The “Digital Shaman Project” proposes a new mode of mourning in keeping with the technical advances of today. A 3D-printed mask of the deceased’s face is placed on a domestic robot installed with a motion program that mimics the physical characteristics―personality, speech, gestures―of that individual as if possessed by their spirit. The program functions for 49 days* after the person’s death (the traditional Buddhist period of mourning in Japan), during which time family members can experience simulated conversation with the deceased as if he or she were still alive. On the 49th day, the robot bids farewell to the bereaved and the program shuts down. The program is thus designed to allow the bereaved to spend 49 days with a robot seemingly possessed, like a medium, by the deceased. The creator says that she developed the concept after her grandmother’s death, when she personally experienced the function that a funeral serves as a mourning ritual for those left behind.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.
The experiment is part of a research project on funeral rites as a window into the uniquely Japanese approach to life and death. This is one of a series of works on “digital shamanism” that attempt to blend Japanese folk beliefs with technology.
*According to Buddhist belief, it takes 49 days for a deceased person to enter the next life.
Artist / Director: Etsuko Ichihara etsuko-ichihara.com/
Planning support / Actress: Shiho Saito
Logo design: Yurie Hata
Tablet UI design: Manami inose
Photographer: Masashi Kuroha
Film director: Hiroshi Takai (Garage)
Cinematographer: Jinam/Akifumi Watanabe
Editer: Hiroshi Takai (Garage)
Model: Shintaro Nakajima, Naotaka Fujii
Supported by Agency for Cultural Affair(Project to Support and Nurture of Media Arts Creator)
©Etsuko Ichihara etsuko-ichihara.com/