Reflections on Euphoria: Mike Perry - ELEPHANT

We ask artists about their experiences with euphoria, finding out what it looks, feels, sounds and tastes like, and how they evoke it in their work. The second in a series of six.

Mike Perry, We Leave the Canvas, 2018. Courtesy of the artist

Mike Perry is an Emmy Award-winning animator working out of Brooklyn, New York, where he also makes paintings, sculptures, books, public art, monographs, and silkscreens.

I was so stoked to go to art school. It blew my mind. I just didn’t know that you could go to school and make art as “a thing” before that. I would paint all day. It was the first time in my “art life” where, suddenly, I was allowed to make stuff all the time. I definitely pushed myself a lot.

“It was as though I was flying… looking down on the beautiful, glowing Earth, this perfect planet”

I didn’t do any drugs at all. I did drink a little bit, but not really. I was pretty square. I stayed up a lot, too much, not getting a lot of sleep or not sleeping very well as a consistent lifestyle.

I had a studio at school, it was like a little cubicle. One night, I was really busy in the middle of something, and I was sitting underneath my desk. It was probably around 2am. I can’t remember exactly what I was going through, but I closed my eyes and all of a sudden I had this out of body experience where I saw myself floating in space. It probably only lasted for 30 seconds, but in my head, it felt like ages.

Mike Perry, The Systems are Complex, 2019. Courtesy of the artist

It was as though I was flying so high up that I was looking down on the beautiful, glowing Earth, this perfect planet. I could only hear the vacuum of space: I’m sure it was just the sound of my studio, or probably the air conditioner blowing in the background or something, but in that moment, I felt the connection between every human on the planet. It felt like knowing what it takes to unify the planet and have a context for it. We’re all in our little spaces: I’m in my space here, someone else is in their space there, and someone else is far away. But ultimately, we are all on this planet together.

Mike Perry, We See Faces in Everything. Courtesy of the artist

That moment and feeling helps me remember that there is this a giant world out there, it’s not just me. It gave me that perspective, and it also really made me feel empathy for everybody. I think as humans we have a tendency to go inward very easily and forget that there are other people. That’s an important thing to remember: I’m making in my own little hole, my own vacuum, but this thing that I’m making is a part of the world, so it needs to be connected to it. I told my friends about what happened and everyone was like, “You’re insane.”

Since then I’ve had plenty of psychedelic experiences which bear some similarity, but this was different. It was one of the most influential moments of my life. It’s stayed with me ever since: I still think about it all the time.

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