Gene Greger: Psychopharmacology

  • ©,






    LightJet digital print


    25" x 33"


Artist Statement:

    This piece is based on a photograph of myself taken at a time when I was being treated for acute depression. When undergoing treatment for serious mental illness, medication can become the focal point of your life. Medication to target your illness, medication to offset the bad side effects of your primary medications, medication to sleep, medication to help you stay awake. Months and maybe years of try­ing to find medications that work and continue to work.

    Basic questions of self-identity come into play. How much of what I feel, or don’t feel, is caused by the drugs? How much by the illness, and how much by my innate personality? I am not my illness, but to what extent am I my medication?

    All of the pills comprising the image are, or were, commonly pre­scribed for mental illness; some I have been on in the past, and sev­eral I am currently taking. There are 23,373 pills in this image, taken from a unique set of 198 original images.

Technical Information:

    Custom software was written by the artist in C++ and Perl on a Macintosh to create this image. The elements used to build the image were a high-resolution photograph of the artist, and 198 unique digital images of pills. Each pill image was rotated by one degree increments, resulting in 360 images for each original pill.

    An iterative process was used to create the pill mosaic. For each iteration, a random location was chosen on the photograph. Every pill image was compared against its “footprint” on the photograph at that location and given a value corresponding to how closely it matched the underlying image. The one which most closely matched was considered a candidate for placement on an initially blank “canvas” image.

    A second value was computed to represent how completely the candidate pill would cover previously placed pills on the canvas. The two values were combined, and, if they met a pre-defined metric, the program painted the pill onto the canvas; otherwise it was rejected and nothing was done for the current iteration. For this image, the program ran through 160,000 iterations, resulting in the placement of 23,373 pills.