The Infernal Grove is an unsystematic structural analysis of drug use, addiction and recovery (not necessarily in that order). It is anti-carceral, anti-prohibition and seeks to amplify the voices of radical harm-reductionists and their coalitions. It recognizes the value of the sacred while rejecting all forms of piety. It posits wonder and the land as spaces of enchantment, as not an antidote to but an extension of the space opened up by drugs.
It’s based on the artists’ lived experience of drug use and the consequent interventions of state and medical establishments, which included both involuntary hospitalization and outpatient rehabilitation.
It is a video installation presented this fall at The Blue Building Gallery, Atlantic Canada’s first independent, state-of-the-art facility for presenting contemporary art. An associated study group will be presented as part of Nocturne, an all-night art event in Halifax in October, and again at the Rendezvous with Madness festival in Toronto in November.
The film is based on interviews with members of Vancouver’s Drug Liberation Front, a radical harm-reduction group that gives out free, tested crack and fentanyl on the street; with Samona Marsh and Hugh Lampkin of VANDU, the first drug-users union in North America; with video art pioneers Paul Wong; with a white-rapper-turned-cannabis-entrepreneur from Oregon and Zaire Knight artist from rust-belt New York; with a “sober influencer” from Nova Scotia and the brother of a for-profit rehab chain; with drag artist Mikiki about his (entirely positive) experiences in the chemsex scene. The interviews are woven together with hypnotic time lapse video of the natural world.
The visual material has been collected over several years through a process both painstaking and wobbly. Much of it is timelapse and all of it is made to draw the viewer into the inside of beauty—to actually be in beauty for a while—because inside beauty there is a room, and in the room is enchantment or wonder.