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New Masks for New Gods: A Speculative Design Exploration of an Imagined Future

Given the challenge to develop a framework for a speculative future piece, I developed this piece as a further exploration of a project I had worked on previously. Within a fictional future, technological development has continued on a mundane track of expected improvement, but stagnating effect on human growth or expansion. Humanity is experiencing a fundamental lack of spiritual presence, unable to appreciate their connectedness to anything beyond the mundane within their highly tech influenced context. Somehow though, where no one might think to look, an average individual is believed to have attained enlightenment. 

Discovered shut in on the outskirts of society, a body is found jacked into a VR headset. Those who found them after studying their state believe they managed to reach enlightenment at the moment of their death, leaving behind a data trail of media consumption as a technological bodhisattva allowing the possibility of spiritual enlightenment through technological means.

The piece is a second in a series of three works inspired by the word 'overwhelmed.' Taking contemporary concerns for things like data collection, market engines' quantification of consumer habits, our world full of analytics, tech companies predicated on data exploitation, and the absurdity of virtual space's ever increasing presence, the manifestation takes a tongue in cheek jab at how we might imagine a new religious movement manifesting in an over-technologized world. 

With inspiration from death masks, Sokushinbutsu monks, William Gibson's concepts of cyberspace, and an ever-overwhelming online media landscape, New Masks for New Gods acts as a design exercise to stretch conceptualization about the future and opportunity to dream about digital anxiety. The piece manifests as a laser cut mask imagined to be used by the new cult of the Divine Eternal to perform 'Transcendental Mediation' a form of meditation using media over-saturation from content collected from the viewing and consumption history of the Digitally Enlightened (our dead friend). 

Ultimately, New Masks was an opportunity for me to process and dream about the inane strange that is online media and internet culture, and the hell scape of overly antiseptic tech culture constantly seeking to consume the weird, as well as an opportunity to further explore laser cutting within my work.

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