2 years ago, when the idea was born to set up a website dedicated to curating one psychedelic video every day, we were still skeptical about how long one could continue, and afraid that after a month or two we’d run out of psychedelic videos to post.
Today, in the second year anniversary of daily psychedelic video posts, with more than 700 psychedelic videos on the site, it seems clear that there are many more psychedelic videos out there than any of us would have dared to imagine. Psychedelic videos are not a thing of the past. In fact it is clear that more psychedelic videos are being produced these days than ever before by professional workers and independent artists alike, aided by ever improving computer technology and by the increased ability to share these videos on the web. While we have a number of classic 1960s videos on the list, most of the psychedelic videos that appear on it are from the past 10 years.
Now, with the advent of 3D screen technology and augmented reality glasses, one can only imagine what these might mean for the future of psychedelic video and media. From first impressions of psychedelic media art created for these new types of media it seems that psychedelic media is one of the artistic genres which will benefit the most from the incorporation of a 3rd dimension into media as well as from the immersive media environments which will be created by augmented reality glasses.
After 700 videos we felt that we now have a preliminary basis to create a pioneering list of the greatest psychedelic videos of all time. To our knowledge, this is the first list of its kind. While there have been some lists of greatest psychedelic films, we haven’t been able to find any list for the greatest psychedelic short videos (If you know of one, please tell us). This makes sense because before the arrival of the web and sites like YouTube and Vimeo there was no infrastructure that enabled people to share and access short clips effectively.
So this one is probably the first, and we took the selection process very seriously (indeed, some people thought almost psychotically serious). Each of the editors chose 20 videos from the total 700 videos on the site, which gave us to a list of some 130+ videos pretty cool videos. These 130+ videos were then all ranked by each editor from top to bottom. The different lists were then calculated by our data expert in Barcelona (Thanks, Amit!), and this finally gave us to the current list. Enjoy.
25. Sing Sang Sung – Air (2009)
Follow the black ball through the forest of lillypad mushrooms and seas full of diamonds. Air’s soothing sound is conjoined with psychedelically pleasant visuals in “Sing Sang Sung” and together they create a dreamy, comforting world where there is nothing to worry about. Directed by Petra Mrkyz and Francois Moriceau
24. Chris Casady – Pencil draw (1988)
Drawn on 12″ paper with black ink pens and markers, Chris Casady’s “Pencil Dance” was assembled from “pencil tests” which Casady drew during an 8 year period in his day job as an effects animator. Casady has been responsible for the special effects for many Hollywood films during the 1980s and the 1990s, the most notable of which is 1982’s Tron. Casady’s “Pencil Dance” is full with imagination and energy It was awarded Prize for first film at Annecy ’89.
23. Corner of the Sky – Cut Copy (Unofficial Music Video) (2011)
Corner of the sky shows the myriad forms of human life on planet earth, which is indeed very psychedelic.
22. Contact the Star People – Larry Carlson (2008)
Larry Carlson is one of the most original visionary artists of our days. His Vimeo page includes a wide selection of highly psychedelic videos featuring extremely bizzare content. “Contact the star people” is an eerie collection of images and sounds, which orchestrate an uncanny, disturbing, yet curiously appealing, hallucination.
21.Birdfractals in Utrecht (2011)
At some point while watching this video the bird swarms started looking like a computer animated screen saver. It took me a while to remember that it is not nature imitating computer algorithms, but algorithms that are imitating nature – or rather algorithms which are nature.
20. Pure – Blackbird blackbird (2010)
Blackbird Blackbird’s Pure video evokes altered-state imagery that will be familiar to many viewers. The black grid lines, jewel-like colors, and hints of embarkation, observation, and approach are especially redolent. The patterns integrate into the subject matter to create a formscape reminiscent of hyperspatial modalities. The visual rhythm is cohesive and masterfully executed to compliment the Blackbird Blackbird song Pure.
19.Let Forever Be – Chemical Brothers (2003)
Michel Gondry’s clip for the Chemical Brothers’ “Let Forever Be”, mixes disorienting special effects together with choreography to create a schizophrenic maze of worlds that collapse one upon each other.
18.The Devil’s Tuning Fork – DePaul Game Elites (2009)
“What if you saw the world with your ears?” Devil’s Tuning Fork is a synesthetic psychedelic first-person exploration/puzzle game “in which the player must navigate an unknown world using visual sound waves. Inspired by M.C. Escher’s classic optical illusion and the echolocation of dolphin.”
17.Big Bang Big Boom – BLU (2011)
Wall-painted animations are psychedelic in the way in which they make the environment come alive. Like psychedelics, they transform everyday landscapes into surrealistic environments teeming with bizarre and unexpected forms of life.
