Planet excerpts

From our Focus section, Deian Richard Timms looks at the influence of psychedelica on Wales.

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The psychedelic… What began as a rather bizarre aesthetic style has become commonplace. Its influence has emanated into the mainstream, influencing everything from the world of advertising to children’s television programmes. Some would argue that its subversive nature and countercultural potency are irrelevant by now, something to be dismissed as an outdated cultural quirk. But although it might be a familiar pop cultural motif, the psychedelic still has the capacity to shock. Much like Surrealism, it is a means to bypass the barriers imposed by our socialisation and our limited perception, letting us see things in new and not always comfortable ways.

Psychedelia’s journey (or perhaps more appropriately, its trip) from its origins in the counter-culture to being a mainstream visual style is a fascinating one, and indeed shows just how flexible late capitalism can be when it comes to rebellion – repackaging it, and selling it back at a premium. What was a challenge to the social order has become merely branding. This appropriation of psychedelia is not unique. When Che Guevara’s face is plastered across a sweat-shop T-shirt, or graffiti-style lettering is lazily emblazoned across promotional material for some youth initiative or other, it lends a safe and controlled dose of rebellious credibility to both consumer and producer, notwithstanding Che’s revolutionary struggle or the fact that painting graffiti is a prosecutable activity (which I’m sure those youth initiatives would have something to say about). And so the psychedelic aesthetic finds itself in the interesting position of coexisting as both an accepted part of marketing’s vocabulary, and simultaneously retaining its countercultural clout...