Till Nowak and Elizabeth Harper speak during the August 5 Mixed Taste: At Home

What you missed in Mixed Taste: Augmented Reality & The Cult of the Dead

Till Nowak and Elizabeth Harper speak during the August 5 Mixed Taste: At Home

Till Nowak and Elizabeth Harper speak during the August 5 Mixed Taste: At Home.

Our virtual summer lecture series got a little trippy and very creepy (in a good way) last week when we learned all about Augmented Reality and The Cult of the Dead.

Couldn’t make it to the livestream? We’ve got you covered. You can still watch the whole thing on our YouTube channel for the rest of eternity:

Watch Mixed Taste: Augmented Reality & The Cult of the Dead >

If you don’t have an hour to watch it, here’s a quick round-up of my favorite things I learned from our two very fascinating speakers.

2 things artist and filmmaker Till Nowak taught us about Augmented Reality (AR):

  1. To “augment” something is to enhance a thing by adding something. Augmented reality means putting additional layers on top of what we see in the real world. Most people think of AR in the context of crazy tech glasses or an app on your phone (Pokémon GO anyone?) but Till showed us some other applications he’s worked on.
  2. Augmented reality challenges our fixed viewpoints. It forces us to exercise leaving our own standpoint and, in that way, AR is a form of empathy.

3 things Elizabeth Harper (semi-pro Catholic and theatrical lighting designer) taught us about The Cult of the Dead:

  1. Cults aren’t just Midsommar and “Tiger King.” Technically speaking, cults have culturally-specific religious practices, and are related to a particular figure who often exists in a specific place, like a shrine.
  2. The Cult of the Dead is a “frowned-upon extracurricular activity” of Catholicism in Italy. In Catholicism, it is common (especially in Italy) to ask saints for favors and leave gifts at the saints’ shrines to hold up your part of the bargain if your prayer is answered. The Cult of the Dead treats souls in purgatory just like saints, praying to bones and bringing them gifts. The Catholic Church does not condone this.
  3. Specific skulls are believed to have specific powers. Leaving a gift for that skull supposedly wins you the favors of that skull. There are skulls for finding a husband, for having a baby and even for winning the lottery (yes, please).

A Poetic Ending with Mathias Svalina

At the end of the night, we wrap up with a poem from a local poet inspired by both topics and written during the course of the evening.

The Augmentations of the Dead

One day all the dead decided to stop being dead,

& they all got up & went back to their lives,

only none of them fit into their lives anymore,

so they spread all over the cities & the lands,

wandering about, looking at beautiful things

they’d never noticed were so beautiful

when they’d been alive.

All the living were annoyed with the dead,

as the dead clogged up the streets

& made the living late for work,

& the dead made the living think about things

the living did not want to think about.

Go back to being dead, the living said.

Shut your mouths, the living said.

Stop making us think.

But being dead is too obvious, the dead said.

I’m bored of being dead, the dead said.

The living need more reality, they said,

or less reality, or a reality of hidden things.

And in the days after the dead stopped being dead,

the sky grew a layer of bark, like a tree,

then lifted itself out of the sky,

how a person carefully rises from a broken chair.

And all the bridges stood up & stretched

& let their hair hang down loose.

And the towers, tired from centuries

of standing, lay down for a rest.

And all around the world things

changed the way they were

& became what they always wanted to be

but never before knew they wanted to be.

I read about these changes in the newspapers

& thought that my life too must be revised.

So I collected all my bones,

which has been scattered throughout my life

among all the chapels & cathedrals

& Home Depots & stripmalls.

And when I collected back together all my bones,

I found I was much more than I had been.

I was now millions of bones,

a vast labyrinth of bones,

a deep well of bones;

I was the longest road of bones,

beginning where I was born

& ending in a dictionary

in which the definition of each word

is a prayer.

Watch Mathias Svalina perform his poem >

As fun as a round-up is, it can’t compare to the real thing. Sign-up for reminders about our final two Mixed Taste: At Home events happening every Wednesday at 7pm MT through August 19.

Upcoming Topics:

Wed, Aug 12 at 7pm MT
Church Signs & Icelandic Hip Hop
Featuring Joe York & Nathan Hall

Wed, Aug 19 at 7pm MT
Zeno’s Paradox & Artivism
Featuring Elisabeth Stade & Suzi Q. Smith

Previous Mixed Taste: At Home Summaries:

July 15 – What You Missed in Mixed Taste: Polar Forests & Trendy Soul Food

July 22 – What You Missed in Mixed Taste: Keith Haring & Smog Meringues

July 29 – What you missed in Mixed Taste: Napping & Slovenian Zombies

Mixed Taste was originated by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

Sponsored by:

With additional support by:
Peggy Finley