ISTANBUL’74 & Marlborough Chelsea present “A Diamond Hidden In The Mouth Of A Corpse”, an exhibition by Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe at the ISTANBUL’74′s gallery space in Karakoy between November 22-December 22.
The 1985 compilation album, A Diamond Hidden in the Mouth of a Corpse, released by Giorno Poetry Systems offers a smattering of avant-garde music and poetry by the likes of Cabaret Voltaire, David Johansen and Williams S. Burroughs.
What is not present on the record is the curious story behind the album title itself, which the producer, John Giorno came up with while traveling in the Far East in the middle 1960’s. His interest in Tibetan Buddhism had led him on a journey to visit a variety of Eastern shamans. On one of his meetings he encountered a morbid and fascinating practice. On the outskirts of Bangkok he met a group of morticians who were harvesting the pineal gland from recently deceased human corpses. The pineal gland which is located near the center of the brain is the main producer of melatonin which regulates our wake and sleep patterns. At the moment of death the pineal gland is flooded with the chemical Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). If extracted soon enough the pineal gland could offer secretions of a powerful DMT/Melatonin combination. Local doctors and spiritual leaders believed this combination to have many mystical and medicinal uses. If used topically it was believed to be a highly effective treatment for skin disease. If ingested through a prick in the skin it could produce a simulation of a near-death experience
which many shaman’s thought to be a useful tool in the preparation for the passage from life. If dried and smoked it could produce a euphoric sense of calm – much like an extension of the exact moment when one slips into a dream sleep. The local’s referred to this as “A diamond hidden in the mouth of a corpse.”
The Western fascination with Eastern spiritual practices brought an influx of mystical tourism to the East. While Giorno was visiting the pineal gland harvesters he encountered representatives from Upjohn Pharmaceuticals who had been dispatched to the region to see if this underground Thai tradition could be translated into an industrialized medicine. Giorno witnessed a battery of tests being conducted. The scientists believed the pineal gland could yield a powerful anti-depressant and perhaps a new skin-moisturizing agent.
Upjohn Pharmaceuticals eventually turned the secretions of the human pineal gland into a drug called Monase, which was promoted as a “psychic energizer”. The drug had a short commercial life because of a torrent of reported adverse side effects – namely the feeling of the presence of ghosts.
Freeman/Lowe have been collaborating since 2007. Jonah Freeman was born in 1975 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Freeman graduated from Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Justin Lowe was born in 1976 in Dayton, Ohio. Lowe received an MFA from Columbia University, New York. The artists currently live and work between New York and Los Angeles.