Relics of forgotten or obscure moments in history or culture are the raw material of Joachim Koester's work.



Supported by rigorous research, his projects create visual environments that are only suggestive of their content, allowing the viewer to take an active role in piecing the parts together. He is fascinated by the ‘obscurity of things that take place at the fringe but thrive secretly at the heart of mainstream culture’. The Hashish Club 2009 draws from the cultural history of hashish (cannabis) and comprises a 16 mm film of an abstract animation of hashish plants, a photograph of a lush nineteenth-century interior and dimly-lit Moroccan lamps. It is based on ‘Le Club des Hashishin’, a Parisian group of the late 1840s that was centred around a fascination with drug-induced experiences. Its members included key figures of the French intelligentsia, such as Charles Baudelaire and Eugène Delacroix. They convened in the lavish interior of Hôtel de Lauzun and were served the ‘green paste’ in oriental, porcelain dishes. Hashish was supplied to the club by Dr Jacques-Joseph Moreau, a psychologist who compared the effects of the drug to the symptoms of mental illness. Moreau did not use the substance himself but observed the club’s ‘volunteers’ with the detached interest of a scientist. Not all of the members were users of the drug either but they all were intrigued by claims of its ability to expand creativity and by its curious effects on people’s mental state. Some of them, including Théophile Gautier, wrote about the atmosphere of decadent extravagance nurtured by the club.