The “Mandala” Psychonautist Experience in Paris in the 1960s-1970s.

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Seminar 33 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Alexandre MARCHANT, Université Paris X Nanterre, France
In the 1960s, the LSD was the new trendy psychoactive drug spreading in the Western world, presented as an exceptional mean to reach the depth of the mind and an upper level of reality. The most famous advocators were the US writers Timothy Leary or Ken Kesey. But they have inspired also other experiences abroad. This paper will focus on the sensory experience promoted by a collective of artists named Mandala, set in Paris in 1967. Founded by French poets and writers like Jean-François Bizot, Gérard Rutten or Alain Dister, who used to participate also in some cultural manifestations at the Paris Museum of Modern Arts or the American cultural center, the collective published some books like Le Dossier LSD (1967, 1974), valorizing the use of hallucinogens, following in that way the elitist tradition of the “artificial paradises” inherited from former authors like Charles Baudelaire or Henri Michaux. The group will be dissolved in the second part of the 1970s but has incarnated for a while the spirit of the French psychedelic movement.

The  paper will present the project of these authors and the way they advocated the use of LSD, referring themselves to the US poets of the beatnik and counter-cultural movements. But it will also, from a semiotic point of view, analyze what were the signs, visual forms or synesthetic sensations associated with these promoted mind-altering experiences, related in the various texts published by Mandala. It will finally, based on that example, in a historical perspective, think about the link between drugs, sensory experiences and Western modern popular culture.