Part 1: Digital Magic. A Conversation on The Cyber Spellbook.

By Cancan Wang and Line Henriksen

About a year ago at a casual lunch, we started talking about magic. We were both fascinated by the dissemination of ‘magical memes’ that spread curses and luck on the internet, and wondered why these digital spells flourish, and what they might indicate about the role of magic in a digital context. Recently we came across The Cyber Spellbook: MagicK in the Virtual World (2002) by Patricia Telesco and Sirona Knight. Sitting separately in front of our computers during the Danish Corona virus quarantine, we thought this might be a good time to talk about – and write a short text on – magic. After all, one might need a spell for good luck (preferably a digital one to maintain social distancing) in the time of a global disease outbreak. This text is an excerpt from our online conversation  – mediated by Zoom – around the text on the cover of The Cyber Spellbook, as well as its Amazon reviews. This digitally mediated conversation ended up touching on issues such as spellcasting, conjuring, and temporality in a digital sphere. In case you’re looking for more in-depth engagements with the topic of magic and technology, see the works of e.g. Briana Pegado, Nazila Kivi and Simone Natale + Diana Pasulka.

Image 1
Image description: screenshot of the Cyber Spellbook entry on Amazon.com

ACT I

Wang: So let’s look at the cyber spellbook. It is a book that came out in 2002, which is about 18 years ago. I actually don’t know how long this concept of digital witchcraft or cyber spellbook has existed. Cuz it seems like if the book came out then, maybe these concepts have been there for some time. Don’t you think so?

Henriksen: I’ll do a quick google for ’digital witchcraft’.

W: And I will try ’digital spellbook’. Let’s just see. Continue reading “Part 1: Digital Magic. A Conversation on The Cyber Spellbook.”

Monster Writing Month 3

Cookbook: How to create a writing monster

As seen on this blog

by Katrine Meldgaard Kjær and Line Henriksen

Making writing monsters is easier than you think, and an ideal family activity to have fun with over the holiday break. Living with them is another story (this might be a life-long ethical exercise in living with something that you do not fully control). Follow these easy recipes and have your own monsters ready in a fraction of the time it takes to order them online:

1

Collage Monster

Ethos Lab 1
Image description: Table filled with paper, writing utensils and mugs. You can see the hands of the people sitting around the table, holding pens and papers. Photo by Marie Blønd for ETHOS Lab.

You will need: 

For 1 collage monster: 

  • Pen
  • Paper
  • A text
  • Hope
  • Scissors
  • Vulnerability
  • Tears
  • Agony
  • Glue
  • Colleagues (can be substituted by friends, family, total strangers, or 7 dogs)
  • A time-keeper with a timer

Aim:

To recreate your own text using other people’s sentences.

Method: 

  1. Cut sentences from your text. If you have 9 colleagues, you’ll need 9 sentences. If you have 5 total strangers, you will need 5 sentences. If you have 7 dogs, you will need around 133 sentences and the ability to work with chewed up material. Important: you do not need to use all your text! When you have the sentences you need, put the remaining text aside.
  2. Round one: 
  • Share a sentence with one of your colleagues. Choose something that you think they’ll like.
  • Receive one sentence from one of your colleagues.
  • Take 5 minutes to glue the sentence you receive onto a piece of paper. You can modify it in any way you want: delete or rearrange words, add words with your pen, write a new sentence using the words you were given, etc. Just keep in mind: you are still trying to write about the subject of your old text.
  • The time-keeper will let you know when the time is up.
  1. Round two: 
  • Share a sentence with one of your colleagues (not the same as before). Choose something that you think they’ll like.
  • Receive one sentence from one of your colleagues (not the same as before).
  • Take 10 minutes to glue the sentence you receive onto your paper. You can modify it in any way you want: delete or rearrange words, add words with your pen, write a new sentence using the words you were given, etc. Keep in mind: you are still trying to write about the subject of your old text.
  • The time-keeper will let you know when the time is up.
  1. Repeat the rounds until everybody have received a sentence from everybody else.
  2. Final round: take 10 – 20 minutes to reorganize and polish your text in any way you please. Add sentences, glitter or/and drawings. Keep in mind: you are still trying to write about the subject of your old text. The time-keeper will let you know when the time is up.

Finished! You have now created your very own collage monster in no time, with very little effort, and eternal damnation to follow. Bask in your own accomplishments with lightning, a good thunderstorm and some hubris before the consequences catch you unawares.