Big Bang Big Boom is “an unscientific point of view on the beginning and evolution of life … and how it could probably end”, and it’s one of the most amazing wall-painted freeze-frame animations we know.
16. The Holy Mountain – Alejandro Jodrowski (1973)
The Chilean director Alejandro Jodrowski, is one of cinema’s foremost occult figures. Besides producing some of the most amazing surreal works ever caught on film, Jodrowski has a worldwide reputation as a tarot reader and shamanic healer. Jodrowski’s 1973’s Holy Mountain, his most exquisite cinematic work, remains an unsurpassed masterpiece of avant-garde surreal cinema to this day. The Holy Mountain’s original trailer features an array of exceedingly potent, bizarre and surreal images to dazzle the mind
15. Superflat First Love – Takashi Murakami (2009)
Superflat First Love is the second of Takshi Murakami’s duo of Superflat commercials for Louis Vitton. (The first one landed at no. 9 on this list).
The Superflat creatures function as a kind of variation on the self-transforming machine elves which McKenna saw when he smoked DMT, inhabiting the portal of another magical reality. Murakami has a distinct ability to create gleeful colorful and highly psychedelic universes, merging them with consumerism and Japanese anime, Shinto magic and kawaii culture. It is a world in which cell phones can transport you into other enchanted universes, and if you follow the magical Superflat creatures you might just land in a different place at a completely different time.
14. Katamari Damacy – Namco Bandai Games – (2009)
The Japanese video game Katamari Damacy is one of the most psychedelic games of all time. The game, which follows a diminutive prince on a mission to rebuild the stars, the moon and the constellations, which were accidentally destroyed by his father, the King of All Cosmos, has inspired many highly psychedelic videos like this one.
13. Lion in a Coma – Ori Toor (2010)
“Lion in Coma” begins like a “normal” psychedelic video, with the familiar psychedelic principle of constantly transforming forms. Then, at around the middle, something amazing starts to happen. The balance between the abstractness of forms and their combinations into recognizable figures which keep metamorphosing back into abstract forms is kept so fine that the viewer can choose to view the figures on the screen as just abstract forms, or as figurative objects. This makes for one hell of a viewing experience when you are high. And this all culminates magnificently in the last 20 seconds of the clip.
“Lion in a Coma” was the final project for the Shenkar school by the Israeli designer and animator Ori Toor whose work seems to be very psychedelic generally.
12. Levels – Bilal (2011)
Bilal’s “Levels”, directed by Flying Lotus, is a majestically beautiful music clip, taking the viewer into a delightfully mysterious world of dreams.
11. The Taking Woodstock Trip Scene – Ang Lee (2009)
The Taking Woodstock trip scene (begins at around minute 3 of this video) is considered by many (including this author) as the most nuanced rendition of the psychedelic experience on film to this day.
Viewing this sequence, I can almost feel what the protagonist is feeling as he slowly enters his psychedelic journey. The sequence pays great attention to the gradual movement into a different order of perception: the sublime glowing of the colors, the orgasmic shivers of the skin and palpitations of the heart. It enfolds in a way which is typical for many psychedelic experiences: from the womb-like feeling of the caravan, into the magical world outside and onward into a spectacular peak experience where Jake watches the Woodstock crowd turn into one vibrating tissue and his eyes are filled with tears of awe and joy.
10. Cyriak – Hooray for Earth (2011)
With more than 65 million views and 200,000 subscribers to his channel, Cyriak is probably the most successful psychedelic after-effects artist of our time. To the world of YouTube after effects animations today, Cyriak is what Eric Clapton was to rock guitar in 1966 London. His short and extremely popular videos, known for the way in which they eerily combine simple objects like fingers or cows, and transforming them into disturbing new forms, have revolutionized the instrument of after effects and turned it into a popular form of art.
Cyriak’s “Hooray to Earth” video (Made for a song by the band “True Loves”) is special in that there is nothing hideous about it. Somebody called this clip “Cyriak meets Minecraft meets powers of 10.” The video actually features a sort of fractalic zoom through minecraft-like boxes of reality. The zoom in begins in a cosmic perspective, continues by zooming into planet earth, then zooming in to human proportions, and then into the eye of the human and further into microcosmical proportions where one encounters the same cosmic constellations within the atom again. Does Cyriak mean to tell us that all is one, or that the universe is one? I don’t know, but he certainly succeeds…
- Takashi Murakami – Superflat Monogram (2003)
A Japanese Alice in wonderland falls down the rabbit hole in search of her cellphone and lands in a bizarre world of magical brands. This amazing Superflat commercial for Louis Vitton by Takashi Murakami is the first of Murakami’s Superflat videos (The second is featured as no. number 15 on this list).
Murakami, one of the greatest artists of our time, brings psychedelia, consumerism, magic and kawaai culture closer than ever. A true gem.
