Terratic Animism (Room-scale VR), 2017  Fully interactive and room-scale VR work for Oculus Rift  with Touch Controllers and HTC Vive with hand controllers.   Terratic Animism  is a virtual reality project, where people are free to roam around a digital winter forest that I created while artist in residence at MASS MoCA, 2016. My main source of inspiration at the time was a form of dystopian ecology zeitgeist, that I felt dominated popular science and media. Wearing a self-made costume made of mylar, I filmed myself exploring derelict infrastructures along a river leading through Green Mountain National forest. To make the work, I spent one month crawling through tunnels in derelict water plants, abandoned factories and an old rusty school bus. While exploring the landscape wearing my costume, I started to thinking about digital animation as a form of animism. I started to see virtual replicas of real world locations as primal practices we do as humans to develop sign systems we can use, in order to connect and merge with entire landscapes.    “The disenchantment of the world means the extirpation of animism” – Adorno and Horkheimer,  Dialectics of Enlightenment , 1944   Text by writer and curator Angela Chan:   A silver shaman traverses the axis mundi of  Terratic Animism’s  romantic-Sci-Fi winter forest, draped in a protective future-ritualist’s “DIY survival shaman suit”, fabricated of NASA mylar, usb sticks, old threads and emergence LED lights. The shaman explores a frosted mountain landscape through rituals and journeys in search of lost animism in the crevices of the ice-glazed foliage amongst post-utopian infrastructures: Old nuclear sites, trashed school buses, 1800 water plants and frozen solar farms. Climate anxiety, escapism and nature ontologies from the past will intertwine with a sense of mystical futurism, as visitors follow the quest of the mylar-clad shaman’s symbiosis with the environment.  Projection mapping and a series of monitors plunge visitors into a virtual North American winter forest, dense with glimpses of pop-apocalyptic futures that overlap with residues of past romantic landscape imaginations. Under the canopy of the virtual sub-temperate trembling forest, multiple screens unearth Steensen’s own video recordings of a month-long exploration trip along a river leading through a mountain. Steensen filmed himself performing in the mylar shaman costume while artist in residence at MASS MoCA, 2016.   Terratic Animism  excavates the concepts of shamanism from a chapter in  The Dialectics of Enlightenment  from 1944. On writing about media, Adorno contrasts mask-making and animism in shamanistic societies with the visual logic of the capitalist complex of media industries. Through the shaman’s performativity of vivid rituals and self-decoration of colorful masks, the consanguinity between humans and the environments they inhabit becomes securely established. This should be seen in contrast to how the production of consumer-orientated visual culture enslaves environments as a spectacle for the human eye to decipher, analyze, replicate and consume.  Taking Adorno’s commentary on animism as a historical source of inspiration, Jakob Kudsk Steensen challenges the continuum of rational pictorial conventions in digital media by insisting on the use of performance and abstract dimensions. Steensen’s critique of mass image production extends  Terratic Animism  to reveal the feelings of climate anxiety and the loss of a modernist utopian techno future. With animation as a tool for the assimilation of nature,  Terratic Animism  transmits how attempts of symbiosis with nature remains in a tentative position, existing here through the virtuality of visual technologies.
prev / next