Drugs is an idea that’s been percolating in my head for about three years that I’m finally getting around to planning.

I’m on drugs. I’ve been taking one thing or another for about 25 years. Sometimes I’m taking less and sometimes I’m taking more than prescribed but what I take is rather pedestrian.

NSAIDs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. You can buy these over the counter in any drug store with brand names like Aleve, Advil, Motrin and Bayer. My drug of choice is a bit stronger than any of these but it’s basically the same thing. Over the years I’ve tried a whack of NSAIDs with brand names like; Celebrex, Indocin, and Naprosyn. I’m now pretty much taking only Indomethacin (seen below). But I digress.

Aesthetically I like the shape of drugs and the colours. I particularly have a soft spot for the look of capsules that contain smaller little pills. Contact C from the old days comes to mind. It had a distinct candy like appearance and looked delicious when I was a kid. I have one of those giant medical dictionaries of drugs that doctors use to look up drugs to prescribe. There are several projects on this subject that I’m interested in.

One idea is to take pictures with a macro lens of the more dangerous psychiatric drugs that are often over-prescribed. These would be blown up to very large proportions, maybe as big as 30 x 40, or more likely 36 x 36. I’m also thinking anti-depressants and pain medication fit into this category. The simple part would be taking pictures of the drugs. The companion part of this piece would be to shoot portraits of people who’s lives have been effected (positively or negatively) by taking them. Each work would be a diptych of the drug and the patient images.

Another project would involve making drugs. Not real ones, but symbolic ones. Using gelatin capsules I’d find ingredients that are non-medicinal that carry some sort of positive, negative or interesting baggage. Maybe for specific people. I’d mix stuff up and make batches of pills then take pictures of them. I could actually fool with the look of the pills as well -making them fancy or designer like in some way- to make people want to take them. For some reason I was thinking I could make one such pill with a long strand of hair delicately inserted in circular loops inside a gelatin capsule. Imagine an extension cord being wound up and placed in a cylindrical container.  An offshoot of this idea could be to use existing over-the-counter drugs to create new and possibly dangerous amalgams. Again the idea would be to photograph them with the macro, blow them up huge and then include a written description of what the viewer is looking at. I would not take these drugs.

I’d also like to create a room made of entirely of pill containers. The old school amber/yellow ones. I imagine this as a relatively small vestibule or a hallway that leads to an exhibition of the aforementioned work. I would purchase 3-5000 various sized pill containers then glue them to the surfaces of the room by their top rims. This would create something that looks like the surface of the basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway. I would cover every surface of the hall/room including the floors and ceiling. I think the containers should be strong enough if they are oriented correctly to suport the weight of people passing through.

I’m currently inquiring with a Canadian company how much it would cost for 2 million gelatin capsules that were custom made and printed for me. They have this very cool tool for designing your drug capsule, but you have to buy a minimum of 2 million.

My premise with the manufactured drugs is to make beautiful pictures out of constructed pharmaceuticals that serve an aspirational purpose. The underlying hypothesis is that we’re already far to reliant on drugs and the desire to even think of such aspirational drugs is in essence a sickness. Like our endless search for youth or longevity. Even if we could construct such drugs, the idea of taking a pill to achieve the “desired” results is only acceptable to our twisted, spoiled, and lazy first world mentalities.

I don’t want my cynicism towards drugs to be misconstrued as a total disbelief in them. They very often serve a purpose and are very useful and can be very helpful. But think of the addiction and the economy of supply and demand. With all the problems they cause and the freedom with which they are prescribed it’s hard not to tink of the pharmaceutical companies are the new Big Tobacco.

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2 thoughts on “Drugs

  1. Shep – love the drugs concept. I am willing to give you my empty prescription containers. I’ve got a few.

  2. Hi Vanessa. Glad you like. I’m looking into buying thousands of these containers new, but the idea of using existing containers is cool. If I could organize better I’d do that!

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