“Medievalists have been comparing the smart phone to the Medieval book of hours for years,” curator Sarah Celentano, a medievalist and former staffer at New York’s City Reliquary told Artnet News. “They are about the same size, people use them in public, and they are luxury items.”
Phil Buehler has run with that comparison, surreptitiously snapping photographs of New Yorkers engrossed in their phones and turning the images into stained glass-style images displayed on a smart TV mounted in a wooden frame shaped like an arched church window. Right now, only the video files are for sale, for $1,500 each, but the right offer could potentially buy you the whole installation.
The meditative display, beneath a vaulted “ceiling” of blue lights, is paired with dispatches from QAnon printed in Gothic script that Celentano selected for their biblical cadence. “Smart phones give us access to limitless information, not just prayers,” she said, “but we are still prone to radicalization.”
If you’re in New York City this week taking in the art fairs, please strop by my installation at Spring/Break Art Show The theme of this year’s show is Heresy/Hearsay, with a medieval spin.
Book of Ours
An immersive multimedia art installation highlighting the unsettling correlation between technology, medieval status symbols & conspiracy theories.
September 10–September 13 SPRING/BREAK ART SHOW 625 Madison Ave (bet 58th & 59th Streets) Booth 1044
Curator Sarah Celentano’s description:
“This project explores the overlaps of the medieval and the modern with a focus on smartphone technology and online-bred conspiracy groups.
In this chapel of the medieval-modern, photos of smartphone users are transformed into sacred imagery through the medieval medium of stained glass. Accompanying these images are selected communications, or “QDrops,” from the online conspiracy group QAnon. The biblical cadence and heroic language of the QDrops recall passages from the Hebrew and Christian Bibles and show how present-day pocket devices have aided in the radicalization of virtual communities who see themselves as modern crusaders.
Upon its debut in 2007, the iPhone intrigued the medievalist community with its parallels to the book of hours. These prayer books, often illuminated with gold leaf and pigments created from crushed gems, were popular among secular elites between the 13th and 15th centuries. They were often small and portable, and thus acted as both devotional object and personal accessory. The book of hours compares closely to the 21st-century smartphone in terms of scale, costliness, and status symbol. Yet, the purpose of each object could not seem more different, one a means of guiding devotion, the other an invitation to limitless inquiry. But the rise of online conspiracy groups suggests that technology is not a guarantor of social progress.”