At Film Noir Cinema on March 19th
Magic and technology share a deeply intimate relationship to the human experience as they are both methods that use tools to gain control over nature and ourselves. The magician and the inventor both attempt to break open conventional ways of working with the forces that shape our lives. Magic is, indeed, a kind of spiritual hacking: They are opening the machine of the universe to understand how it works and bend it towards a new purpose. And when magicians and artists use technology to explore the occult imagination they reveal new ways of enchanting our lives.
Based on the research from Peter Bebergal’s Strange Frequencies, this multi-media presentation will take participants through the history of how human beings have attempted to interact with the otherworldly using technology. John Dee’s shew stones, spirit photography, and ghost radios are all examples of our capacity to re-engineer our spiritual lives. These and other kinds of occult practices require experimentation, breaking boundaries, and using devices in ways they might not be originally intended for. This desire to restore some inner agency to our own lives is also apparent recent popularity of DIY and maker culture. We are seeking enchantment and wonder in new ways and are coming to see it means pushing up against spiritual and material restrictions.
Peter will stage the fantastic with film clips, photographs, and sound recordings. Topics include: The legend of the golem; automata and the uncanny valley; magic lanterns and natural magic; spirit photography; electronic voice phenomena; and the dream machine.
The course will propose that belief in the supernatural is not required to be enchanted. Technology provides means through which we can activate that part of our imagination. Hacking is a state of mind.
Peter Bebergal writes widely on the speculative and slightly fringe. His essays and reviews have appeared in NewYorker.com, The Times Literary Supplement, Boing Boing, The Believer, and The Quietus. He is the author of Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural; Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll; Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood, and The Faith Between Us: A Jew and a Catholic Search for the Meaning of God (with Scott Korb). Bebergal studied religion and culture at Harvard Divinity School. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.