Fãl Project is a research project that draws on my interest in the combination of mysterious literature and digital technologies. Through this work I am trying to find a way to combine artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) with the ancient tradition of bibliomancy, a fortune-telling technique that involves the use of texts of cultural significance such as the Iliad, the Bible or, in Iran, the texts of the poet Hafiz. Both sides are trying to open new perspectives, suggest a path, or talk about unknowns.
The main aim of this project is to reveal magic in the virtual world, making use of AI‘s capacity to predict the future and connecting it with the potentials of literature.
Behind this project there are questions of the roles of artist as creator and viewer as recipient, as well as the concept of an artwork as a pure object. How can an artwork move beyond the simple representation or criticism of a subject from the point of view of the artist? How can an artwork have its own agency, providing a device that answers questions posed by the audience using unknown sources? Ultimately, this imagining requires that the artist is no longer merely creator, but also assumes a new position as observer.
I’m deeply compelled by the significance of magic, fortunetelling and bibliomancy in different traditions and eras, and especially the importance of the poetry of Hafiz in the Iranian culture and history. There are many anecdotes in books, both contemporary and dating back centuries, that provide examples of people who found an exact answer to their question and intention by means of bibliomancy. Even today, opening Hafiz’ book is one of the most important aspects of some ceremonies in Iran.
In our contemporary technological era, AI provides us with the opportunity to adapt these traditions into a visual language. By channeling the AI’s deductions into a 3D game engine and creating rules for what should be built and how, a dynamic virtual environment can emerge based on the foundations of these old texts.
The dynamic functionality of a static text formed the central theme of my research during a fellowship at the Akademie Schloss Solitude. What is meant here is that the specificities of the moment with regard to intention, time, place, mood, date etc. form the essential part of this process. Whereas the outcome of a bibliomancy divination is generally a static text containing a series of letters, symbols, numbers and so on, it is the audience that constructs and illustrates new meanings from this data.
We can draw a parallel between this moment-specific meaning of words and the way and means by which online data are distributed to us. The huge commercial AI and machine learning databases are ceaselessly working to categorise random data according to criteria like news, geography, culture, past activities. With an eye on the implicit complications that this data distribution brings along with it, this project attempts to manipulate this system, exploiting its logic to create a tool that activates the dynamic aspects of a word: enabling divination. Such an approach opens up avenues for questioning and looking critically at the systems of data collection and analysis that surround us every day.
The Hafiz AR Book V1, which constitutes the first part of Fãl Project and is combined with augmented reality, was produced in 2019 for the occasion of the IAM WEEKEND 19 in Barcelona. This hardcover book was produced by means of khatam, an ancient craft originating from the southern Iranian city of Shiraz whereby tiny pieces of wood, bones and metal are combined to create prcise and intricate geometric patterns. An Arduino module, a rechargeable battery, a button and a matrix of LCD screens were also integrated in the book. The only page in this book shows the copy of a miniature painting by the contemporary Iranian miniature painter Mahsa Roosta. The AR application contains all the poems of Hafiz, and the digital bibliomacy session begins with the random selection of a poem. The AI algorithm searches for visual, audio and text data in the internet based on its analysis of the content and uses it to create a visual image of the word
The Vibration of Things at 15. Triennale Kleinplastik Fellbach, curated by Elke aus dem Moore