Words by Antti Rimminen

Psychedelia is a visual direction that is currently inspiring a growing number of designers. As new technologies allow us to explore ideas further, it is not a repetition of the 1960s but rather something completely new.

As science is something we nowadays take for granted, many of us are also more open to explore unexpected ideas that derive from spirituality and magical aspirations.

Disturbing our senses is one of the key design trends at the moment. When psychedelic imagery meets science, it can create intriguingly powerful visual messages.


Deep Dream
Eeva Suutari’s photo for Around by Deep Dream Generator.

DeepDream is an algorithm created by Google which uses a convolutional neural network to find and enhance patterns in images via algorithmic pareidolia, thus creating a dream-like hallucinogenic appearance in the deliberately over-processed images.

The software was originally designed to detect faces and other patterns like certain animals in images, with the aim of automatically classifying pictures. However, once trained, the network can also be run in reverse and be used for the basis of the DeepDream concept – creating whacky imagery. There are several websites offering the algorithm for consumer use, Deep Dream Generator being one of them.


Delusional Mandala is a 16-minute short film by Chinese artist Lu Yang. She created a digital avatar of herself, and the film shows a full cycle of life: From the birth of a digital humanoid to religious enlightenment, aging, body’s fall into decay, death and post-mortal rituals – all in a strange universe of surreal delusions.


PARADISE by Studio Smack is a contemporary interpretation of one of the most famous paintings by the Early Dutch master Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights.

The group cleared the original landscape of the middle panel of Bosch’s painting and reconstructed it into a hallucinatory 4K animation. The creatures that populate this indoor playground embody the excesses and desires of 21st century Western civilization. Consumerism, selfishness, escapism, the lure of eroticism, vanity and decadence. All characters are metaphors for our society where loners swarm their digital dream world. They are symbolic reflections of egos and an imagination of people as they see themselves – from a horny Hello Kitty to a coke hunting penis snake and headless fried chickens.

In this animation loop that could also be described as a synthetic fresco, the picture is never the same. What the animation and Bosch’s triptych have in common is that you’ll hardly be able to take it all in, you can watch it for hours.

With the full ARS 17 starting in one month at Kiasma in Helsinki, some psychedelia can also be viewed at the online exhibition ARS 17+ which is open already. See “Oh The Humanity” by Jon Rafman among others on the Ars 17+ website.