Appreciating Art Through Cannabis
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by Petar Petrov, Staff Writer for Terpenes and Testing Magazine
Many people have discovered the strong chemistry between art and cannabis, but because it’s reminiscent of a spontaneous force of nature or even something more elusive like love, it’s often considered a more of a myth or a random concurrence.
However, when you take into account the proven effects cannabis has on our senses, mind, and perception – the very doorways through which art flows into our consciousness, it is no wonder that so many people have fallen in love with the beautiful synergy between art and cannabis.
A Sense of Awe, Imagination and Reading
We all know the classic stoner movie characters who let out their prolonged catch phrases “Duuuude!” or “Whooah!” every time they get their mind blown by the wondrous laws and coincidences of the universe. One of cannabis’s most magic properties is its ability to induce divergent thinking and inspire a sense of awe by revealing the everyday world from a different, overlooked perspective from which nothing is truly random or plain. And isn’t this exactly what art does as well, just with different means?
Charles Tart, Ph.D., a famous cannabis advocate and researcher, has found many people through his studies for whom cannabis acts like a mental projector, allowing them to vividly visualize whatever they are reading:
“I have more imagery than usual while reading; images of the scenes I’m reading about just pop up vividly,” one of his subjects shares.
Visual Perception and Visual Art
There’s a reason why cannabis art, as well as psychedelic art altogether, is known for its highly distinctive style of depicting the state of being high. It involves a lot of bright colors which appear almost alive, flickering with strong lights that blur together in one radiant imagery.
Cannabis heightens the sensory perception which results in experiencing colors more brightly, as well as in enhanced depth perception and all-around visual acuity. Some of the participants in Tart’s studies have reported pictures and images taking an added three-dimensional appearance after cannabis use. In other words, the flower makes images come to life.
This is why cannabis offers an enriched, more nuanced prism through which paintings and visual art become a sea of colors and ideas you could swim into for hours.
Auditory Perception and Music
For many cannabis enthusiasts, the flower is better than even the best set of headphones, immersing you into a deeper musical experience which your ears just can’t truly absorb otherwise. Cannabis can make sounds seem deeper, richer, and more spacey. You might have heard a song a hundred times and cannabis can still let hidden tones and harmonies unfurl as if they had been locked away in another dimension. Not only do rhythms become more distinct and chords become fuller, but Tart’s subjects have even reported gaining a deeper understanding of the lyrics as well.
And just like that, the song you had grown so tired of is pulsing through your mind and body as if you were hearing it for the very fist time.
This phenomenon is observed across all kinds of genres, from jazz – one of the very first music niches to be strongly associated with cannabis, to stoner rock, reggae, and pretty much anything that your heart and ears desire. Cannabis can even help some people discover new genres or at least gain an appreciation for them, both “stoner” music and even more commercial genres not typically associated with cannabis culture.
“[Cannabis] works like a psycho-acoustic enhancer. That means you are more able to absorb, to focus on something, and to have a bit of a broader spectrum. It doesn't change the music; it doesn't change the ear functioning. Obviously it changes the way we perceive ear space in music,” Dr. Jörg Fachner, a professor of music, health, and the brain at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK, told Vice.
Time Perception, Music and Films
“It [cannabis] also changes time perception, and if you listen to music, it is a time process, so if you have a different time perception of course you will listen differently to music,” Dr. Fachner continues.
Indeed, cannabis seems to have a very elusive relationship with time. How many times has your cannabis-entangled mind wandered for hours, only to find out it’s actually been “gone” for mere minutes? Whereas on other occasions, cannabis can serve almost like a remote control, letting you fast forward sections you’d like to skip. Dr. Zach Walsh, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, believes it comes down to basically being in the moment:
“[Cannabis] puts you in a relaxed pleasant state, and there you are able to be receptive to music, or to be perhaps in the moment. Cannabis improves all types of things that are related to being present in the moment, as opposed to long term planning and worrying and ordering and organizing.”
Such a coveted property could make any art experience more immersive. An intentionally slow and intense movie scene becomes all-the-more prolonged and haunting while an action-packed fast-pace montage turns into a punchy sequence of dramatic flashes.
“In the study that I've done with the EEG [electroencephalogram, a machine that measures electrical brain activity], there are changes in the occipital area, which is processing visuals; the temporal area, which is processing the auditory; and then in the parietal. These three connections seems to be of benefit for the listener,” Fachner continues.
And not just the listener. This multi-dimensional synergy wraps the mind into a state which feels as otherworldly as it feels natural. Actually, it feels almost like another form of art itself. This is why the relationship between art and cannabis is reminiscent of “the entourage effect”, making their combined force greater than the sum of their parts. The definition of a match made in heaven.
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