The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

January 11, 2006

varied work

[i will take a day break. most likely. i stand behind this work. it's good
work. it works well in context. apologies for quantity. these resonate w/
each other. they combine. pieces for internet/performance/dance/gallery/

two versions of a film for large-screen projection. these are highly
compressed, stained against background oscilloscope. i worry that this
work will be taken as 'portraiture'; it's not - at least for me, these are
representations of interior states of sexuality, hysteria, despair.

thanks to antoine for partial text. wwii ee8 field telephones. miasma-
speech. black/blockout.

w/ nasa inspire vlf-3 receiver on rooftop in central brooklyn. most of the
power grid cancelled out. incredible feat. spherics, chirps; the 2nd
expands the space.

ibanez (classical) acoustic-electric guitar. new work.


I am a factory.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 11 Jan 2006 21:22:54 +0100
From: Felix Stalder <>
Subject: <nettime> Albert Hoffmann turns 100

Today, Albert Hoffmann, the chemist from Basel, Switzerland who synthesized
LSD, turns 100. There's a symposium ( where he will deliver a
keynote. Below's an excerpt of his autobiography in which he remembers his
first trip, while barely a kilometer away, on the other side of the border,
Europe was consumed by quite a different trip.

Albert Hofmann: LSD - My Problem Child



       4/19/43 16:20: 0.5 cc of 1/2 promil aqueous solution of diethylamide
tartrate orally = 0.25 mg tartrate. Taken diluted with about 10 cc water.

       17:00: Beginning dizziness, feeling of anxiety, visual distortions,
symptoms of paralysis, desire to laugh.

       Supplement of 4/21: Home by bicycle. From 18:00- ca.20:00 most severe
crisis. (See special report.)

Here the notes in my laboratory journal cease. I was able to write the last
words only with great effort. By now it was already clear to me that LSD had
been the cause of the remarkable experience of the previous Friday, for the
altered perceptions were of the same type as before, only much more intense.
I had to struggle to speak intelligibly. I asked my laboratory assistant, who
was informed of the self-experiment, to escort me home. We went by bicycle,
no automobile being available because of wartime restrictions on their use.
On the way home, my condition began to assume threatening forms. Everything
in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved
mirror. I also had the sensation of being unable to move from the spot.
Nevertheless, my assistant later told me that we had traveled very rapidly.
Finally, we arrived at home safe and sound, and I was just barely capable of
asking my companion to summon our family doctor and request milk from the

In spite of my delirious, bewildered condition, I had brief periods of clear
and effective thinking - and chose milk as a nonspecific antidote for

The dizziness and sensation of fainting became so strong at times that I could
no longer hold myself erect, and had to lie down on a sofa. My surroundings
had now transformed themselves in more terrifying ways. Everything in the
room spun around, and the familiar objects and pieces of furniture assumed
grotesque, threatening forrns. They were in continuous motion, animated, as
if driven by an inner restlessness. The lady next door, whom I scarcely
recognized, brought me milk - in the course of the evening I drank more than
two liters. She was no longer Mrs. R., but rather a malevolent, insidious
witch with a colored mask.

Even worse than these demonic transformations of the outer world, were the
alterations that I perceived in myself, in my inner being. Every exertion of
my will, every attempt to put an end to the disintegration of the outer world
and the dissolution of my ego, seemed to be wasted effort. A demon had
invaded me, had taken possession of my body, mind, and soul. I jumped up and
screamed, trying to free myself from him, but then sank down again and lay
helpless on the sofa. The substance, with which I had wanted to experiment,
had vanquished me. It was the demon that scornfully triumphed over my will. I
was seized by the dreadful fear of going insane. I was taken to another
world, another place, another time. My body seemed to be without sensation,
lifeless, strange. Was I dying? Was this the transition? At times I believed
myself to be outside my body, and then perceived clearly, as an outside
observer, the complete tragedy of my situation. I had not even taken leave of
my family (my wife, with our three children had traveled that day to visit
her parents, in Lucerne). Would they ever understand that I had not
experimented thoughtlessly, irresponsibly, but rather with the utmost
caution, an-d that such a result was in no way foreseeable? My fear and
despair intensified, not only because a young family should lose its father,
but also because I dreaded leaving my chemical research work, which meant so
much to me, unfinished in the midst of fruitful, promising development.
Another reflection took shape, an idea full of bitter irony: if I was now
forced to leave this world prematurely, it was because of this Iysergic acid
diethylamide that I myself had brought forth into the world.

