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ICHIHARA Etsuko ‘Digital Shamanism: Japanese Funeral and Festivity’

December 20, 2016–March 12, 2017

emergencies! 030
ICHIHARA Etsuko ‘Digital Shamanism: Japanese Funeral and Festivity’


Themed on a fusion of technology and Japanese folk belief, the “Digital Shamanism” exhibition showcases ICHIHARA Etsuko’s “Digital Shaman Project” and the “NAMAHAGE in Tokyo” cooperative project with ISID Open Innovation Laboratory.

The “Digital Shaman Project” revolves around robots for domestic use wearing 3D-printed faces of deceased people, and manipulated with specially developed programs to imitate those people’s speech, behavior and other physical characteristics. The idea behind this is to propose a new form of funeral in which robots spend 49 days* after a person’s death with the members of his or her family. While the realm of alchemy and belief appears to be conflicting with that of science and technology, considering the common disposition of assuming and suggesting “something that is not here,” ICHIHARA proposes that both might in fact be very closely related, mutually compatible fields. Based on this idea, this project was conceived with the aim to propose new forms of prayer and entombment in this age of advanced science and technology.

“NAMAHAGE in Tokyo” is an attempt to reinterpret the functions of the traditional Namahage events—e.g. the maintenance of settlements through mutual monitoring, the initiation of children to adulthood, and the strengthening of family ties—that have been celebrated for over two hundred years in Oga City, Akita Prefecture, and implement these in the city, based on data accumulated through mutual monitoring via social media, and surveillance networks in the streets.

*According to Buddhist belief, it takes 49 days for a deceased person to enter the next life.




Born 1988 in Aichi. Graduated in Studies of Media, Body and Image from the School of Culture, Media and Society, Waseda University. Has been creating artworks that interpret Japanese culture, customs and beliefs from a unique point of view, and present new, technology-based approaches. Thanks to their strong impact, these works have been introduced across a wide range of media, such as Japanese newspapers and TV programs, online media, and foreign magazines. Main works include “Sekuhara Interface,” a device featuring a seductively moaning radish; the “SRxSI system that substitutes reality with delusion” in which users can meet a fictional beautiful woman; and the “Digital Shaman Project” spending 49 days with household robots endowed with impressions of deceased people. Ichihara’s works were included in the Jury Selection at the 18th Japan Media Arts Festival, Entertainment Division in 2014, and in 2016, chosen for the INNOvation program from The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

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