Headlands Center for the Arts

Winter Project Space Exhibition

January 14—February 18, 2018

Opening Reception

Sunday, January 21






Project Space

Phillip Andrew Lewis: SYNONYM 

January 14–February 18, 2018
Free and open to the public Sunday–Thursday, 12–5PM 

Gallery Activations at Headlands: Sundays, January 14–February 18, 2PM
With guests Delancey Street Foundation, ERIE, Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, Setting Sun, and Threshold Choir
(Gallery activation on January 21 is at 4PM)

Opening Reception: Sunday, January 21, 4–6PM (gallery activation at 4PM)
(stay for dinner! Sunday Supper starts at 6:30PM—learn more)

Working across disciplines, artist Phillip Andrew Lewis investigates the attractions and dangers of group psychology, exploring narratives around experimental addiction treatment programs and institutional structures. In the late 1980s, when Lewis was a teen, he was held against his will in a drug rehab program that used extreme methods of sensory deprivation and cultic mind control, an offshoot of the anti-drug society known as Synanon. Based on five years of research into the disbanded organization, Lewis’s SYNONYM project uses photography, sculpture, video, and performance to explore and re-create his experience.  

Filling the entire third floor Project Space at Headlands, SYNONYM immerses the audience in the role of a participant. The gallery experience includes several installations—such as an enormous chandelier equipped with microphones—photographs of Synanon artifacts, and weekly gallery activations by local groups.  

Founded in 1958 in Santa Monica, Synanon eventually expanded key operations to Northern California, acquiring real estate in San Francisco, Oakland, Tulare County, and Marin County (the Marconi Convention Center was originally a Synanon property). The group created the self-help rehabilitation model for narcotics addition before falling into controversy in the 1970s and dissolving in 1991.  

Lewis developed SYNONYM as an Artist in Residence at Headlands in the summer of 2017.