By the time the doctor arrived, the climax of my despondent condition had
already passed. My laboratory assistant informed him about my selfexperiment,
as I myself was not yet able to formulate a coherent sentence. He shook his
head in perplexity, after my attempts to describe the mortal danger that
threatened my body. He could detect no abnormal symptoms other than extremely
dilated pupils. Pulse, blood pressure, breathing were all normal. He saw no
reason to prescribe any medication. Instead he conveyed me to my bed and
stood watch over me. Slowly I came back from a weird, unfamiliar world to
reassuring everyday reality. The horror softened and gave way to a feeling of
good fortune and gratitude, the more normal perceptions and thoughts
returned, and I became more confident that the danger of insanity was
conclusively past.

Now, little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and
plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic,
fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then
closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains,
rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux. It was particularly
remarkable how every acoustic perception, such as the sound of a door handle
or a passing automobile, became transformed into optical perceptions. Every
sound generated a vividly changing image, with its own consistent form and

Late in the evening my wife returned from Lucerne. Someone had informed her by
telephone that I was suffering a mysterious breakdown. She had returned home
at once, leaving the children behind with her parents. By now, I had
recovered myself sufficiently to tell her what had happened.

Exhausted, I then slept, to awake next morning refreshed, with a clear head,
though still somewhat tired physically. A sensation of well-being and renewed
life flowed through me. Breakfast tasted delicious and gave me extraordinary
pleasure. When I later walked out into the garden, in which the sun shone now
after a spring rain, everything glistened and sparkled in a fresh light. The
world was as if newly created. All my senses vibrated in a condition of
highest sensitivity, which persisted for the entire day.

This self-experiment showed that LSD-25 behaved as a psychoactive substance
with extraordinary properties and potency. There was to my knowledge no other
known substance that evoked such profound psychic effects in such extremely
low doses, that caused such dramatic changes in human consciousness and our
experience of the inner and outer world.

What seemed even more significant was that I could remember the experience of
LSD inebriation in every detail. This could only mean that the conscious
recording function was not interrupted, even in the climax of the LSD
experience, despite the profound breakdown of the normal world view. For the
entire duration of the experiment, I had even been aware of participating in
an experiment, but despite this recognition of my condition, I could not,
with every exertion of my will, shake off the LSD world. Everything was
experienced as completely real, as alarming reality; alarming, because the
picture of the other, familiar everyday reality was still fully preserved in
the memory for comparison.

Another surprising aspect of LSD was its ability to produce such a
far-reaching, powerful state of inebriation without leaving a hangover. Quite
the contrary, on the day after the LSD experiment I felt myself to be, as
already described, in excellent physical and mental condition.

I was aware that LSD, a new active compound with such properties, would have
to be of use in pharmacology, in neurology, and especially in psychiatry, and
that it would attract the interest of concerned specialists. But at that time
I had no inkling that the new substance would also come to be used beyond
medical science, as an inebriant in the drug scene. Since my self-experiment
had revealed LSD in its terrifying, demonic aspect, the last thing I could
have expected was that this substance could ever find application as anything
approaching a pleasure drug. I failed, moreover, to recognize the meaningful
connection between LSD inebriation and spontaneous visionary experience until
much later, after further experiments, which were carried out with far lower
doses and under different conditions.

The next day I wrote to Professor Stoll the abovementioned report about my
extraordinary experience with LSD-25 and sent a copy to the director of the
pharmacological department, Professor Rothlin.

As expected, the first reaction was incredulous astonishment. Instantly a
telephone call came from the management; Professor Stoll asked: "Are you
certain you made no mistake in the weighing? Is the stated dose really
correct?" Professor Rothlin also called, asking the same question. I was
certain of this point, for I had executed the weighing and dosage with my own
hands. Yet their doubts were justified to some extent, for until then no
known substance had displayed even the slightest psychic effect in
fractionof-a-milligram doses. An active compound of such potency seemed
almost unbelievable.

Professor Rothlin himself and two of his colleagues were the first to repeat
my experiment, with only onethird of the dose I had utilized. But even at
that level, the effects were still extremely impressive, and quite fantastic.
All doubts about the statements in my report were eliminated.


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