Machina Incantatii



"Magic exists in most societies in one way or
another and one of the forms it exists in a lot of
places is, if you know a thing‘s true name, you
have power over the thing, or the person. And
of course it‘s irresistible because I‘m a writer. I
use words, and knowing the names of things is -
I do magic, I do make up things that didn‘t exist
before by naming them." - Ursula K. Le Guin

Many activities we engage with through digital technologies fill the life with semi-spiritual practices which were traditionally inhabited by religion. Instead of church bells telling the time we carry a watch, looking at the stars to predict the weather is unnecessary since there is a weather app or fortunetelling to predict the future seems unnecessary when we have a calendar and the internet directly at hand at all times. The project was conceived to explore the question how digital tools can be used to create and introduce spiritual experiences by emulating a magical ritual of spell writing.

Machina Incantatii (latin for ‘Spell Machine’) is an interactive digital shrine that writes incantations based on data inputs from the user. A combination of old periodic and random alignments (eg. the zodiac) with new periodic and random alignments (Markov chains) leads to a poetic generation of texts. The outcomes are personal, non-linear verses that loosely relate to the participants’ requests and can be interpreted by each user their own way.

Creation of individualised texts can inspire users to explore their thoughts and find answers within themselves through interpreting the short texts. By associating the output with a request entered into the machine, trying to find meaning by associating the the output with the input, it can help the user to find an answer to what they are looking for. As Ursula K. Le Guin describes in the quote above, words are power and through writing, making up things, they create new meanings and thoughts.

This work was exhibited at Ars Electronica 2019 and at the Decorating Dissidence Digital Dada Salon 2020.

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