Coded Ceremonies, Invariant Oaths, Performative Sacraments
Zurich, 10. April 2020
Letters, alphabets and characters were inaugurated in the world of Kulturfolger last year. A universe where machines learn linguistic operations and new forms of interaction between man and machine emerge. Together we found novel ground on how to use this new alphabet, while creating fictional characters that are able to adapt to different understanding of the world.
They are part of us, their stories enchant us, we feed their minds.
Thinking through code articulates the nature once again, but what if all becomes coded, when every step is like a ritual, what becomes the purpose of a ritual? A double articulation: alphabets as a code whereas rituals are characterised as forms with coded structure.
If we take this premise, and play with it, then we are opening a new stage in Kulturfolger where we can show RITUALS as coded ceremonies, invariant oaths, performative sacraments. We want to observe our characters through rituals they perform through complex event sequences involving participants, objects, places and times.
A ritual is a deviation from pure reason. Still, it is not a nonsense or irrationality. This performance is not operating in the realm of sense, but through riddle, rhythm and proportion. An abstract form.
A curious comparison from Claude Lévi-Strauss: “Poetry is a kind of speech which cannot be translated except at the cost of serious distortions; whereas the mythical value of the myth remains preserved, even through the worst translations.”(1) Myths and rituals are of a similar capacity - they are invariant formalisation without meaning, yet they can accommodate any new meaning necessary for the construction of the community. They are simple but abstract forms outside of time, both operating in the past, present and future. Let’s imagine that all small rituals, formulas, quirks stabilise our daily life. Imagine our daily sacrament;
Washing Oath for the sacred
Blessed are you, O Lord,
our God, King of the Universe,
who has sanctified us through your commandments
and has commanded us concerning the washing of hands (2)
We pass from the sacred to the truthful word, and ask for grace again:
Washing Oath for the safe
Wet hands with water, apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces. Rub hands palm to palm, right palm over left dorsum with interlaced fingers and vice versa palm to palm with hands interlaced, backs of fingers with opposing palms with fingers interlocked. Rotational rubbing of left thumb clasped in right palm and vice versa. Rotational rubbing, backwards and forwards with clasped fingers of right hand in left palm and vice versa. Rinse hands with water, dry thoroughly with single use paper, use towel to turn off faucet…and your hands are safe. (3)
If we are not yet sure that the gods will grant our vows, we perform one more mystery:
Washing Oath for the saved
1.Delete or Deactivate Unused Accounts.
2.Ask Data Brokers to Delete Your Data.
3.Submit Google Listing Removal Requests.
4.Use Targeted Services or Tools.
5.Make a Habit of Being Cautious.
In a delicate balance of sacred words, it is hard to judge whose oath is stronger. What is said, can be squished between several large, heavy blocks: reality and myth, and somewhere in between of rituals and science, its cause and its consequence. An oath, a promise, an action. If the spoken word or act is silenced, then the devils and germs will come. Depends on who do you believe more. Washing hands has so many implications.
From Pasteurian hygiene, our more recent aseptic tastes and the theory of knowledge takes us back to ancient rites of purification. Priests in the past and scholars today make us reinforce the boundaries. Hand washing as a religious prescription made to make us free: of uncleanliness, before the gods, before the sacrifice, after the sacrifice…
Pontius Pilate, the supreme holder of the juridical function in ancient Rome, with his deeply symbolical gesture of hand washing has managed to confirm the decision of the crucifixion while taking no personal liability. A ritual disclaimer. By washing his hands, he sealed the deal of ritual sacrifice that followed through. Jewish ritual prayer doesn’t allow eating bread without hand washing. Clean yourself before the gods, but against the germs too. There is the story of Lady Macbeth whose hand washing is an obsessive-compulsive disorder in the midst of a post-murder paranoia. Can you wash your sin in the sink?
What kind of ritual hand washing do we perform digitally? Is it the removal of our fingerprints, our traces, an action of a corresponding digital ritual? Could we be also re-living an ancient sacred ritual, the “ritual of sacrifice,” in consuming virtual murders and then washing our traces away? Could the washing of our fingerprints online lead us to the possibility of having multiple hands, multiple actors and digital avatars?
Don’t forget: after a ritual sacrifice, there could be a resurrection, a reincarnation, a new spring.
As hopeful rhythms experienced in cyclical time, rituals demonstrate the influence of repetition on the body. On Christ’s behalf we perform this ritual in cyclical time, the time of repetition and rhythm, and it’s experienced everywhere there is interaction between place, time and an expenditure of energy.
Player resurrection in the Dungeons & Dragons typically comes in the form of a few spells. Revivify, Resurrection, and Raise Dead are just some of the options for bringing a fallen player character back to life.
Digital gives the possibility of an incessant resurrection and a coded ritual sacrifice where myth and language merge itself into timeless form. “The ritual is neither true, nor false. In this sense it marks the zero point of freedom of opinion, that is, freedom from any kind of opinion, from the obligation to have an opinion.”(5) This is what ultimately grants its informational shape.
(1) Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Structural Study of Myth
(2) Jewish blessing over washing hands: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה הָ׳ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם
(5) Boris Groys, Religion in the age of digital reproduction, e-flux, February 2016.