I’m now officially past the half-way point on this residency. When I started, (just eight working days ago!) I really didn’t know where the wind would take me. I certainly didn’t predict that I’d be modelling priest’s garb and positing a sort of suburban science-faith, but look at me now!
The process of taking these photos was interesting, partly because it pushed me into a role, a little bit. That wasn’t intentional, and nor was halo-like effect of the windows on my back door fanning out behind my head! I’ll get some proper lights at some point, and take some more.
Since the beginning of this project, I’ve been looking for ways to get close to the Panaceans. I’ve taken inspiration from their highly literal approach to the world, creating pixel graphics for an LED matrix that matches the image structure exactly. I’ve tried to tune into their sense of fun and their sadness with my own version of their beloved jackdaw, and I’ve found intriguing parallels to their sense of ‘unfinished business’ in the ideas of the AI evangelists of our own times.
I’ve also been working a less digital angle. As you can see, I’ve made a colourful stole and dog collar. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll recognise the collar and the trim on the stole from my fabric prints. The pattern is made up of stills from the animation on the ‘reverse cuckoo clock’ – i.e. the prophetic visions of the reincarnated jackdaw.
The idea of hand-making something from fabric came to me after viewing the costumes and clothing in the museum archive. There were dozens of delicate objects folded up in boxes: embroidery samples, the odd cardigan, tiny felt shoes from theatrical performances, and lots and lots of little hats. Not all the members were great at needlework, but they had a go anyway. I admire that; I can’t sew either, but I will give anything a try. So I’ve followed their example and created a costume of my own.
Costumes can have a slightly magical way of changing our mindset. I wonder if once we dressed as animals, not just for ‘spiritual rituals’ (usually characterised as a sort of desperately naive hope), but as a practical way to change modes. Maybe altering our appearance helped us to understand the different perspectives in a hunt?
Some people in our secular society paint religion as a child’s view of the world, something that sensible people outgrow. But what if it’s less about revelling in fantasy, and more about finding fresh routes to understanding? What if it’s a way of exercising the essential need to see things through the eyes of our friends – and enemies?
Belief and imagination are obviously related, but while it’s true that religions can offer a powerful toolkit for imagining ourselves into different scenarios, it doesn’t follow that religious beliefs are imaginary.
I wonder, can we open our minds to other worldviews through play, costume, some of the ‘physical empathy’ stuff I was talking about in a previous post? As a species, have we have ever been so spectacularly poor at putting ourselves into someone else’s shoes?