8.The Music Scene – Anthony Francisco Schepperd (2010)
Anthony Francisco Schepperd is one of the most gifted psychedelic animators of our time, and the video clip he created to the Blockheads’ “The Music Scene” is certainly his masterpiece so far. Schepperd deconstructs reality into colorful vibrating splashes of color which reconstruct again into vibrating pieces of psychedelic flesh.
7. An Excrept from Fractal Philosophy – Prophet of the Subliminal Phoenix (2010)
DPV editors have seen a lot of spectacular computer visualizations in their time, but this excerpt from fractal philosophy was the only one to land in the top 50, and for a good reason. The video, by Prophet of Subliminal Phoenix is part of his experiments with fractal imagery and sacred geometric visualizations, which “infuses thematic imagery of flight and transcendence with moving mandalas” design in after effects. The result is a captivating video of harmoniously vibrating dynamic mandalas.
6.Bluberry – Jan Kounen (2004)
Bluberry is a 2004 French psychedelic spaghetti western, and one of those rare films which are psychedelic from start to finish, yet it is the famous ayahusca visions scene that became one of the most circulated psychedelic videos on the web. Director Jan Kounen participated in over a hundred Ayahuasca ceremonies with Shipibo language speakers in Peru before directing the ayahusca sequence which attempts to portray shamanic experiences authentically, even using an authentic Shipibo shaman who chants authentic icaros.
5. It’s all too much – The Beatles (1968)
The saturation of colors on the screen reaches such heights in Yellow Submarine’s “It’s all too much”, that it seems to echo the lyrics of the song.
“It’s all too much” seems to me to be a song about a state of serotonin flood in the brain, a glorious surge of joy and ecstasy. “When I look into your eyes, your love is there for me” sings Harrison “And the more I go inside, the more there is to see. It’s all too much for me to take. The love that’s shining all around you”. Love and happiness can certainly become too much when one reaches the heights of psychedelic ecstasy.
The images and sounds at the end of the clip, which close the story of Yellow Submarine, are for me the most spiritual and religious that the Beatles ever got to be.
4. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – The Beatles (1968)
John Lennon reportedly dropped around 1000 acid hits during the late 1960s, which wouldn’t have left him much time to be sober. Although Lennon initially denied that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” stands for LSD, Paul McCartney confirmed this rumor in a 2004 interview. But really one doesn’t need McCartney testimony to know who is “the girl with kaleidoscope eyes”, if one only takes a look at this video clip, taken out of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film. It starts in a psychedelically colored sea of brains which flicker consciousness maps like “patriotism” (the American stars), “Freud” “DE SADE” or “Yes-No” and continues with psychedelically flickering art-noveau styled dancers, which echo the art-noveau revival of the psychedelic sixties. Yellow Submarine lands 2 videos into the top 10 list.
3. Superflow – Viusic Piece 11 – Happyday – Ian Clemmer (2010)
I had the privilege of meeting Ian Clemmer two summers ago in Berlin and to watch this video in stereoscopic 3D. While watching it in full 3D I felt a sudden and unexpected surge of joy and pure energy sweep through my body. But even when watching it on a 2D screen, Clemmer’s animation based on the cosmic principle of “Superflow”, which he discovered, is none less than spectacular.
Clemmer can spend days talking about the Superflow principle, and its discovery, which was partly inspired by the John Whitney’s search for harmony (A video by Whitney appears in no. 47. on this list). Basically “it is a simple algorithm that works with creating hierarchy and changing the pivot point (center point of objects), and this simple algorithm makes many things possible, all within 360 degrees of rotation. At certain degrees linear harmonics are created where the initial shape is replicated or mirrored.”
Happyday is part of Clemmer’s Bachelor Thesis, which was dedicated to the Superflow principle. It is a part of a 12 video series, and you can watch the rest of those here.
2.Jeu – Georges Schwizgebel (2006)
Multiperspectivism and multi-dimensionality are fundamental motives of psychedelic aesthetics and philosophy. Radically psychedelic, Geroges Schiwzgebel’s “Jeu”, takes the viewer into a dizzying yet joyful world of ever-changing perspectives. It is in the second half of the clip that things become increasingly dynamic and chaotic, as our perception of the world keeps re-orienting itself to the changing relations of the objects on the screen.
- 2001: a space odyssey – Stanley Kubrick (1968)
“I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content. I intended the film to be an intensely subjective experience that reaches the viewer at an inner level of consciousness” said Stanley Kubrick about the closing 30 minutes psychedelic scene of his film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Back in the sixties people used to drop acid and go to the cinema just to watch the last half hour of this film. A true classic of psychedelic cinema, the final sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey leads us through inner hallucinatory terrains all the way to the cosmic embryo of humanity.
Special effects are all photographic. No CGI in this one.