2

hello text

Programme
Image description: piece of white paper with blurred writing atop a cut-out, jagged piece of paper depicting a colourful scene with various Hieronimus Bosch-looking monsters. Photo by Marie Blønd for ETHOS Lab. Artwork by Mia Makila.

You will need:  Continue reading “Monster Writing Month 3”

Monster Writing Month 2

This blog post springs from and reflects on the Monster Writing workshop at ETHOS Lab, IT University of Copenhagen, November 2019. It is written by using and not accepting track changes. For other examples of multiple voices as monster methods, listen to the Monster Talks podcast episode Collective voices and the materialisation of ideas – monster as methods, or read the introduction to the Monster Network special issue of Somatechnics Journal, Promises, Monsters and Methodologies: the Ethics, Politics and Poetics of the Monstrous

Tracked Changes Vulnerabilities: Reflections on writing with monsters

By Marisa Cohn, Katrine Meldgaard Kjær and Line Henriksen

1 Track Changes2 Track Changes3 Track Changes4 Track Changes5 Track Changes

Monster Writing Month 1

Writing Monsters

by Katrine Meldgaard Kjær and Line Henriksen

Image
Image description: scraps of paper with text on lined up on a dark grey table. The “heading” on a piece of paper says “WRITING MONSTERS”.

Hello text

I don’t know if you want to be written

What might it mean to think of writing as monstrous? Or the act of writing as the act of creating a monster? Like the weird scientist in the lab. Like Frankenstein chasing his creation across the Arctic after rejecting it.

Hello text

I am not sure I like you

In the workshop ‘Monster Writing’, which was held in November 2019 at ETHOSLab, the IT University of Copenhagen, we explored text as something somewhat monstrous. Drawing on Nina Lykke’s exorcise of ‘writing the posthuman’ – in which she suggests that the writer addresses the object of their writing as a ‘you’ directly in the text – we wanted to experiment with what it might be like to address the text itself in this way, as a you, but out loud. A summoning. We therefore asked the participants of the workshop to bring a text that they were somehow not completely happy with. In the invitation we wrote:

Continue reading “Monster Writing Month 1”

Monstrous architecture

— Guest post from architects Signe Pērkone and Ramón Córdova –

In July of 2019, the Monster Network was invited to give a keynote at the symposium Monstrous Ontologies: Politics, Ethics, Materiality at the University of Roehampton in London (you can listen to our keynote here). One of the presentations at the symposium was delivered by the architects Signe Pērkone and Ramón Córdova, who talked about how they work with the monster in their own architectural practice. We were intrigued and interested by what we heard, and saw a lot of connections to how we think, work, and write with the monster in the Monster Network. So we asked them if they wanted to write a blog post for us!

In what follows, Signe and Ramón write about their experience working with, amongst other things, a territory occupied by a vast landfill close to the southern border of Mexico. During their talk they showed a video from the landfill, which can be viewed here (password: Ecologies).

Before giving you a chance to explore architecture and the monster, we let Signe and Ramón introduce themselves:

Signe and Ramón are architects and researchers based in Riga, Latvia. They strive to practice architecture as an integral part of the affective and relational lived experience. They have studied, worked and done research in Europe and Mexico, and their work has been presented in various conferences, art exhibitions and publications. They are interested in expanding their practice by intersecting it with other disciplines, and fostering discussion of its becomings and emergence from territories and assemblages of human and non-human components.

Image
Image description: part of a large, colorful landfill against blue sky. Several large birds, perhaps vultures, are perching atop the hill with their wings outstretched. Image from Signe Pērkone and Ramón Córdova’s video ‘Landfill clips’ (password: Ecologies)

Meeting the Monster Half Way

Monster as a Tool for Enriching Spatial Practices

 There are territories, places and spaces that after establishing relations with certain agents or in particular conditions become monstrous assemblages in the collective imagination, from slums to squatted buildings, and from crime infested city communities to remote landfills inhabited by migrants. But what does this monstering mean for the places themselves? What does it mean for us, who need to interact with them? Even more, those who deal with spatial disciplines, such as architecture, are often called upon to intervene in these territories, to make sense of them, to “improve” them. However, there is a danger in acting before understanding because, in one way or another, this leads to forced conclusions, filling in the gaps in knowledge with assumptions, and normative faux-solutions. Continue reading “Monstrous architecture”