The “visions” caused by ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic plant from the Amazon used as a teaching “medicine” and a door to other worlds, are at the heart of an exhibition devoted to the uses of this vine in culture and the arts of Peru, at the Quai Branly museum in Paris.
Textiles, paintings, ceramics and videos testifying to its use in traditional Peruvian medicine and revealing the shamanic rituals to which it gives rise can be discovered from Tuesday. They tell a story that delves into the roots of Native American culture and has inspired many Western artists in search of meaning and thrills, some of whose works and inventions are also presented.
Highlight of this exhibition: a virtual reality experience, Ayahuasca - Kosmik Journey by filmmaker Jan Kounen (notably director of Dobermann in 1997), allows you to test, without ingesting any substance, the sensations of the ayahuasca ritual, the eponymous decoction of the plant whose ingestion causes psychedelic visions and can leave the visitor nauseous.
Long reserved for Native American populations, ayahuasca has been classified as Peru's cultural heritage since 2008. Like other hallucinogenic substances from South America, it has spread throughout the world under the influence of pioneers of the counter- American culture, like the writers William Burroughs and Allen Gisberg or, before them, Aldous Huxley.
Renamed “psychedelics”, they have become for some Westerners a source of artistic inspiration but also the object of “shamanic tourism” driven by a growing interest in alternative therapies, in which the scientific community is increasingly interested. , as shown in the exhibition.
It introduces the visitor to the art of the “Kené” of the Shipibo-Konibo of Amazonia, “colorful geometric and labyrinthine designs – reproduced on textiles and ceramics in particular – which play the role of mediation with the spiritual world and occupy a place central in their culture, often presented as coming from the ingestion of ayahuasca,” explains David Dupuis, researcher at Inserm and curator with Elise Grandgeorge, art historian.
These visions and traditional practices gave rise in the 20th century to a Peruvian “visionary art”, of which the museum presents a number of works such as paintings by the painter and shaman Pablo Amaringo, and his successors from the 1990s who reached a international recognition. Their painting, sometimes done on bark supports, is both figurative and phantasmagorical. It gives pride of place to Amazonian fauna and flora and venerates the anaconda, one of the largest snakes, which “represents the spirit of ayahuasca”, according to Mr. Dupuis.
A set of painted sculptures, also representing animals and plants, produced by the current Onanyati school (the “wisdom of the ancients”), testifies to the constantly renewed alliance between cultural heritage and creativity.