Welcome back to another round of ‘Gone Trippin’. November has come and my (semi) successful shroom harvest is complete. My little victory against the powers that be is not the only major win lately. For the first time, one can honestly say drugs are winning the War on Drugs. In last week’s election marijuana was legalized in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Elsewhere DC decriminalized magic mushrooms while Oregon decriminalized hard drugs. More and more advocacy is destigmatizing the understanding of drugs in our culture and lives. Through the work of art, education, and science, people are now re-establishing their relationships with drugs and mental health.
One such person passionately and openly leading the way in the psychedelic community is Baltimore-based video artist Chrysantilus. Founding the web series “Psychedelic Sessions” in tandem with Baltimore’s Beet Trip, Chrysantilus has fostered a digital platform that merges experimental music against a trippy backdrop. Creating an intricate weave of eclectic colors and chaotic imagery, the beat makers and DJs featured on the show have a background of an assortment of ever changing visuals that align with the sounds they are producing. What’s more, the Black artist is featuring Black musicians of color, a people historically oppressed and destroyed by the anti-Black War on Drugs. Until very recently, psychedelics were a taboo and stigmatized concept, with only recent major acceptance of “white boy drugs”. Advocates like Chrysantilus are taking major steps to bring their talents and viewpoints into mainstream pop culture.
GSC favorite JWords recently appeared on “Psychedelic Sessions” bringing her chaotic footwork beats and trippy experimental sound to Chrysantilus’s platform. An auteur, Chrysantilus creates the full trippy visual backdrop for “Psychedelic Sessions” entirely on her own. Her hands-on DIY process is similar to Relaxed Uterus Project, though the artist mission and musical collaborative focal point is much different.
Over our FaceTime interview Chrysantilus and I discussed “Psychedelic Sessions”, the therapeutic nature of all psychedelics, and the powerful experience of Burning Man. Check it out below.
J. bb: Who are you and how do you identify?
Chrysantilus: My name is Emily, but I am a video artist, actor, director/writer, but I usually call myself a video artist. I identify primarily as Black and queer and I use she/her pronouns.
J. bb: What was your first psychedelic experience?
Chrysantilus: My first psychedelic experience was on a birthday of mine. I won’t say which one, but it was a lovely time with friends who had already previously gone to that realm, that space. The biggest takeaway for me was that I could not believe what I was feeling at that time and that it was just a mushroom the entire time. I just kept asking my friends, “this is literally mushroom and there are people at bars right now drinking alcohol and this is literally mushroom?” They were just like, “yeah” and were explaining entheogens and that sort of thing. I waited awhile to try any kind of substance, even like cannabis. I waited until my late teens to try cannabis. Like I think most people try their early teen years.
J. bb: I was 16 when I first smoked.
Chrysantilus: You’re supposed to wait until after 21 apparently for your brain chemistry, but I don’t know. We let kids have a little wine for religious gatherings at Church.
J. bb: I was in 8th grade sipping in the Church for sure. You host the ‘The Psychedelics Sessions’ pairing trippy visuals with 15 minutes worth of trippy sounds. What first inspired the creation of this platform?
Chrysantilus: The biggest inspiration for “Psychedelic Sessions” was Baltimore producers, specifically those who play Beet Trip, as well as the freestyle rappers. We’re hoping to get freestyle rappers on future seasons of the show, or future rounds, but I was mostly inspired by Beet Trip and I reached out to them because the organizers are friends of mine. I was like, “let’s capture Beet Trip in a green screen studio. All of the Beet Trip producers. Let’s capture it. And I will pair trippy visuals behind it and y’all don’t have to pay me anything. I’ll do this completely for free”.
So it was fully in the spirit of collaboration and all of these folks took an entire day of their life to film this with so much trust in me that I would deliver. I was inspired by Baltimore’s mostly DIY music scene. We also had a California producer and a New Jersey producer JWords. Just the trust and the bond of our friendship and the collaborative spirit. I named the show “Psychedelic Sessions” for the purposes of destigmatizing that word and normalizing connotations of psychedelics, especially with musicians and artists.
