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An Experience

Interview and Portrait by Austin McManus 

Taking psychoactive substances while painting graffiti is a radical artistic approach, but when the rational part of your brain reminds you that there’s a probability of being arrested and handcuffed, the fear can creep from within. That’s one trip nobody wants to endure. For Baer, many of his most memorable and monumental pieces have been composed, can-in-hand, under the power of various entheogens. Unlike 99% of graffiti that is solely a name repeated in assorted different styles on any random surface, Baer has a penchant for addressing a litany of bizarre themes that he finds interesting, while still incorporating subtle or bold lettering. Not to say he strays away from a flood of tags and throw-ups, but his imagined worlds are unlike anything graffiti has seen to date. Subjects range from, but are not limited to, extraterrestrials, sex, religion, cults, serial killers, abductions, drugs, BDSM, shoplifting, time travel, crime, war, torture, bio-printing, corporations, metaphysics and the recurring ripping, slicing and dicing of any and all body parts. It’s complete and utter carnage: full-time, ferocious, face-melting with the occasional spiritual transcendence. 

BAER: An Experience

Austin McManus: You mentioned just returning from an ayahuasca ceremony which, for those familiar with your work, would not come as a surprise. How was that experience and what did you take away from it?
Baer: It was healing. I found resolution. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. This past year, I have been undergoing the process of rebuilding a shattered heart and soul. I thought I had met my soulmate. This trauma led me to work with the jungle medicines rapé and kambo. In conjunction with the ayahuasca, I feel that I have begun a path of healing that corporate, mainstream medical institutions have been unable to provide for me. I’m learning how to feel love again. My nervous system has been terribly damaged from spray paint inhalation, and after receiving cycles of Kambo, my bladder functions are normal. It’s magic.

Extraterrestrials are recurring characters in your work. What is it about them that holds your interest so much? Were you abducted?
We are ourselves, aliens, parasitic and primitive, but extraterrestrial nonetheless. We came from the stars, and are inherently connected with the universe and all of its beings through telepathic energy. The “metallic machine UFO” is a manmade fallacy. The real “alien” exists in other dimensions and does not require a mechanical craft to travel. Some of my female family members have a history with alien abduction throughout multiple generations. In 2011, one of my best friends, Kofin, and I had a life changing UFO experience on a small dirt road near the perimeter of Denver International Airport. At approximately 2:30 p.m., I witnessed a non-aerodynamic, pyramidal-shaped craft floating perfectly still, less than 50 feet above my head. You could have thrown rocks at it, it was so close. I pulled the car over, got out and stared in astonishment for over 15 minutes until it evaporated before my eyes. Roughly the scale of a VW bug, it appeared to be capable of holding a single humanoid occupant. Although extremely hi-tech beyond anything I’ve ever seen before, the UFO seemed to be built from earth-made materials and looked very similar to an Apple product covered in solar panel/circuit board material. Once it evaporated, we got back in the car in silence and drove home under some sort of mind control. Thirty minutes later, we snapped out of the hypnosis to discover it was now getting dark, and over five hours had passed since the initial sighting occurred. There was a substantial amount of “missing time” and “they” most likely took us. I have no memories of an abduction. The following morning, I discovered a small tumor-like growth in my arm that remains to this day. 

BAER: An Experience

Have you ever had a doctor or anyone else look at that growth?
The growth is located in the center of my left forearm. It is not a tumor or cyst, it is a small solid object. It does burrow deeper at times to avoid detection. I have had doctors look at it in passing conversation but have never had it X-rayed. I’m sure it would cost an arm and a leg to get it removed, no pun intended. 

