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Maciej Toporowicz – The Art Of The Drugs Of War

Words:

Edd Norval
June 14, 2019

Maciej Toporowicz's artwork has always invoked violence, but none with the subtle energy of his 'Speed' collection. The title pretty much tells you the two focuses of this work - drugs and movement, namely the movement of screaming fighter jets and bodies on the frontline.

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There is a long history of drug use in warzones, from hallucinating Vikings to being high in Vietnam. These chemically altered states-of-mind has changed the psychological landscapes that wars are built on and participated in. It takes a lot to run head first into loads of other people when they have swords and shields, but not if they look like cuddly teddy bears and the ground is lava. This would be an impossibility if it weren't for the Vikings use of hallucinogenic drugs before running 'berserkly' into battle.


These vikings consumed the hallucinogenic fungus 'amanita muscaria' as they charged in their Odin-inspired bear skin outfits. Consumption of the fungus allowed them to immerse themselves in the mythology and religion that they lived their sober lives dedicated to. They were after blood and Valhalla and would do anything to get it.

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More recently there's been the use of hash and grass in the Vietnam War, which is seen as the first 'pharmacological war', that allowed the soldiers to keep going with this vice as somewhat of a reward. It would be a lie to say that this war was the first though. The real drug that got people going was methamphetamine, used vicariously in World War 2 by the Japanese kamikaze fighters and the German Nazis.


It's this subject that concerns Toporowicz in his acrylic depictions of the packages that methamphetamine came in during the war years. The clinical precision and perfection of the paintings give them a glossy David Hockney feeling. An image that belies the darker story behind the subject matter.

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In truth, without the use of methamphetamines in the war, everything around us might look rather different. Without them, Hitler might have have been less aggressive, but he also wouldn't have burned out so quickly - less rage and less maniacal, but spread over a longer period of time. There mightn't have been Kamikaze fighter pilots, smashing their places into docks and ships completely out of their minds on meth. Why else would anyone do that?

The commonplace designs on the packaging make them look like headache tablets, branded to be sat on the shelf beside some aspirin - entirely undermining the fact that they managed to drive some of the most destructive chapters in human history. Drugs in war is nothing new and it'll probably never change much. Toporowicz is drawn to the dark sides of the human psyche, previously having taken on serial killers and car-crashes. These images are often outwardly obvious or violent, their evil is plain for all to see. With this collection though, they are innocent, simple, plain and their evil is deceptive. It's maybe this naivety, masking the true and hidden danger, that makes this his scariest project yet.

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