Sunday, November 20, 2011

heartbeat in the brain

"On a Sunday afternoon in December 1970, Aman­da Feilding drilled a hole in her head. "Drilling a hole in one’s head is really a nerve battle, doing something which obviously e­very instinct in your body is against. In a sense it’s quite satisfying that one can overcome one’s nerves to do it." The film, titled Heartbeat in the Brain, shows her shaving her hairline, putting on a floral shower cap to keep back her remaining locks, fashioning a mask out of sunglasses and medical tape, injecting herself with a local anesthetic, and peeling back a patch of skin with a scalpel. With a look of determined, almost trance-like concentration, Feilding then holds a dentist’s drill to her head and, pressing the foot pedal that operates it, begins to push its grinding teeth into the frontal bone.

"When she finally managed to bore through to the dura mater, Feilding grinned triumphantly as a geyser of blood gurgled from the half-centimeter-wide opening and poured down her face, spotting the white tunic she was wearing with carnation-sized stains. A reviewer who saw Feilding’s film in 1978, when she showed it at the Suydam Gallery in New York, reported that at the climax of the operation several members of the audience fainted, "dropping off their seats one by one like ripe plums." The film ends with footage of Feilding bandaging her head and mopping up the blood from her face with water and cotton wool. She changes out of her bloody tunic into a colorful Moroccan kaftan and wraps a shimmering gold turban around her head to disguise the bandages. Looking glamorous, bohemian, and elated, she smiles goodbye to the camera and heads off to a fancy-dress party." 

"To my subjective experience I thought at the time that it was rather like the tide coming in," she explains, "I felt a certain peace, it felt like a return, like I was rising in myself to a more natural level. But obviously one can say that that was a placebo, one can never tell with such a subtle feeling." Feilding first encountered the idea of trepanation at the age of twenty-three, when she met an eccentric and handsome Dutchman named Bart Huges, who was an advocate of the benefits of the procedure. She admits to having thought it "a bit freak" at first: "Bart quite changed my viewpoint," Feilding says, "opening up doors of science and biology to me. He was very charismatic, we had a great love affair, and I was curious to see if what he said was true."

"Feilding ran for British Parliament twice, on the platform 'Trepanation for the National Health' with the intention of advocating research into its potential benefits, but received few votes (40 in 1979 and 139 in 1983). 35 years later, she is funding this research at the Through the Beckley Foundation, Feilding is engaged in a programme of research using psychedelics as tools to alter consciousness. In 2007, her LSD study on consciousness was one of the first involving LSD and human participants since the late 1980s."

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