The Crystal Spirit or: How I Became an Anarchist

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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.


Selections

Installation

Overview

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.

24x24 layout example

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.  

CrystalSpirit.png

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.

  • “Magic Plinth” within the VR experience, note hand tracking
  • Neuronic connections explored and activated within VR

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.   

Audience Experience

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.

12x12, layout example 1

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.

  • Button menu system, real life
  • Button menu system, VR

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.

  • 12x12 layout example 1, top view
  • 12x12 layout example 2

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.

  • 24x24 layout - detail
  • 12x24 layout
  • 12x24 layout - detail

Text

The Crystal Spirit Script

Textual selection and notes on each section from the film.

Anxiety and Anarchism

A text written a while ago, where I talk about my thoughts on Anxiety, Anarchism, and other issues.

References/Links

The sections below list the references I both use in the film itself, and also used as references for my own understanding.

Main Text:

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Other Reading:

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

George Lakoff

ANAL

Section 2 - The Crystal Embrace

Carne Ross

Rojava

Section 3 - Like Melting Hail

BBC Arena - George Orwell

Section 4 - The Millipede

Noam Chomsky

Unknown Anarchist Organizer

Anarcho-Syndicalism

Section 5 - The Pillbox

Murray Bookchin

Section 6 - The Bull

Osborne Bull

Osborne Group

Section 7 - The Mountain Vista

Lee Alan Dugatkin

Peter Kropotkin

Section 8 - Two Belchites

Robert Thurman

Section 9 - Anarchism as Religion

Cornel West

Dorthy Day

The Catholic Worker

Section 10 - Hope in Camouflage

Ada Colau

The Spanish Earth

THE ITALIAN SOLDIER SHOOK MY HAND

George Orwell

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.

-

Taken from

‘Looking Back on the Spanish War’,

published by New Road, 1943.

Poem written 1939