Science and Technology in Cultural Context
Tangible Spiritualities DAW 2010


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Tangible Spiritualities

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Last update: October 05, 2010, at 05:40 AM


Location: Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts → more info
Exhibition Host: Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts
Acting Curator: Yi Fan Wang & Art Clay

Exhibition Times: Friday, 2 July to Friday 16 July, 2010


In 1911 the abstract artist and metaphysical theorist Wassily Kandinsky wrote that when society is shaken: Man withdraws his gaze from externals and turns it inwards. Literature, music and art are the most sensitive spheres in which this spiritual revolution makes itself felt . . . they turn away from the soulless life of the present toward those substances and ideas that give free scope to the non-material strivings of the soul. (Concerning the Spiritual in Art or The Art of Spiritual Harmony) One-hundred years later, human culture finds itself in a similar condition. Electronic artists are now able to create virtual environments which remove traditional distinctions of interior and exterior reality. What does this portend spiritually for the practicing artist and culture at large? The Xi’an Conference will present global perspectives upon how new media facilitates the spiritual in art. These will vary from traditional notions of the religious iconographic and iconoclastic to investigations of contemporary spiritual representation and practice

Participating Artists & Scientists

Doug Jarvis (CAN)
Ted Hiebert (CAN)
Kristiina Koskentola (FIN/NLD)
Will Pappenheimer (USA)
John Craig Fremann (USA)
Art Clay (USA/CHE)
F.Scott Taylor

Blacklight Chronicles

Ted Hiebert (CAN)

The work is part of an ongoing project entitled Self-portrait Chronicles -- an exploration of alternative photographic and digital self-portraiture. The project has taken several forms over the years, from experiments with negative-image photography, multiple exposures, image projections and glow-in-the-dark paint. The overarching preoccupation of this project is an interrogation of the ways in which selves outrun their own self-representations, disappearing into the image as a form of technological metaphysics that fulfills the imaginary promises of contemporary mediated existence. The newest iteration in this exploration -- Blacklight Chronicles -- is a series of self-portraits taken while interacting with a wolf skin, illuminated predominantly with black light. Situated somewhere between enlightenment myths of personal transformation and nightmares of posthuman and postnatural living, these images are werewolf stories, confronting the awkward conflations of technology and the imagination -- and proposing a quixotic intermingling of identities as a framework for understanding the metaphysical unintelligibility of presence. If photography can still steal souls, these images ask whether it might also give them back -- not through a reducibility to self-representation, but through it's opposite, a channeling and a possession where the disappearance of representation allows for a converse moment of uncanny apparition.

Hidden Dimensions in Digipsychotropia- Second Front tests Virta-Flaneurazine

Second Front (SL), Doug Jarvis (CAN), Will Pappenheimer (USA) and John Craig Freeman (USA)

Hidden Dimensions in Digipsychotropia- Second Front takes Virta-Flaneurazine is a time-lapse series of color digital prints that document members of Second Front participating in a clinical trial of the Second Life drug Virta-Flaneurazine created by the artist-doctors, Will Pappenheimer (USA) and John Craig Freeman (USA). Second Front, one of the pioneering performance art groups in Second Life has been investigating the nature of virtual performance and the agency of avatars since 2006, and were interested to collaborate with the artist-doctors of Virta-Flaneurazine, to test its affect on their experience of entering into deeper zones of the virtual environment. The three-dimensional graphic environment of Second Life acts as an appropriate site for investigating popular perceptions/conceptions of dimensionality and space while the project, Virta-Flaneurazine, an ongoing performance created in 2007, proposes the increasing coincidence of mixed virtual, institutional and psychic realities.