Various religions, most noticeably Satanism, are addressed in your work, often both in positive and negative light. What’s your take on the countless religions of this planet?
I believe in the Devil as much as I believe in Christ, Allah, Buddha or Shiva. They all came from the same stories. They all came from the stars and their energies are inside each and every one of us. I am open to religion, while at the same time remaining skeptical and aware of Man’s re-appropriation of its meaning. Religion and spirituality teach love and light at the core, yet perpetuate war and hate. My relationship with Baphomet is complex, a yin and yang of masculine and feminine, positive and negative. When I do graffiti, I can feel his/her energy protecting me and directing my creative output, while at the same time, keeping me imprisoned in a self-destructive cycle. In my graffiti, I use satanic imagery as allegory. Beware of charlatans and magicians. The shackles that confine us are loose and can be easily removed from our necks, however, we choose to keep them in place. May all beings be free. 

BAER: An Experience

Psychedelics, MDMA, ketamine, mescaline and opiates have all been included in your work many times over, you obviously are a huge proponent of some of these substances. Which do you believe have been the most beneficial to you personally? 
Attempting to paint under the influence of different chemical structures has always played a vital role in my creative process. I love tripping out in sewers and abandoned buildings, sometimes getting lost in the darkness as I peek behind the veil. If used without mindfulness, entheogens can have an incredibly damaging effect on the brain and, much like graffiti, become self destructive over time. Working with DMT is different. I have been beyond the “laser show” lies, true healing, and answers. DMT saved my life and cured a devastating drug addiction in a single experience. Unlike other entheogens that are hallucinations, DMT is a technological device with its own intelligence used for inter-dimensional travel and communication with the other side. It is not a fabrication of the mind. It is the vehicle our souls use to leave our Earth vessels. The ride in the DMT UFO is the best ride a human can embark on. 

You told me an entertaining story about trying to hide from cops while on LSD and having to sit in a swamp for two hours. What other horrible trips have you had and how often do you get the fear?
Part of the psychedelic experience is fear. No pain, no gain. I haven’t had many bad experiences on entheogens but almost all of them involve graffiti and water. I don't know why I keep putting myself into frightening situations, but I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. I was once painting with Gyer in a tunnel that split two ways. I was on 500 mics of LSD and right as it really began to take hold of my mind, I wandered off on my own to explore. Far into the tunnel, I slipped down a small ramp causing my headlamp to fall off in the water and rush away into the abyss. I found my way to my feet, soaked head to toe, in complete darkness. I was shouting for help but no one could hear me! I had to navigate blindly in the blackness, completely disoriented, hugging the sewer walls to keep upright. I thought my backpack was an alligator and realized the bugs that were crawling all over me were indeed real and not hallucinations. I remained calm, but ended spending what seemed like an eternity lost in the depths of reptilian hell. It was terrifying. Luckily, I came back from that one… somewhat.

Besides creating psychological terror, painting on entheogens can also be quite amusing. Once, my best friend and primary graffiti influence, Home, and I painted “the most amazing burners ever!” While we were spraying, it felt like a music video. We were the coolest guys ever! The “masterwork” we just did looked unbelievable! The following day, after the drugs had left our systems, we eagerly returned to the scene to see the art in all its glory. What we discovered were several abstract gestural scribbles placed sporadically across the wall. It was the most hilariously toy thing I have ever seen! I suppose it was a “masterwork” in its own way. 

Terence McKenna’s writings changed a lot about how I reflect on my own psychedelic experiences. Are you into his findings or those of any other similar authors?
I enjoy exploring the ideas of Leary, Hofmann, Shulgin, Strassman, etc., but Terence McKenna is one of my biggest influences. From The Invisible Landscape to The Archaic Revival, I have read many of his books. McKenna teaches that mushroom spores can exist in the vacuum of space and were sent through the cosmos to propagate on habitable planets. The way he relates the worship of the cow in Buddhism to mushrooms is brilliant. He claims that primitive beings ingested psychedelic mushrooms and language was downloaded into their brains, automatically bridging the gap between chimp and man. Terrance was from another dimension. I am grateful to have gotten the opportunity to hear his brother Dennis lecture several times. Earthlings were lucky to have McKenna stop by the planet and bless us with some game. 

