Algo Incantations

I recently had the pleasure at speaking at ‘Adventures on the edge of culture‘ with John Higgs, Melinda Gebbie, Alan Moore and others.

I wanted to create a new algorithmic work which could be distributed to the audience, and knowing they would be of an magickal bent, I entered Chapel Perilous and took a look at the True Will of the machine.

True Will is a term found within the mystical system of Thelema, a religion founded in 1904 with Aleister Crowley’s writing of The Book of the Law. It is defined at times as a person’s grand destiny in life, and at other times as a moment to moment path of action that operates in perfect harmony with Nature. This Will does not spring from conscious intent, but from the interplay between the deepest Self and the entire Universe.

(from wikipedia)

Crowley‘s famous aphorism ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” refers to this notion of True Will – if you are acting with your true will, you are in sync with the universe, and therefore whatever you do cannot be considered ‘wrong’.

Is a computer not, in some way, enacting its true will when it executes an algorithm? It can only do what it does, it has no other option – perhaps machines are more in tune with the universe than we are.

For this project, I took the incantations of the Necronomicon and produced a linguistic model capable of producing novel incantations.

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Another algorithm took each sentence and turned it into a sigil and arranged them into a geometric form.

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I then asked the machine to produce hundreds of unique incantations and sigils and distributed them to the audience.

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A manifestation of the True Will of the machine…

Some examples below, click to view full size.

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Disclaimer: Incant and/or charge these sigils at your own risk.

Glitch News Network

Here’s the news in 2000ms. This bot scrapes various online news sources for images of the latest stories. These are then glitched and mashed into a video which lasts less 2 seconds. After all, who has time to keep up with current affairs?


Glitch News works at a subconscious level. The flashing images get your brain juiced up for recognition, but it takes a few cycles for the repeating images to get to the point where they can be fully identified by your consciousness awareness.

We are visual creatures, hard wired to recognise and react at astonishing speed, yet we’re ‘unaware’ of 99% of the visual stimuli we encounter.

Often action occurs even before conscious recognition. For example, if someone throws a brick at you, you ‘instinctively’ dodge (assuming it’s in your field of view). In this instant, a phenomenal number of computations are carried out – identifying the brick, calculating it’s trajectory, calculating an appropriate response and coordinating your muscles to move out of the way – in fact your conscious awareness of the situation often occurs after this whole sequence has happened.

If we objectively examine our behaviour, the vast majority of our actions are being carried out ‘subconsciously’, and hence they tend to remain ‘invisible’ to us, and therefore seemingly of no concern. Subliminal messages play on this disconnect between subconscious and conscious recognition. That’s how advertising works.

The Glitch News Network perhaps offers a glimpse of the future, where we further disengage from our conscious central executor and merely stream blipverts at our subconscious.

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