use it as a tool for self reflection and be ‘THE’ active figure in my life again.

The darkness that filled my life during this time made me do things I am not proud of but, Given the choice I do not think I would change anything I did (but I often wished I had). If this had never of happened, I would of course be a different person. I may have gone about a ‘normal’ endeavour back to a soulless existence in a 9-5 office job making mass marketed products for people just like me. I would probably not have decided to take the plunge into the art world here. And you certainly would not be reading what I have to say.

As with life comes experience and it is what you can achieve on the back of failure that drives you to continue.

Blair Zaye


click here for more details from my previous post

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