You appreciate a good conspiracy theory, yeah? What are some of your favorites? I looked up the ISS hoax you referenced because I was unfamiliar with it. I didn’t realize that was evidence for the flat Earth theory.
My favorite conspiracy involves the D.U.M.B. (Deep Underground Military Base) constructed beneath the Denver International Airport. When the airport was initially built, rumors surrounding the open Masonic symbolism and macabre murals captivated my mind and began my lifelong obsession with conspiracy theories and the search for the truth. DIA will always hold a special place in my heart. NASA is a Freemason Walt Disney film production company. If you believe that in 1969 they went to the moon in a tin can covered in aluminum foil and duct tape powered with a calculator, you are fooling yourself. The original NASA moonwalks and lunar landings are filled with cartoonish stop motion animation, jerky miniatures dangling in front of projection screens, movie sets with visible backdrop lines and astronauts flailing around on harnesses attached to helium balloons. It is absolutely insulting. NASA cons Americans out of billions a year sending Freemason “actornauts” to “space”. The ISS has some pretty good tricks with zero gravity planes, wire harnesses and CGI, but they still mess up all the time due to the “live stream.” Why, after all these years, have we never seen an “actornaut” inside the space station open up the airlock and go into space in one continuous shot? Perhaps because the “outer space” footage is shot in a giant blacked-out fish tank. 

I’m definitely no flat Earther, but all that NASHOLE footage is fake as fake. Why can’t we send man beyond low earth orbit? Monolithic moon structures? Aliens protecting the ecosystem of the universe from being weaponized by man? The Van Allen Radiation Belt? Petro fuel conglomerates keeping us 100 years+ behind in technological evolution to line their pockets? Your guess is as good as mine, but one thing is for sure, Not Actually Space Adventurers. Never A Straight Answer. 

You just had an opening for a new exhibition where you integrated black lights. The place looks wild. Can you tell me more about what you did with the space and some of the ideas behind it? You seemed pretty satisfied with the turnout and reception.
I have never had the desire to have an art show, but recently was presented with the opportunity to have full control of a gallery space. I chose to collaborate with one of my best friends, amazing artist and brother-from-another, Mean Jeans. We only had two and a half weeks to string the show together, but Jeans and I had a great time playing with different concepts for the art. We ended up throwing a hybridized rave/traphouse/freakshow made from truckloads of street litter. We called it Garbage Futurism. I watched the entire installation become a living, breathing, Baer burner complete with the usual tripped-out cast of characters. We tried to keep the promotion as low key as possible, but a small crowd of drug-fueled zombies with pupils so dilated you could fall into them had gathered outside hours before the show started. Upon opening, LSD-spawned paranoia quickly spread through the ranks of trippers as some of the prints began to sell out. 

BAER: An Experience

The frightening number of Backwoods blunts Jeans and I smoked during the construction of the installation were extinguished on all available surfaces of the artworks. Tweaked out goons scavenged through the piles of roaches looking for smokeable remains. Jon 5 was patrolling the gallery, nosing out undercovers and informants. The place was rampant with open air drug use under the cheap, thinly veiled guise of “avant-garde performance art.” I observed a man gazing intently at a neon pile of garbage while blowing a wispy plume of crack out onto a sculpture from a partially concealed crack pipe. I think it was a success.

What’s up with that bike you made? It has a remote for the lights?

He is decked out with all sorts of sequenced LEDs and blows bubbles out of his ass. His primary function is scaring small children and distracting crackheads with a light show while I’m doing graffiti in front of them.

You work with textiles as well. What other materials are you interested in working or experimenting with?
Sewing and pattern-making have become my primary form of self-expression this past year, taking over my passion for graffiti. I also enjoy welding, metalwork, casting, electronic interface, and have developed an interest in holography which fuses sculpture with laser photography. 

