Dark Psytrance
July 23, 2015

Live Writing: Artist Iain Ball delves into hippy subculture and the Eden Saga to challenge preconceptions about the natural landscape

"objects and hyperobjects infested human art forever, all that has happened is that humans have dropped something, a concept, that their Art is by them, for them and about them. Non Humans are responsible for the next great moment in Art history, the human mist evaporates, leaving behind what is real; entities, objects, strange strangers, without a totalizing context, without a world , without nature - all because of ecological awareness.”

Timothy Morton, Dawn of the Hyperobjects

- Part.3 youtube 


How can we start to develop Art systems which actively seek out what might fall into the bracket of having nonhuman, inhuman, counter-humanist, or post-human agencies? In what ways are we already migrating to such activities? How do we move towards biocentric models of investigative creative practice which do not privilege the human subject, and dissolve the anthropocentric world view to leave behind the romantic objectification of nature as something which is ‘out there’?  Models and practice that instead consider the human entity as part a wider mesh or fabric which makes up reality, with nature and culture becoming completely indistinguishable from each other, the Earth and the wider cosmos. Energy Pangea, as a container, incubation chamber, requisite think-tank and perpetrator of transmedia, translocal amorphous sculptural systems, has been focused on developing some of these considerations since its inception in 2011.


How can we start to develop Art systems which actively seek out what might fall into the bracket of having nonhuman, inhuman, counter-humanist, or post-human agencies?


Last year I started looking at psytrance as mesh with various psytrance objects inside. When viewed as an aesthetic realm, or various aesthetic realms through its multiple subdivisions (night-time, morning, twilight, forest, dark, hi-tech etc), it could be considered as an example of a movement towards activities which begin to de-privilege or remove human agency. But how? And why psytrance? Particularly I’m interested in how the dark variants of psytrance – often called DarkPsy or Forest – have begun to dethrone the human subject.

Dark psytrance does to psytrance what Timothy Morton’s dark ecology does to ecology. It challenges an outmoded 1960’s hippy aesthetic and does something else. It takes the psytrance aesthetic into darker and weirder zones by throwing the pre-existing material out of a familiar comfort zone and into the depths of space. Dark Psytrance is so interesting precisely because its morphology from the early Goa scene into multiple geographic zones, and through its appropriation, recontextualization and mutation of new age sign systems, means it became something altogether alien.

To many people on the ‘outside’ of psytrance, it’s likely to look and sound like one big homogeneous mass. However, zooming into the the various subdivisions create strange new taxonomies and aesthetic realms within the wider mesh of psytrance. Psytrance is largely stereotyped as consisting of crusty hippies, white guys with dreadlocks, horrible fashion sense, and gap year students who discovered the music whilst at a full moon party in Thailand. This was exemplified by Clive Martin, A Vice Noisey journalist who went to a forest party, and thought that the music was horrible and repetitive. New manifestations of psytrance from Russia, Finland, Macedonia and Greece, however, have little to do with these stereotypes.

Eden Saga is a project by Xavier Séguin. Séguin, a French man who studied in philosophy, aesthetics and Art History in 1968, now develops Eden Saga as an investigation into alternative histories of humanity, potential worlds and other dimensions of human evolution. Séguin’s work on Eden Saga led me to psytrance. Although Séguin is likely not a fan or in anyway connected to the psytrance community, his intensive image collections and visual compositions often look like they belong to or borrow from the psytrance aesthetic. Although this is likely to be entirely coincidental, what is so fascinating is that while the psytrance aesthetic, insomuch as fractals, Hindu deities and E.T’s, might seem utterly banal, their particular combination within this wider aesthetic mesh creates a strangely new set of conditions.


While the psytrance aesthetic, insomuch as fractals, Hindu deities and E.T’s, might seem utterly banal, their particular combination within this wider aesthetic mesh creates a strangely new set of conditions


These configurations are used in new ways by Séguin, and are treated as tools for building new meanings and conditions, challenging our preconceptions about ecology, nature and self-regulating systems. The forest parties and the mud pits, the sound systems and the weird decorations, seem to be vibrantly challenging what it means to be in in a natural landscape, in an environment or in any kind of nature at all.


Iain Ball is a London-based writer and artist. He wrote this essay live at the ICA Studio on 22nd July at 11am GMT, as part of the POSTmatter x fig-2 exhibition, on display at the ICA until 26th July 2015.

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