Reflections on Euphoria: Tai Shani - 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 third in a series of six.

London artist Tai Shani creates performance, film, photography and sculptural installations inspired by experimental texts and fantastical worlds. 

I feel euphoric often. It’s quite banal but there are certain images that make me feel euphoric, particularly at dusk. I read somewhere that when lightbulbs first became commercially available, there were all these think pieces about how it would spell the end of civilisation. They argued that the unnatural light would take away the gradual shift at dusk, and the contemplative aspect of that daily transformative process would be disrupted and lost. That’s something I think about a lot.

“Feeling euphoric to me is being in love with the world”

Euphoria and joy, similarly to trauma and more violent or negative experiences, have this very intense affect; they inhabit similar places. I feel there are these experiences that sit at the outer extremities of the ability to talk about them in language, or to reproduce them in a compelling way. Many of the characters that I write, and the root of the writing that I do, is to somehow chronicle all of these experiences that are very intense. I try to effectively create spaces that have that kind of intensity embedded within it.

In my work, the idea of the intense experience could really be euphoria, but in one of my pieces I call it love. It’s Eros and Thenatos, the dark and the light, love and death. Feeling euphoric to me is being in love with the world, or the part of the world that you are communing with at that moment. It’s spiritual, or maybe it’s just very fundamental. They’re almost like houses, love and euphoria: they’re families of reactions, responses or evocations, even on a cellular level.

“Dancing, music, ritual… there are all sorts of strategies that people have to provoke a euphoric response”

One moment when I felt really euphoric, I went swimming in a river in a remote part of Portugal with friends, and the way the sun was placed in relation spatially to the water, it was incredible. It’s often to do with these moments: encounters with affective things. There are experiences that trap you in a moment and others that are more pragmatic, where there’s a reason to be euphoric, rather than a set of coordinates that align themselves, like seeing the reflection of a traffic light on the leaves of a tree at dusk against a luminescent sky.

Connectedness is really amplified in psychedelic experiences, and some of the euphoria comes from that sense of connection. It locates yourself, or it locates some interface of subjectivity in a huge network, an eternal network, that is not only geographic but temporal as well. There are lots of mystical and spiritual practices that are all about reaching a euphoric state. Dancing, music, ritual… there are all sorts of strategies that people have to provoke a euphoric response. Euphoria is when you can feel instrumentalised by something that transcends your subjectivity a little bit.

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