This last weekend I spoke at EMF on “Computational Alchemy”. Thtalk was really well received and despite the timings not going quite how I intended, I’m really quite happy with the result, along with some of the other things I saw and did.

Cultural Context

Generally feedback was really positive, including the constructive criticism: I was approached afterwards by someone who had converted to Judaism and very bravely and gently suggested that I might want to talk more about the differences between Kabbalah and Hermetic Qabalah, particularly given the history of Christian Cabala (a.k.a. Kabbalah with Jesus hamfistedly bolted on to Tiphereth) in coercions to convert Jews to Christianity. Which is to say that forms of syncretized Kabbalah have been used in an anti-semetic way.

I found this to be very fair criticism personally. I’d wanted to make more of a point of separating out Hermetic Qabalah and Kabbalah itself but had kind of screwed up the timings so had to rush past it. I wasn’t previously aware of the cosmology having been used as a tool of this sort of behaviour, but I was aware of the forced conversion of Jews in Spain at least from having read Owen Davies' “Grimoires”.

I feel that if you’re going to engage in syncretism then you need to be aware of how some forms of syncretism are a subversion more than they are a celebration, and when presenting that to an audience this point needs to be made. I at least managed to make it clear that my iterations are iterations upon an interation which does not accurately reflect the source material, and that’s fundamentally part of the exploration in it’s own right.

Computer Church

There was an installation made from several old computers and a Microsoft Kinect in a shipping container which reactively played music and visuals based on movements it detected. Now personally I preferred it when it didn’t detect movement, because one of the first things I said to the artist was “It’s so nice to see some computers enjoying themselves without people ruining it”. The music as well was ambient, evocative and I suppose a little bit religious in a sense, and walking in to the place I was washed over with a sense of calm and oneness.

So I think I want to do an installation or unofficial event next time: Computer Mass. With some old computers as set dressing (or an altar if you like), I’d like to come up with a secular religious ceremony that presents the iconography and lore of computing, kind of in reference to the comfort that we all find in it. I made allusions to this on social media and I think people are up for it, which would be great!

Part of this is in response to the general state of community contribution as well. As part of the Scottish Consulate village where we had someone cooking up deep fried buckfast and giving it away, the Scottish Drinking Experience, contributions to WhiskeyLeaks and essentially running a DnB night every evening out of our (quite frankly incredibly shonky) tent as DJ’d by some other members of the community, it was easy to see how much that contribution matters but also where it’s lacking. I like the idea of providing some real fringe stuff that might not make it in the grand scheme of officially sanctioned events but would be pretty comfortable outside of that.

Anyway, definitely want to do some more Weird Shit and I think exploring the shared cultural heritage of computing and acknowledging the impact of religious experience in a trans-faith kind of way would be a really fun thing to do.