The Church According to Marschall McLuhan

Art Clay (CHE) / F. Scott Taylor (CAN)

The Church According to McLuhan is a conglomeration of messages in the form of historical and modern icons. The most apparent and the one that is at the root of the design of the church is the stereotypical form of the television and the more common icon, the steps of the church, indicate an ascent in to enlightenment in the form of ultimate delusion. The television antenna itself is actually a new and more modern cross. It is ‘Cross of the Consumer’ and as expected it is in the form of a traditional TV antenna. Traditionally, the word "cross" indicates a balance of the mind and the body. The cross in its pre-Christian form had balanced parts. The Latin cross places more importance on mind over body with a vertical beam longer. The post-Latin cross, (TV-antenna) places more emphasis on the body by doubling the horizontal line. The icons are system that brings the electronic consumer the message of a “try-me-and-buy-me-world-belief” to the pinnacle of necessity: adjusting the TV antenna, or more theologically put: tuning into God as we now know it. (i.e. technology as religion.) By following the steeple from its base to its pinnacle, the viewer witnesses the metamorphoses of the television icon into the symbol for death (pre-Christian); this is seen as an ascent to the apparently real modern G.O.D. (Global Omnipresent Delusion). Versions of the church have been real and virtual. The “physical” version of the work is constructed out of wood and meshed with sorted materials that have a quality of “memory” i.e. blackboards, mirrors, phosphor panels. The virtual version of the work is created by using large prints of each of the elements of the church place on one or more walls within a light environment that modulates between black and incandescent light.

Magnetically Inclined

Doug Jarvis (CAN) & Ted Hiebert (CAN)

Magnetically Inclined is an exploration of the relationship between cognition and high powered rare earth magnets, in which we placed magnets in close proximity to our heads in order to explore aspects of magnetic induction. The first iteration of the project was an exploration of the urban geography of Victoria, BC with an eye to its potentially (magnetic) attractive qualities – and a documentation of the exploration. What results is both benign (in the sense that we are literally "sticking our heads" to various urban objects) and volatile (in the sense that there is some uncertainty as to the results of prolonged magnetic exposure). In the context of the current proposal, we would like to reproduce Magnetically Inclined to Xian, in order to speculate on the ways in which such a project might recreate itself under differing conditions of time, space, and place. The project will involve both a wandering around the exhibition space, and – ideally – a short-run installation of images derived from the performance. The project itself is based on the story of Dr. Michael Persinger, a Canadian psychologist who used magnetic stimulation of the temporal lobes to trigger a spiritual response in himself and others. And, while his experimentation was strictly scientific, the project "Magnetically Inclined" however takes a series of artistic liberties for the sake of magnetic and imaginative stimulation.

Dialogue with the Flows

Kristiina Koskentola (FIN/NDL)

Dialogue with the Flows is investigating the relationship between spirituality and the ancient medical practice of cupping. In Chinese Medicine cupping is traditionally applied to certain acupuncture points, based on the Meridian grid on the human body, as well as to those regions of the body that are affected by pain. This is to release the stagnations in the flow of the Qi, the vital energy. Cupping in Europe and the Middle East is based on humoral medicine, a belief dating to the ancient Greeks which is based on the supposition that temperament and health were related to the balance or imbalance of four "humors" in the body: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile.Instead of cupping based on the traditional points or patterns I applied the figure and the symbol of cross. Cross is one of the most ancient human symbols, used by many religions, such as Christianity. It is frequently a representation of the division of the world into four elements or the union of the concepts of divinity and the world. Dialogue with the Flows is focusing in interrelations between spirituality and ancient medicine and the metaphorical possibility to heal concepts. A concept in treatment / the subject is treated via concept.

Virta-Flaneurazine Clinical Trial

Will Pappenheimer (USA) and John Craig Freeman (USA)

Virta-Flaneurazine (VF) is a potent programmable mood-changing drug for online virtual worlds. It is identified as part of the Wanderment family of psychotropic drugs because it automatically causes the user to aimlessly roam the distant lands of worlds like Second Life. VF was developed to treat Wanderlust Deficit Disorder (WDD), or Internet Addiction as it is sometimes known, an increasingly common disorder characterized by long hours of rote repetitive Internet use and the inability of individuals to depart from their daily routines in both their physical and virtual lives. As the prograchemistry takes effect, users find themselves erratically teleporting to random locations, behaving strangely, seeing digephemera and walking or flying in circuitous paths. The *doctors/artists have developed a clinical trials program in order to test if VF is effective in treating WDD and to determine if it is safe for human consumption. The clinical trials included an installation and participatory performance that dispensed and evaluated the drug’s effects on volunteer subjects. The installation includes a reception desk, a waiting room, and a private exam area with a live online projection of virtual worlds for patient and public viewing. Visitors can observe the trial experience or participate as volunteer test subjects.

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