17:15 - 17:45
Magic and immersion in 21st century artmaking

Short thesis

This special session combines discussion with performative interactive action, first exploring the historical and cultural basis for magic and immersion, then involving the audience in live ritual.


As scientific knowledge advances at a mind-boggling pace, and people look back to their emotional, philosophical, and spiritual needs in a changing world, magic is being reshaped as a medium. It provides a lens through which to understand the latest direction of audiovisual technology, immersive performance, art, and club culture - from a virtual reality to a deeper mystical reality.

Over a hundred years ago, Russian composer Alexander Scriabin imagined an epic synesthetic work that would turn audience members into participants, in a sensory extravaganza staged in the Himalayas. Even smell would become medium in a mystical, immersive work, dubbed "Mysterium."

A century later, we live in a world in which culture clashes and change outpace the ability of individual spirits to evolve. Artists are increasingly turning to mysical, magical elements in their work, from tarot to ritual to costume. Whether the extravagence of the modern techno club or the interest in remaking virtual reality from commercial field to transformative experience, artists seem to long for their own Mysterium.

Media artist and journalist Peter Kirn has worked to resurrect AV ideas of Scriabin and partnered with teams in Russia to explore Soviet light art and multimedia. He joins acclaimed Moscow-born artist Vera Kochubey, who incorporates magical elements into performance and visual art and workshops, as she presents her concept of Metamentality, merging art, science, and magic.

Together, they will join in an investigative discussion of how magic is infiltrating techno culture and technology alike, and how a new synthetic mysticism compares with those that came before. Then, they will lead the audience in an experiment in just such practice, by constructing for the audience a sonic-performative space and inviting the audience to engage in meditative practical magical ritual.