The Crystal Spirit or: How I Became an Anarchist
This transmedia installation explores Anarchist thought through the eyes of George Orwell during the Spanish Civil War. A surrealistic documentary film and virtual reality installation, it utilizes state of the art 3d animation and interactive VR techniques to immerse the viewer inside the worldview of the anarchist.
- 1 Selections
- 2 Installation
- 3 Text
- 4 References/Links
- 4.1 Main Text:
- 4.2 Other Reading:
- 4.3 Section 1 - The Crystal Spirit
- 4.4 Section 2 - The Crystal Embrace
- 4.5 Section 3 - Like Melting Hail
- 4.6 Section 4 - The Millipede
- 4.7 Section 5 - The Pillbox
- 4.8 Section 6 - The Bull
- 4.9 Section 7 - The Mountain Vista
- 4.10 Section 8 - Two Belchites
- 4.11 Section 9 - Anarchism as Religion
- 4.12 Section 10 - Hope in Camouflage
- 4.13 THE ITALIAN SOLDIER SHOOK MY HAND
This project is a transmedia installation mixing a surrealistic documentary film with a virtual reality experience. 10 sections of the film align with 10 virtual reality vignettes. The audience has complete control over how they experience the work, allowing them to forge their own path through each film section and vr vignette in any order they wish.
The surrealistic documentary film explores Anarchist thought through the eyes of George Orwell during his time in the Spanish Civil War. Probing into anarchism’s altruistic roots, it ties together a diverse group of connections from contemporary neuroscience, to spirituality and politics, on into the current uprising in the Rojava region of Kurdistan where the same anarchist practice is going on today that Orwell discovered in Spain. A deeply personal work, it also reveals the artist’s own journey to find alternative ways of seeing the world after recovering from a mental illness.
The VR installation enables a more abstract and immersive experience of the ideas explored in the film. It allows the viewer to step into the artwork itself, where they can activate, study, and explore each space at their own pace and interest. Via a novel “magic plinth” concept developed for the piece which utilizes the Leap Motion Sensor for spatialize hand tracking, the viewer can select each vignette from a menu system that matches that of each film in real life.
The two thus combine and flower into a more realistic understanding of anarchism than what is typically understood in modern culture. The goal of the work itself is not an indoctrination into anarchist thought, but to open up a conversation not only about anarchism but also the development of our worldview (Weltanschauung), which is so important to understanding how we see the world and in explaining today’s polarized political climate.
The installation itself can expand or contract in relation to exhibition space and curatorial concerns. These are example options for typical scenarios, but bespoke versions can be developed for particular spaces.
In all installation options, the audience is in control of their pathway through the work. Depending upon their choices, they may begin with a VR “selection”, or may choose a particular part of the surrealist documentary. Whichever they choose, the intended goal would be to have the viewer, through their own curiosity, be exposed to a new understanding of anarchism in both a didactic and abstract way. This curiosity-driven learning is non-hierarchical and aligns with the anarchist roots of the work itself.
The most compact version of the installation utilizes a single large screen for the film, and can fit within a 12x12 foot space. This option has a button menu system to allow viewers to select and view a specific section of the video which is linked to its counterpart within the VR experience. Two audience members at once can utilize the VR system within this version. Additional headphones can also allow for a larger group to watch the selected video as well. Note that alternative placements and layouts are available for easier entry into the work.
The larger installations (here in both a 12x24 and 24x24 foot size), allow for 10 distinct monitors which again align with the specific sections within the VR experience. Instead of a button system, the viewer simply goes to the specific video they would like to encounter, again marked by the same color, number, title, and icon from the VR experience. In these versions, three to four audience members can explore the VR system at once. Additional headphones would allow for larger amounts of viewers per screen.
Textual selection and notes on each section from the film.
A text written a while ago, where I talk about my thoughts on Anxiety, Anarchism, and other issues.
The sections below list the references I both use in the film itself, and also used as references for my own understanding.
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice by Rudolf Rocker
No Gods No Masters by Daniel Guerin
Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff
Public Opinion by Walter Lippman
The Prince of Anarchism by Lee Alan Dugatkin
Section 1 - The Crystal Spirit
Section 2 - The Crystal Embrace
Section 3 - Like Melting Hail
Section 4 - The Millipede
Unknown Anarchist Organizer
Section 5 - The Pillbox
Section 6 - The Bull
Section 7 - The Mountain Vista
Section 8 - Two Belchites
Section 9 - Anarchism as Religion
Section 10 - Hope in Camouflage
THE ITALIAN SOLDIER SHOOK MY HAND
|The Italian soldier shook my hand
Beside the guard-room table;
The strong hand and the subtle hand
Whose palms are only able
To meet within the sounds of guns,
But oh! what peace I knew then
In gazing on his battered face
Purer than any woman’s!
For the flyblown words that make me spew
Still in his ears were holy,
And he was born knowing that I had learned
Out of books and slowly.
The treacherous guns had told their tale
And we both had bought it,
But my gold brick was made of gold –
Oh! who ever would have thought it?
Good luck go with you, Italian soldier!
But luck is not for the brave;
What would the world give back to you?
Always less than you gave.
|Between the shadow and the ghost,
Between the white and the red,
Between the bullet and the lie,
Where would hide your head?
For where is Manuel Gonzalez,
And where is Pedro Aguilar,
And where is Ramon Fenellosa?
The earthworms know where they are.
Your name and your deeds were forgotten
Before your bones were dry,
And the lie that slew you is buried
Under a deeper lie;
But the thing that I saw in your face
No power can disinherit:
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.
‘Looking Back on the Spanish War’,
published by New Road, 1943.
Poem written 1939