2016 | HD color & b&w | 16:30
In dreamlike fashion, Bicycle Day explores the clinical use of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD). The images are drawn from a variety of source materials, including news reports, documentary films about the drug’s recreational use, and filmed studies in which the controlled application of LSD was used experimentally for the treatment of alcoholism and clinical depression.
The film dwells particularly on individuals in the midst of experiencing the drug’s effects. Through this clinical purview, it pays homage to Albert Hofmann, who first synthesized LSD in a quest for a powerful psychiatric tool while working in the pharmaceutical-chemical department of Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland. The title, Bicycle Day, refers to April 19th, 1943, the day Hofmann performed the initial experiment on himself. Although he wildly overestimated the threshold dosage and experienced a harrowing trip home from his laboratory on his bicycle, Hofmann acclimated shortly thereafter and, by his own account, experienced exquisite and intense pleasures of mind and body.
The film’s music is constructed from dreamy 1928 shellac disc recordings of composer Béla Bartók playing the piano, often accompanied by the alto voice of Annie Miller. Most are the transcriptions and adaptations of Bartok’s friend, ethnomusicologist Zoltán Kodály, from Hungarian folk music and peasant songs, as well as Bartok’s own Evening in Transylvania. This mode of recording, made directly through a microphone onto a disc, allowed no editing or sound improvement, resulting in a heightened sense of human presence, an attribute that is further emphasized in the film’s soundscape through lowered pitches and other digital manipulations.