Unveiling The Digital Occult: Forty Super-Duper Ancient Years of Arcana
Magical practitioners from across time and cultures have used diverse technologies for spirit communication and interaction, ranging from oracular trances to Ouija boards.
With each technological advancement, magical tools have also evolved, such as with metallurgy or the moveable-type press.
The digital age is no exception, as practitioners explored online rituals on Bulletin Board Systems in the 1990s, digital temples in video games in the 2000s, digital divination apps in the 2010s, and today use AIs as oracular mediums.
Current digital technologies are inherently liminal tools, facilitating instantaneous communication and physical action across both time and space. And as virtual reality, generative AI, and other digital tools become increasingly accessible to non-technologists, more practitioners experiment with these tools in their magical workings.
In this talk, artist, magician, technologist, and podcaster Heather D. Freeman will survey the history of magical experimentation with digital technologies. She will then present a range of specific examples and approaches, such as digital divination apps, group-based ceremonial magic, micro-controller scrying devices, and generative AIs as spirit familiars. We’ll wrap it up with some online digital magic ourselves by exploring techniques accessible to the novice practitioner, non-programmer, idly curious, and expert techno-mage alike.
Heather D. Freeman (b. 1974) is Professor of Art in Digital Media in the Department of Art & Art History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She holds an MFA in Studio Art from Rutgers University (2000) and a BA in Fine Art and German Studies from Oberlin College (1997). She is former Director of D+ARTS, the College of Arts + Architecture’s Digital Arts Center, and acting director of Charlotte Night Owl Interactive, a games and XR cooperative housed within the College.
Freeman works in digital and mixed-media print, 2D and 3D animation, film, mobile and desktop app design, and podcasting. Within these plural forms, Freeman combines traditional and digital technologies, weaving together the symbolic forms of magic, science, mythology, and popular culture. Freeman engages in several magical practices (both solitary and initiatory) that dovetail in her creative works. While some works observe the history and sociology of magical practices, many more are magical actions in themselves, intersecting the Visible and Invisible and actualized by the audience. Her animations, podcasts, and apps have been screened internationally and won numerous awards. Her prints and mixed-media works have also appeared in group and solo exhibitions across North America and internationally. She is currently the creative producer on the forthcoming podcast series “Magic in the United States” created in collaboration with PRX and funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. More about Freeman, her art, and writing may be found at https://linktr.ee/heatherdfreeman
Curated and Hosted by
Dr. Amy Hale is an Atlanta based writer, curator and critic, ethnographer and folklorist speaking and writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall. She is the author of Ithell Colquhoun: Genius of the Fern Loved Gully (Strange Attractor 2020) and is currently working on several Colquhoun related manuscripts. She is also the editor of Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses (Palgrave 2022). She has contributed gallery texts and essays for a number of institutions including Tate, Camden Arts Centre, Art UK, Arusha Galleries, Heavenly Records and she is a curator and host for the Last Tuesday Society lecture series.
don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day
Heather D. Freeman (b. 1974)
Öccane 00, 2023
Watercolor, ink, graphite, salt, and Florida Water over digital print on watercolor paper.