Parties: Who's in the coffin, Alice?

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The Independent Culture

There's a queue snaking around the block outside London's quirky Riflemaker Gallery – an appropriate verb, given they are awaiting admittance to a private view of Voodoo, an exhibition of "writers, artists and musicians who acknowledge the need to reach an altered state in order to create their work".

What's less appropriate is that there's no booze on offer to assist the private viewers in attaining a similar state. "The work's too fragile," avers gallery director Tot Taylor. "I mean, that painting alone" – he indicates a huge oil of luridly cavorting Bacchaes, which turns out to be by the man responsible for the legendarily torrid cover of Santana's Abraxas album – "is worth £4m. So we don't want any accidents."

The crowd of Shoreditch transplants (pigtails, bug-eyes), collectors (covert coats, architect-specs) and exhibitors (including Gavin Turk, Julie Verhoeven, Christopher Bucklow and Marianne Warner) take matters into their own hands, nipping out in small groups to the adjacent pub before returning to the gallery in a more suitable frame of mind.

Upstairs in the "Doll Room", Alice Anderson guards her work – a shrunken wax effigy of herself in a miniature coffin – with maternal ferocity, wincing as a punter almost knocks the Korean artist Chosil Kil's piece from its plinth. "How do I reach an altered state?" she asks. "A few sherries usually do the trick."

It's not exactly darkest Haiti, but, as a lone bluesman serenades leave-takers with a chorus of "Hoochie Coochie Man", it's exotic enough for a January night in Soho.