In regards to “Coming out of the Psychedelic Closet” I think it’s important work that many of us in the community have to do, if we’re privileged enough to. I noticed that when a lot of kids think something is cool nowadays they’re like, “that’s trippy” and I feel like that change linguistically represents the direction we’re headed into.
J.bb: What do you find so fascinating about merging the sonic and visual world when tripping?
Chrysantilus: I love to make music videos. That’s like one of the biggest genres I’ve explored as a director. I downloaded this program that is a hyper music visualizer and I wasn’t getting any use out of it. So I was like, “okay I need to take this program and get use out of it,” and my mission and goal of most of my projects is to uplift the voices of my friends and Baltimore artists so I felt like combing the visuals that I have and the friends that I have together were the best ways to accomplish those creative goals. And also, you get a whole entire different trippy experience versus just watching a DJ or producer make beats. For a lot of people they don’t have the attention span to watch typical or traditional musical performances. I have ADHD myself so I’m hyper aware of that with everything that I make. I wanted to make something that folks would have the attention span for and the visuals helped. My YouTube analytics have confirmed that for me.
J. bb: When did you get into filmmaking?
Chrysantilus: I think I’ve been into making videos since I was in middle school. The first short films I made were in middle school.
J. bb: What were they about?
Chrysantilus: Some of them were adaptations of books that I was reading in class. Some of them were faux documentaries of like my class trip to Assateague Island, like field trips. They were all over the place.
J. bb: You probably would have loved TikTok as a middle schooler.
Chrysantilus: Yeah, but also I’m glad that I didn’t have the pressure of those things while I was in middle school.
J. bb: I know the race to have the most views is an intense thing to have going on.
Chrysantilus: I feel like I would be easily exhausted by it.
J. bb: Do you have any favorite psychedelic artists in any medium?
Chrysantilus: I’m into mostly visual psychedelic artists. I think it’s such a wide range of art because a lot of experimental art is pretty psychedelic. One of my favorite experimental artists is Eric Andre of the Eric Andre Show on Adult Swim. It’s like one of my dreams to work with and in Adult Swim as a psychedelic artist. Aside from Eric Andre, all the typical examples of Alex and Allyson Grey and friggin’ Dr. Bronner labels, and all my Burning Man psychedelic artist groups. I went up to CoSM. CoSM stands for Chapel of Sacred Mirrors and it’s Alex and Allyson Grey’s, they call it an art church. They are building a chapel and an entire church devoted specifically to visionary artists and they’re raising the money to do some of the stuff right now, like this place called Entheon. There’s like a house, like an inn, like a mansion that you can stay in. I stayed off-campus, but it’s just an incredible time going up to CoSM. They’re psychedelic visionary artists who encourage that spirit in other folks. It was a really fun time. It was like a house party, but your mom and dad were there and everyone was like gathering around them and were really interested in what they had to say. They are some of the folks and this artist Amanda Sage who I also saw at Burning Man last year. Those are some folks who immediately pop into my mind because they were the introductory folks into this entire world.
There’s also a museum in Baltimore called the American Visionary Art Museum. They have a lot of other psychedelic artists too. It’s like my favorite museum to go to.
J. bb: How is Burning Man? ‘Cause I hear all types of different things about it. Is it worth the trip?
Chrysantilus: Oh yeah. I went to Burning Man the first time because my creative community kinda sugared me there. It was really super sweet of them. I didn’t pay for travel, I didn’t pay for a lot of things, I mostly just paid for my ticket. You have to know how to handle yourself and handle yourself on substances if you want to have a sustainable burn. Basically none of my friends did that so by the end of the burn they were completely done and by the end of the burn I was very much like, “oh my God, I have to come back to Burning Man.” So the next year I did. I came back basically by myself last year and it’s so worth it. I would be a completely different person than I am today if I had not seen the things that I’d seen at Burning Man or had gone there, but some people do have really dangerous times out there. It’s all about prioritizing harm reduction first and the anarchy of it second.
