Winter Project Space Exhibition
Phillip Andrew Lewis: SYNONYM
On view: January 14–February 18, 2018
Opening Reception: Sunday, January 21, 4–6PM
Stay for dinner! Sunday Supper event starts at 6:30PM—learn more
Working across disciplines, Tennessee-based artist Phillip Andrew Lewis explores narratives around the War on Drugs, experimental addiction treatment programs, utopian dreams, and institutional structures. From 1989 to 1991, Lewis was held against his will inside an unmarked building as part of an experimental government drug rehabilitation program that used extreme methods of sensory deprivation and systems of control, while employing cultic methodologies. It was one of only a few such treatment centers in North America, all of which have been shut down and remain mostly unknown today. Lewis’s SYNONYM project uses installation, photography, sculpture, video, and performance to trace the history of the now-defunct organization and re-create the experience. Through literal and metaphorical processes of reconstruction, the project immerses the audience in the role of a participant.
Lewis’s project has layered connections to Bay Area history. SYNANON, the original group his project is based on, was formed in California in the 1950s and expanded internationally before dissolving in the early 1990s. San Francisco played a key role in its growth, and the group eventually acquired a large compound southeast of the city. SYNANON created the self-help model for rehabilitation, but eventually became highly controversial and fell into a series of legal battles. Offshoot programs such as Straight, Seed, and Second Chance were formed to take its place, aimed primarily at teens and young adults. Lewis was held in one of these descendant programs.
Lewis developed SYNONYM while an Artist in Residence at Headlands in the summer of 2017.