I really like your neon found-trash object photography. Can you explain that more?
Yeah, it is part of a new project I call Solid Waste. Sadly, Oakland resembles a post-apocalyptic wasteland of plastic junk and garbage pits. However, I find the trash piles quite interesting structurally. As the self-appointed Director of “Solid Waste Management,” I scour the streets searching for exceptional piles of rubbish. Never rearranging the trash, I only encase the heap in a coat of paint, “solidifying” it as sculpture. This found art pays homage to Duchamp's ready-made. It exists as an impulsive collaboration with the unknowing “sculptors.” These prefabricated assemblages resemble de-structuralized letterforms. Unlike graffiti, in which the primary function is longevity, through the act of highlighting the garbage in grotesque colors, the formerly unnoticed trash heaps are quickly removed by the city. It’s not an easy job, but someone has to do it. 

BAER: An Experience

What’s your take on the ocean drowning in plastic? I know you have some perspective here.
Plastic is one of the largest problems we face on Planet Earth. The Great Pacific Gyre is just the tip of the plastic iceberg. Going to the beach is depressing because everywhere you look you find plastic. People who live in landlocked areas need to wake up and get with the program. At this rate, Mother Earth isn't going to be here in 100 years. This is where the duality of Baphomet I spoke about earlier comes back into play, and there is certain degree of dramatic irony. Unless you are Andy Goldsworthy (and who wants to make pretentious crap like that nowadays?) you probably use plastic at some point in your artistic process. You can’t escape it. If you think artists aren’t ecoterrorists, you probably think NASA is real, too. Every single time I spray paint in the air, I feel like the Toxic Avenger. That is what led me to sewing more and more. But who am I kidding? Most of the fabrics I use are made out of plastic anyway. Let me step off my plastic milk crate, crack this plastic lid off a can of cancer, push down on the plastic spray tip, rattle the plastic balls around in my plastic synthetic paint and spray it out into the ozone so it can be photographed with a plastic box. The end result is the dead tree you are holding in your hand right now. It’s for art’s sake, right?

You also reference cults and serial killers, so I have to ask, what do you find so captivating about these unhinged humans of our society?
I wasted a majority of my youth in teenage angst, rotting my mind on true crime novels. I have an immense collection of books on the subject matter and never quite grew out of my attraction to the criminally insane. Some of my favorite artists also happen to be serial killers. I am not the first to draw parallels between serial killers and graffiti writers. Both are commonly known sociopaths, have uncontrollable compulsive urges, lead double lives, have no empathy for others, routinely stalk and obsess over their prey, relive the crime through photographs, return to the scene of the crime to ego trip, get off on exposure from the media, thrive off fame generated by police investigations and are raging egomaniacs. I find this fascinating and truly revealing.

BAER: An Experience

That’s spot on. So, would you consider yourself to have many characteristics of a sociopath?
Would you believe me if I said no? This turned into a therapy session real quick. I guess I walked myself into this one.

I’m trying to understand how someone like you who paints ultra-detailed pieces doesn’t actually like to draw much. And you don’t really sketch your stuff much either...
No, I never have the patience to sketch a piece. I have ADD and drawing drives me nuts. When imitating from a sketch on paper, the piece on the wall becomes lifeless. By the time I finish a four-hour piece, I feel like I’m going to blow my top. I can see what it is going to look like in my head, so there is no need to go through hell twice. The way the spray can moves freely in space without surface tension is not replicable in any medium besides airbrush anyway, and I’m no Ed Roth. 

Do you ever think you will make a run as an artist in the art gallery world? I know there are facets of that system that don’t sit well with you.

When I shed my graffiti ego completely, I could potentially exist as a real functioning artist, but I’m not quite ready for that. I’m still learning who I am. Unfortunately, the people at the top of the art world buying and selling art are the same people at the top of any of life’s other panoptic pyramids. Corporate collections. Private auctions and buyers. 110 million dollar Basquiats. These people are part of the New World Order. Same reptoid, different skin suit. The New Art World Order is ruled by the dollar, and the dollar is slavery. This is why I choose to make my art free to be accessed and experienced by all. It cannot be institutionalized or bought. This is the way I fight back. This is how I use my gift, and not every gift is a blessing.

Bless you, Baer