Translating Futures

24.09.19

TATE Exchange | TATE Modern

Maya hope chaldecott, sophie mei birkin, hermione spriggs, deborah tchoudjinoff and raffaella fryer-moreira

Curated Collectively BY THE MULTIMEDIA ANTHROPOLOGY LAB

UCL Multimedia Anthropology Lab present a ritual engagement with technologies of capture and perspective exchange. 

 

We say yes to holy worlds in pixel form.

 

Divinity can manifest itself in the form of technological media. In this object seance, we ask how ways of seeing and believing encode themselves in technological objects, and how these objects in turn give us access to worlds beyond our own. 

VR AS CONTEMPORARY RITUAL ENVIRONMENTS

The VR-makers in Hope Chaldecott's work  seek to control many of the same conditions as in traditional ritual settings, such as transitions from light to dark (induction), queasiness with psychoactive substances (enhancing susceptibility), distance from the body (change of state) and liminality. 

Hope Chaldecott's womb film seeks to place the ritual-participator in a universal threshold to realise ritual anthropologist Victor Turner’s theory about liminality, allowing simultaneous reflection on social hierarchy and also a sense of ‘communitas’ - humanity more or less.

 

The lens of ritual, VR studies can give us a new way to examine VR as an ‘empathy machine’ as it has been acclaimed in Silicon Valley.

RITUAL AS TECHNOLOGY

There is continuity between earlier technologies of belief , such a ritual objects and places of worship, and digital technologies of belief. It is therefore important to understand contemporary technological practices as situated within a context of historical and cross-cultural technological practices - the digital is not as new as we think it is.  

 

Material objects have always played a crucial role in daily practices of belief/religion - indeed, all our historical understanding of early spiritual practices come from archeological evidence of technologies and techniques of ritual and belief. Writing, for instance, is an early technology that has played an important role in systems of belief (and indeed vice versa - for instance the role of King James Bible in the standardization of english language and the spread of reading as a technique). Reading and writing (as technical skills) have shaped the growth of contemporary belief systems. 

 

Pixels are not substantially different from writing. If holy words can be written, then they can be pixelated.  

POWER AND TECHNOLOGY: TRANSLATING FUTURES

Hyphen-Labs at the TATE Exchange are exploring the power behind technology. The history of religious belief sheds light on the role of technology in sustaining relations of power, both in political and religious institutions. By understanding the historical context through which contemporary technology and religious practices have emerged, we can make visible the dynamics through which power is sustained, and may gain insights into how art can intervene. 

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