The Animated Soul is an interactive computer assisted installation. It is based on the ritual for achieving everlasting life as prescribed in The Egyptian Book of the Dead, a collection of ancient Egyptian rituals and religious texts. It was presented at the Ghia Gallery, a casket show-room, in San Francisco in 1991; and at the Kuopio Museum in Finland and Takada Fine Arts, San Francisco in 1992. The Animated Soul, in book format, traveled from 1992-1993 throughout the United States under an NEA grant.
In a tomb environment, the participant makes choices on a computer. Its hypercard stack is a journey of prayers, ceremonies, and poetic excerpts that are represented by icons. The selection of icons leads to a personalized sequence of portals, eventually leading the participant to Words of Power. The icons are contemporary symbols for mass communication and coexist with the scanned ancient Egyptian imagery, depicted both on the screen and as drawings on the walls.
In a sequence of choices, the participant may initially choose the dancing couple icon, which leads to the Gate of Pleasure (rather than Gates of Wisdom or Power). To enter the Gate of Pleasure, the next selection limits one's choice to a body part: the belly, genitalia, or legs. The body part selection of belly takes the participant to choices represented by contemporary icons - a grocery cart, a pig, and a trash can. A choice of the grocery cart brings up on the screen a Declaration of Innocence. This innocence is necessary to declare before entering an everlasting life. After the viewer has selected the food cart, the process reverses viewer expectation by declaring, "I have not taken food" and the participant's Ka or Ancient Double appears. It is Nekhebet and she assigns to the participant a purpose in this life: to "change faces into things of beauty". An image of goddess Nekhebet and the purpose are printed out on a ticket. With ticket in hand the participant leaves the computer and searches for Nekhebet's casket. Above the casket hangs a golden balloon imprinted with her image. In the casket are an image of Nekhebet on her pillow and her Words of Power. The Words of Power are printed on a label to be glued onto the ticket. This act validates the ticket and is a transference of Nekhebet's Words of Power to the viewer: *..."In my belly I join the breath of life and rise from the center of myself. Truth is in the belly. There is food for the hungry. Let me make you beautiful and protected with my bandages."
**"Although commonplace icons suggest easy answers, messages such as that of Nekhebet invert the viewer's original choice. Physical desires are often directed into a spiritual dimension. In this instance, the participant recognizes the realm of the belly in a larger sense, as the realm of deep breath meditation. The hypermedia version in moving viewers through its screens defies the time gap in its seamless connection of past wisdom to present desires."
*Awakening Osiris by Normandi Ellis
** General excerpts and quote are from Off The Shelf and On-Line: Computers Move the Book Arts into Twenty-first Century by Betty Bright, curator of the book exhibition.
Kathryn Woods is responsible for the Hypercard programming and other valuable input.