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African Shrine 2035

African Shrine 2035

Installation of an altar inspired by afro- Brazilian spiritual practices. It borrowed references from afro- futurism and post- apocalyptic futures commenting on the debate emerged around the post- digital and its traces of exhaustion.

It comprised of an opened plinth with a homemade sad box resting on top of it, selected props and a sound file played from a pair of headphones.

A vase with dried lavender twigs, a sim card, a mobile phone sd card, a mobile phone battery, a found feather, a piece of paper with a pinch of bronze powder. At the front, from left to right, a dried beancurd piece rested next to sticks of cinnamon tied up by an audio cable. A small cushion was place in front of it to invite audience to kneel down and experience the altar. Some shavings of yum were placed on the floor, by the altar as something that could be used regularly by the user during meditation sessions.

Cultural and spiritual elements tensioning with technological, communication and online networking practices point out to times when they could become inseparable. Lavender and yum are present elements in African practices, while beancurd is more common in Chinese culture. China also being where the vast majority of electronic devices are currently produced and disposed shifting the whole country from a strong spiritual tradition to deal with world's consumption demand for electronics.

The sound file was designed using an electromagnetic microphone to record an electric cooker, a boiler, a lift and an external hard drive as well as wind and voice. The idea was to explore electrical/electronic sound sources already observed in our digital everyday to produce an ethereal soundscape that reminded the cliche of what Heaven sounds like.

The main issues about this first version were negotiating the space with another artwork that displayed sound and moving images. I had initially thought this piece should be alone in a room and without the use of headphones, but the constraints of sharing a small room and having to use the headphones, made me think of the cushion, which effectively allured spectators to kneel down and have a more intimate experience of the altar. I placed the altar in a corner opposite to the other artist's artwork and the headphones and cushion helped to involve the spectator and block any influence of the other work in the room, which had open sound and projectors' luminosity.

During the critique some questions were raised about the strong light coming from the sad box, which felt uncomfortable to the eyes and clashed with the arguably calming effect the sound induced. I counterpoint this statement by saying that my intention was never to create a therapeutic piece, but to reflect on ideas of future spirituality in the context of a heavily technology mediated age. I then, inquire the cliches of spirituality, engaging with globalization of techno- scientific culture and hypothesizing a future for spiritual practices.

In forthcoming showing opportunities, I also consider to explain the process of production of the sound file, detailing the kind of recordings used rather than only displaying the title, date and list of materials on the label.

Sound Installation shown at the Project Space in the Fine Arts Department, Newcastle University
24- 27 Feb 2015

Exhibition statement

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