Space Pagans and Smartphone Witches: Where Tech Meets Mysticism
Dortmund, Germany – “Let’s use smartphones and tarot cards to connect with the spirits,” read the writing on the wall, published in soft ultraviolet light. “Let’s create DIY equipment to hear the invisible world.”
The mantras, printed as wallpapers, are part of the “Cyberwitch’s Manifesto” by French artist Lucille Olympus, founded in a show called “Technoshamanism”, which will run until March 6, 2022 at the heartware mediankunstvaren in Dortmund, Germany. The group exhibition, which brings together the work of 12 artists and groups, explores the connection between technology and mystical, ancestral belief systems.
In our ever-online life, the supernatural is a high-tech moment. Spirituality is all in your feed: Self-help guru Deepak Chopra has co-founded his own NFT platform, The witches are reading Tarot on TikTok, and the AI-powered astrology app Co-Star has been downloaded more than 20 million times.
Assistant Professor of Faith and Digital Ethnography at Penn State Harrisburg. Jeffrey A. Tolbert’s explanation. “Because of the potential for globalization of the Internet, people are gaining access to faith traditions that were not readily available to them before,” he said. In the United States, a growing number of people are identified as “spiritual” but not “religious,” he said, noting that the Internet has allowed those people to discover, select, and combine the most appealing spiritual traditions..
Inke Erns, curator of “Technoshamanism”, said on a recent tour of the show that even contemporary artists have recognized the widespread presence of mystical spirituality in the digital space. “I was asking myself, ‘What is this strange interest in different parts of the world, not just in reactivating ancestral knowledge but in bringing it together with the help of technology?'” She said.
Often, for artists, the answer comes down to environmental concerns, Erns said. She further said, “People know that we are in a very bad situation because of burning coal and fossil fuels. And it doesn’t stop. ” Ancient belief systems that are more in tune with nature, along with new technologies, were creating hope for artists to cope with the climate crisis, she said.
While technological advances are often seen as harmful to the environment, artists, indigenous activists and hackers are trying to reclaim technology for their own, mysterious purposes, said Fabiane Borges, a Brazilian researcher and member of a network called Tecnoxamanismo. Together they organize meetings and celebrations in which participants use devices, including DIY-hacked robots, to connect with ancestral belief systems and the natural world.
In the Dortmund show, a sense of hope shines through the many works that envision a future for humans beyond the earth. In the series “TechnoShamanic Systems: New Cosmological Models for Survival”, British artist Suzanne Trester dreams of spiritual possibilities for the survival of her species, filling a wall of the Museum of Fifty Prints.
Flying saucers and stars are presented in the Kabbalah Tree-of-Life diagram, and blueprints for imaginative scientific systems and supernatural architecture, among the clean, colorful artwork on Trister’s paper. While billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos look to outer space as the next frontier of human expansion, Trester envisions a utopian alternative: space exploration as a process that has as much role as solar power and artificial intelligence.
Many mystical practices connect communities to higher powers, Arns said, which is why many contemporary artists ’spiritual discoveries have features of outer space. “It’s creating a link between the microcosm and the macrocosm,” she added.
Technologists, of course, have discovered a more digital way to enter the new world: virtual reality. Many of the founders of VR were interested in psychedelic experiences, a common feature of shamanic rituals. (The recent boom in Aihuasca ceremonies, where participants drink psychoactive alcohol, shows that the attraction remains.) Researchers at the University of Sussex in England used VR to try to replicate the magic mushroom illusion.
In the show “Technoshamanism” in Dortmund, many works give viewers a tripy vision. Morehshin Allahyari’s VR work “She sees strangers” A terrible woman djinn magic; At the artist’s request, the VR headset is inserted into a darkened space so that the hateful spirit can be seen frighteningly on the viewer. Another task, experienced through augmented-reality glasses, weaves a spiral light path with a video hologram, guiding viewers through a ritual of meditation in a giant paper-match temple.
Instead of exploring their own virtual spiritual sites, other artists try to uncover the lost meaning of some that already exist. Tabita Razier, for example, whose website describes her as “infinitely embodied in a healing agent”, is showing film installations exploring megalithic rock circles in the Gambia and Senegal. In the film, which runs on a flat-screen TV on the museum floor, Razier explores the original purpose of the ancient sites through documentary interviews with his local parents, as well as astronomers and archaeologists. Based on arithmetic, astrology, and traditional African understanding of the universe, interviews are placed at the top of CGI visualization in outer space.
Technology and spirituality can also come together to preserve ancient cultural practices that would otherwise be destroyed, Borges said, researchers said. She recalled that at the 2016 festival organized by her network in Bahia, Brazil, teens with cellphones recorded the full moon ritual performed by members of the local community, Pataxo. Footage of Pataxo people speaking their ancient language in trans was later given to researchers at a local university working to expand the vocabulary, Borges said.
Tolbert of Penn State said that the interaction between new tools and mystical methods is evident in all kinds of mystical methods. “Technology has always been a part of spirituality,” he said, citing psychic media hosting their own Facebook groups and ghost hunters using electromagnetic field detectors. “Most of them don’t see it, I think, presenting any kind of conflict,” he added.
Perhaps, then, as the “Cyberwitch’s Manifesto” suggests, there is more common ground than expected between hackers and witches, programmers and psychologists. As Tolbert put it: “What is technology, if there is no way for a person to find answers?”
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