J. bb: I feel like people don’t talk about harm reduction and psychedelics a lot, but it’s definitely very important. Do you prefer to trip in nature or trip at shows? Burning Man seems like the happy place of both.
Chrysantilus: Burning Man is my favorite place in the world to trip. It’s as close as a thing we have to real virtual reality. Existing in a space where you are your own avatar, wearing whatever you want, you can go hike and see and do whatever you want, but tripping at Burning Man will become a coming of age experience for the next psychedelic generation. I’m a young Burner too. Most Burners are in their 30s.
J. bb: Have you explored any of the therapeutic aspects of psychedelics?
Chrysantilus: I don’t fully buy into the term recreational for any psychedelic. I think that all psychedelics are inherently therapeutic. When we put the recreational label on things for the most part it serves to stigmatize the use of that. Everybody who is using psychedelics is getting something therapeutic out of it. So that being said, yes I have but I’ve also done that with extreme intention. I say this about Burning Man and psychedelics. I’m like a completely different person than I was before I started tripping and after.
J. bb: How has taking psychedelics inherently changed you?
Chrysantilus: I’d say before I had this very much kind of what my mom called contrarian energy about myself. I was really fascinated and interested in furthering my own interests and that sort of thing. I was more into organized religion and now I am not religious at all. Partaking in plant medicine for the first time expanded my mind, expanded my worldview, and showed me that I need to get into actual organizing and actual change making. It made me care about all these things that before I only had a superficial, suburban caring or understanding of. It really changes you. All of the dark cloud energy that we harbor or that we hold onto, you get to microscope in on the fact that that dark energy is a tunnel vision and what it does is expand your tunnel. You have to integrate stuff if you actually want to change. It’s all about integration. Do you know Ram Dass? Ram Dass’ guru said something along the lines of, “psychedelics can take you to a room where Jesus is and Buddha is and Mohammad is. Everyone’s there, but you only get to stay in that room for 3-5 minutes. The rest of the work you have to do is you.”
J. bb: How often do you trip these days?
Chrysantilus: I haven’t been tripping since the summer. More like seasonal waves for me. Right now I’m working on a streaming show so I haven’t tripped in at least a couple months cause I’m like super hyper professional mode, birthing out the show “Psychedelic Sessions” because I do all the editing for that. It’s just me, I don’t have a team or anything. I’m more so a seasonal tripper, but sometimes even if I do it once or twice a year I still get so much out of it.
J. bb: Do you have any trip essentials like certain snacks or routines?
Chrysantilus: Not everyone is necessarily in a solid place to trip in their life. Essentials is like two solid weeks of being in a pretty good mood and feeling solid. A solid setting. For me it’s a place you can have a dependable bathroom, a place you can return indoors easily, that sort of thing. And do it with people you trust and you love. For me that circle is actually very small of folks who I let into that world of mine and experience that with. But I have heard so many stories of people tripping with friends that they don’t like or don’t trust and it’s just like all of that stuff will come alive in the most horrifying way during the trip. I’d say solid friends. An essential is also to make playlists and stay really hydrated. Have your Brita bottle ready to go.
J.bb: What’s the trippiest part of Baltimore?
Chrysantilus: Baltimore is literally mushroom city. I am sometimes worried that I want to get into the entertainment industry and sometimes it’s like, “should you be living somewhere else?” But I actually want to live in the psychedelic heart of America if I am going to live in America. I recently read Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind and Baltimore is one of the most mentioned cities because of the psychedelic research that goes on at Johns Hopkins. They’re opening a center pretty soon that’s going to be the first center for psychedelic research and study. Across all ages you’ll find folks who use psychedelics. If you look at Baltimore’s art and Baltimore’s visual art or even the American Visionary Artist Museum you will clearly see the psychedelic influence on Baltimore and Batlimore’s art.
J. bb: I feel like visionary is another term for psychedelic in olden terms.
Chrysantilus: It’s fascinating because some folks refer to visionary artists as untrained artists or someone who didn’t classically study the arts. And other folks like Alex and Allyson Grey refer to visionary art as art that’s been channeled through them, especially the psychedelic experience.