NEO-SHAMANISM--Towards a Culture of Ex-stase
The Appearance of Intensive Expanse in the Digital Realm


ITOH: The late William BURROUGHS, Jr. used to make "shotgun paintings" from shooting at layers of plywood, and when he would assemble what was left of the wood he'd just shot at, he used to say that "the soul of the tree has risen." NAKAZAWA, do you have any ideas about how to apprehend the spirits, or to awaken our intuitive powers so that we might?

NAKAZAWA: Relating my own personal experiences about a personal "awakening," it was a typhoon, the first really powerful typhoon I remember experiencing as a kid. It was a terrifying evening. The next morning the sun's rays were somehow more beautiful, but all of the plants in the garden were bent over and broken. I remember looking at their broken limbs and feeling giddy. I felt the enormous power that the typhoon had expressed here, and something that had been residing in those plants was now manifest all around me. I've heard that Native American peoples have a similar tradition, but natural catastrophes have the power to wake something in us Japanese, too.

Another way to look at it is that there are two speeds which this can happen at. One is that magnolia tree fills out with flower blossoms in the spring, right? As though a hard tree like that couldn't have had them in the first place, the flowers slowly, slowly appear. That is one manifestation of pneuma. The other is a radical manifestation, when a catastrophe like a typhoon forces the expression of pneuma. Shamanism is perhaps another such violent manifestation.

You know the custom of "punishing the fruit tree." It is an ancient custom, where the peach or chestnut tree is beaten to make it produce fruit. Ordinarily you leave plants alone to bear their fruits according to the natural rhythm of things, but this tradition is a technique for "punishing" the tree, forcing it into labor, as it were.

This is where sorcery and technology are connected, because technology is also a violent way of extraction--taking oil and coal from within the earth, or causing nuclear fusion. Energy is taken from nature in the most violent ways. Technology is inherently violent. From the moment that the first shaman started up a fire and fanned it with his bellows, warning had been given that this would some day lead to nuclear explosions in India and Pakistan. I'm sure that it must have felt just that awesome.

I'm sure that this must be one of technology's chief characteristics. The question is how will the slow growing process of our natural ecology and a brutal process like techno-shamanism find a common ground in the future. Human beings can no longer afford to simply follow their technological prowess, the ability to conquer and remodel nature's poetic process. Our very survival on this planet is contingent on our ability to fuse a "third way," which brings the soul of ecological poiesis and techno-shamanism together.

MINATO: The fact that India chose this year, when there is an important festival which happens only once every few years, to make their nuclear tests is especially momentous. It really emphasizes the importance of finding non-violent ways of extracting energy from nature, because we're really at a critical point here.

NAKAZAWA: Neo-shamanism and HOSONO's music are both symbols of delicate technology--examples of how delicate technology and delicate science are are making themselves known recently.

MINATO: I'd like to ask HOSONO what he sees as possible directions for delicate science, and delicate art . . . .

HOSONO: Well, one thing is that the number of people using computers to make music has really increased at a terrific pace. Absolutely everybody is doing it these days. When using computers, including, of course, specialized sequencers, you're always reacting to music that you yourself have programmed. It's like you're scanning the subtleties of your interior. An extraordinarily dense and delicate world--at present you're able to divide quarter notes into something like 480 increments, and the ability to further dissect is still increasing. To be able to stop and look at music at that level of detail is really amazing. I guess that being able to create within a palette of 1920th notes is what is most interesting to me right now. Ultra delicate technology.

ITOH: There is a text by Tjebbe van TIJEN and Fred GALES about neo-shamanism in the catalog for the Portable Sacred Grounds exhibition which provides an important perspective for thinking about neo-shamanism that dispels the menace and sense of danger often associated with the topic. They point out that myths and fables are valuable resources for understanding oneself and the world, that these archetypes are opportunities for gaining new understandings about ourselves, our value structures, the relationship between our hearts and minds, and our place in the material and spiritual worlds. The question is how to regain our relationship with the invisible grounds of our interior, and our search on this question will perhaps never come to an end.

Translation: David d'Heilly

HOSONO Haruomi
Made his professional debut as a musician in 1969. Among the many collaborative arrangements that he has formed since, the Y.M.O. (Yellow Magic Orchestra, with SAKAMOTO Ryuichi and TAKAHASHI Yukihiro) remains his best known. He has also founded the record labels "Non-Standard," "Monad" and "Daisyworld Discs," as well as having fostered the talents of a number of artists including TACHIBANA Hajime, KOSHI Miharu, Pizzicato V and World Standard. Ever since his debut, HOSONO Haruomi's compositions, lyrics and sound production values have continued to set new creative standards, and inspire awe.

NAKAZAWA Shin'ichi
Born in 1950. Scholar of religions based in Tokyo. His writings include Tibet no Mozart (Mozart of Tibet), Mori no Baroque (The Forest's Baroque), Tetsugaku no Tohoku (The Tohoku Region of Philosophy), Junsui na shizen no zoyo (The Gift of A Pure Nature) (all Serika Shobo), Seppen-kyokusen-ron (Snow Curve Theory) (Seidosha), Niji no riron (Rainbow Reason) (Shinchosha), Hajimari no Lenin (Lenin at the Beginning) (Iwanami Shoten), Ongaku no tsutsumashii negai (Music's Humble Request) (Chikuma Shobo),Buddha no yume (Buddha's Dream) (Asahi Shinbunsha), among others.

ITOH Toshiharu
Born in 1953. Professor at Tama Art University. Art historian based in Tokyo. His writings include Jiorama-ron (On Diorama) (Libroport), Seitai-haikyo-ron (The Biological Form in Ruins) (Libroport), Kikai-bijutsu-ron--Mo hitotsu no 20-seiki bijutsu-shi (On Mechanized Art--Another History of 20th Century Art) (Iwanami Shoten), Reconfigured Eye (Editor; ASCII Shuppankyoku), and Saigo no gaka-tachi (The Last Painters) (Chikuma Shobo), among others. Mr. ITOH supervised the exhibition, Portable Sacred Grounds--Telepresence World.

MINATO Chihiro
Born in 1960. Photographer and critic based in Paris. Assistant Professor at Tama Art University since 1995. His writings include Eizo-ron (Moving Image Theory) (NHK Shuppan), Shashin toiu dekigoto (The Photograph as Incident) (Kawade Shobo Shinsha), Kioku--Sozo to soki no chikara (Memory--Powers of Creation and Recall) (Kodansha) and Chushisha no nikki (Cahier d'un spectateur) (Misuzu Shobo). Mr. MINATO's collaboration with MORIWAKI Hiroyuki,<<Garden of Memory>>, was exhibited at the Portable Sacred Grounds--Telepresence World exhibition.

[This text is an edited transcript of the sixth and final of a series of talk sessions held at the InterCommunication Center Tokyo held in conjunction with the exhibition Portable Sacred Grounds--Telepresence World. The exhibition ran from April 24th to June 21st, 1998.]
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