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Modern Worship, Technology and Magical Symbolism: Catching up with Yuma Burgess
NCO 064

N: Hey, Yuma! It's awesome to be chatting with you. I've admired your work for a while...how have things been for you recently?

Y: Hey thanks for reaching out! I'm glad to be having this conversation! It's really nice to hear that you've admired my work. Honestly, I've been spending most of my days researching - which I enjoy the most.

I delve into my past projects, go deeper, and think more about why I'm doing what I'm doing, rather than just producing work all the time. No disrespect to thoughtless production, as some great work comes this way. It's just not how I'm functioning at this moment in time.

N: A lot of your work is inspired by symbolism, mysticism, and mythology. Ancient societies were infused with these elements, as people interpreted their surroundings and connected with objects on a spiritual level, not just for their functional value. It seems we've somewhat lost that, but when considering our relationship with technology, the similarities are striking. Take an iPhone, for instance, it's not just a tool, it is also charged with emotional and spiritual significance. As we advance in AI, we seem to be moving towards a sort of deified technology. What's your take on this? Are we creating a new form of worship through our attachment to technology, beyond just its utility?

Y: You're right, it's easy to state a claim that we are spiritually destitute and that some great revival is at hand - and fun too, like identifying evil can give us purpose and something to fight against. I'm reminded of a Death in June lyric, "God is Nowhere, God is Now Here," and how that slight grammatical change inverts the meaning. In that way, the spiritual and the mythical are always present and not present, like beauty - it's in the eye of the beholder.

I think it's true that we deify technology, but in my eyes, it's probably closer to idolatry.

McLuhan said that the medium is the massage, but let's be more specific, Marshall: the medium is the medium and it carries a message, and that difference is important. It's the difference between a sign and a symbol.

What McLuhan said is closer to poetry masquerading as science, and it's exactly why people found him so compelling. Many lies tell the poets. I prefer honest poetry, a poem that says, "I am a poem."

While we're here, I want to throw in another quote on the topic of belief or faith, "In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true is true or becomes true, within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the mind, there are no limits." - John C. Lilly, M.D.

N: From an artistic perspective, is there a specific artifact, relic, or ancient civilization—or even a mythology—that really sparks your imagination or that you feel a strong connection to?

Y: Right now, and in the context of this conversation, I think alchemy and how it so closely preceded the founding of modern science and our entire Western cosmology put a lot of our current ideas about the way things are into a really cool context. Science is the bastard son of alchemy, and in a way, studying it feels like I'm doing father-to-son family therapy, figuring out what Daddy Alchemy did to fuck up young teenage science and make it so bitter about mystery.

N: We had a chat recently with artist Ruben Ulises Montoya about the idea of inventing mythologies from everyday life occurrences as a way to appreciate the magic and beauty of our surroundings. It's like a life philosophy, really. Does this concept resonate with you?

Y: Absolutely! It sounds very beautiful. Magic is definitely not only esoteric wisdom and sacred geometry; magic is in the mundane and even the ugly.

Myth-making and world-building are so healthy, and the worlds you build are the worlds you live in. As John Lilly said, "In the mind, there are no limits," so... go wild, guys

N: You've done numerous collaborations with photographer Aidan Zamiri, which have been fantastic. Could you share how you two met and started working together? What makes your creative energies blend so well?

Y: I was sharing a studio with a videographer who worked with VHS and tapes a lot, and they also did some digitizing work on Fat Lama. Aidan came to our studio one day to get some tapes digitized. A few months later, after exchanging the occasional fire emoji, having not spoken at all, Aidan decided we were friends and invited me over for dinner. If that was the interview, I got the job, and we immediately started working on Caroline Polachek's "Cornucopia" artwork. Aidan is now my agent, manager, and personal photographer, and in return, I give him plastic objects and do my best to clean up after myself in the studio we share.

N: You're not one to shy away from experimentation or from having fun with your work, which is refreshing. Is there a form of artistic practice you haven't yet dipped your toes into but might consider exploring in the future?

Y: I'm glad you think so! I would like to start publishing books. Most likely, it would start as zines or a blog or something, but research and sharing it have always been a big thing for me, and I would love to have an outlet for that that isn't just bombarding my Instagram stories with dense text. Watch this space. Big things soon, etc.

All images courtesy of Yuma Burgess
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