The Totem

September 2022 ––
Sometimes creative opportunities come along that aren’t about the money; instead they’re solely about the passion and possibility of creating an expression that stands on its own as an extremely unique piece of Experiential Art. When Jamie Drayton had the idea for a Psychedelics Themed Experience and contacted Munky to create the headlining piece of art for it, it was quickly apparent that this was one of those opportunties. This was a special invitation to create a living sculpture at a massive scale, to breathe life and personality into a geometric form using light and sound, and to fully embrace a culture and society in reverence of the Psychedelic movement.

The experience, entitled Psychedelics: The Experiential Exhibition, was Canada’s first immersive art show exploring the past, present and future of psychedelics, and opened its doors on Friday, Sept. 30 2022 at the completely transformed Lithuanian House in Toronto. The ambitious exhibition looked at society’s complex and often controversial relationship with psychedelics, promising a unique audiovisual “edutainment” experience. Visitors could roam three floors featuring spectacular original works from a diverse lineup of more than 22 internationally-acclaimed artists.

The Totem was the featured installation of the show and was the final experience of the exhibition. The viewers entered into a large theater on a balcony and peered down onto the more than 25 foot tall sculpture as it was brought to life with light, sound and a shaman’s soul, imbued with a deep bellowing voice that guided the audience through the stages of a Sonic Healing Ceremony. 

The Concept

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The Totem is at once both the journey and the guide through the stages of a ceremony of light, form, sound, and spirit. At each stage of the experience the guide and the pathway inform each other – a symbiotic relationship is forged so that with each step they evolve together.

The journey is euphoric and psychoactive. It is instinctual and it is native, spinning light and color to evoke and awaken that which cannot be immediately accessed on the surface. The incantation and medicinal quality of the experience is maneuvered through chanting and galactic geometry. There is a core cosmic language being spoken that is then translated, funneled, and expressed by way of a display of light energy.

Through this process there is a blissful and powerful journey of healing. The reverberation of bass and the thump of drums speaks directly to the spirit and invites or challenges, taunts and hypnotizes it so that there are no boundaries now between the soul and the divine.  
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The Installation

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“ The journey is euphoric and psychoactive. It is instinctual and it is native, spinning light and color to evoke and awaken that which cannot be immediately accessed on the surface. ”

The Experience

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As the Totem being the guide for a healing journey, the team brought on board a master at sound journeys Robert John Malone aka Mr.Malone who is an Internationally recognized Sound Therapist, Educator, Music Producer and founder of Sacred Sound Services. Together they collaborated in fine tuning each sonic chapter of the journey and through meditation came to these landmarks on the journeys arc.

At first, the viewer is separated from that which keeps them stuck, through a poetic barrage of color and light in fractalized motion they are initiated. There is a call to all directions and ancestral beings asking for and receiving blessings for those who set out across the threshold. The experience deepens and becomes more magnetic, the viewer is now engulfed in guidance toward a higher state of consciousness that in turn causes a refinement of their very being. The next stage climbs the ladder not necessarily up, but through, further within the cyclical experience of taking birth and now having it shaped and sculpted by purpose. This purpose manifests itself as a color wheel of soulful tones, hues, and the movement of light.

Now identified with purpose and the almost intoxicating knowledge of being, the viewer is invited to let go of it all. It is not an easy task nor is it without its own sense of loss and pain. But through the shedding of self a richer light is exposed and the journey takes a turn toward something more meaningful.

Ultimately the being returns, having integrated what they've experienced they are now transformed and re-enter the world as such. The wisdom of love, of liberation, of truth sparkling dappled light into the void as the space closes.
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The Process

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This project was a story of amazing collaboration, and couldn’t have been even remotely possible without the extraordinary talents of Harvey Moon and Joshua John Pipic – two old homies from the Obscura Digital days. The origin of the project was these three sketching out shapes and forms, dreaming up the essence of the experience in a natural iterative process.

Once the immense form was locked, then the biggest hurdle of the production was finding a fabricator and installer who was up to the task for the very limited budget that was allocated. Thankfully, they found an extremely capable team at Toronto-based Upper Canada Stretchers, who were inspired by the form and the fabrication challenges. The next step was finding a team to handle the installation, since the top-half was essentially suspended from the rafters of a very old theatre called the Lithuania House, which presented all sorts of challenges. Thankfully Glenn and Armando emerged to take on the absolutely momentous task and went full Engineering Jedi on it all.

Once everything was installed, it was content time, which was mostly done in Touch Designer – although the squad also provided some pre-rendered content. The most interesting part of the content design was mapping the voice of the Totem to real-time lighting setups of simulated geometry to create live illusions of depth and color. This felt like a evolution of prior techniques explored on installations such as Box and Iso and was a really inspiring set of discoveries that will surely be revisited down the road.
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Artist, Experiential Director

at The PsyMunk Enterprise
for The Psychedelic Show
Credit List

Artist and Experience Director: GMUNK
Sculpture and Fabrication Director: Joshua John Pipic
Programming and Technical Director: Harvey Moon
Content by: Harvey Moon, Joshua Pipic, Will Atwood, Ronny Khalil
Composer: Robert John Malone aka Mr.Malone
Sound Design: Robert John Malone aka Mr.Malone
Fabrication: Upper Canada Stretchers
Installation: Glenn Strachan and Armando DaSilva
Photographer: Bradley G Munkowitz
Cinematographer: Bradley G Munkowitz

Psychedelics: The Experiential Exhibition

Executive Producer and Creative Director: Jamie Drayton
General Manager: Cyndi Cornblit
Technical Director: Dylan Mitchell-Funk
Special Events Programming: Anna Douglas
Writer and Content Creator: John Semley
Graphic Designer: Omar Morson
Production Design, Fabrication Installation: Manual Arts
Marketing: Oz Akgun, Liz Drayton, Lauren Davila, Angela Wilkins