The digital revolution is over, as MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte once affirmed. Art is now going post-digital. Ever since French Philosopher J.F. Lyotard introduced his explanation on the late modern or postmodern age, “Post” concepts have been popping up. With the emergence of posthumanism, post futurism or postnatural studies, one way or the other, there seems to be a certain pattern, subjected to what philosopher Marina Garcés named the “postume condition”.
According to Garcés, somehow we developed an obsession and a constant want to put an end to things. Consequently, we coin terms of post-truth and post-participation which explain this Postume Condition. Moreover, this idea sparks innumerous questions. What does postnormal mean? Do we rather live in the age of the “posts” or the “post-age”? What is the end of postmodernity?
Terror Attacks, pandemics, conflicts and financial bubbles are, in most cases, emergencies that escalate quickly and become highly mediatic, while also causing a great deal of uncertainty. There are many subjects on earth’s agenda: the Climate Crisis and the Goals for Sustainable Development, as well as solving or preventing future events like a global health crisis, and its subsequent economic recession are just a few of them.
On top of that, there’s also the struggle with fake news and deep fakes, plus the overwhelming information fluxes. Given the circumstances, it seems legitimate to look for anything new, as it is for the hypothetical reason why we hear statements such as “We enter a new age of post-truth”, “We introduce you to our new solution” or “I’ll go shop for new clothes”.
And yet the now, in the context of the attention economy, is also claiming for our attention. All of a sudden, books on stoicism are being sold online in large numbers; Buddhism has gone far beyond the Himalaya mountains, and moved all the way to Paris, San Francisco and Sydney; Meditation and mindfulness have become so popular that a multi-billion industry has emerged; and the increasing interest for shamanism, psychedelics and transformative experiences have re-entered the realm of therapy.
Some scholars argue that this apparently desperate quest for wisdom shows evidence for a mental health crisis, correlated with the spikes of suicide rates in the last years. Because of its eery causes –illnesses such as depression and anxiety–, in addition to a fast-paced lifestyle, this “crisis of meaning” seems to have less popularity and urgency compared to other crisis it interacts with, which makes it worth to deserve a bit of extra attention.
Austrian superstar neurologist Viktor Frankl once said that it is meaning what sustains us throughout our lives, no matter how little or how much power and pleasure comes our way. Frankl warned about a “mass neurotic triad”: Aggression, addiction, depression, which remind us of the buddhist triad of humanity’s sources of sickness (greed, anger and violence). Is this the reason why more companies provide “meaningful” experiences? Is there a link with the obsession of an Apocalypse? Is the postume condition an ontological synonym of the Meaning Crisis?
Popular scholars like John Vervaecke or Jordan Peterson have already shed some light on the term meaning crisis from varying standpoints. If a seeming lack of trust in religious and governmental institutions are characterising these times, along with the feeling of loneliness, where do we evoque the feeling of faith? With the imminent secularisation of modern societies, the quest for meaning was advanced by existentialists like Nietzsche or Kierkegaard, anticipating the death of the absolute devine:
God said to Moses “I am that I am”, but the Hebrew language doesn’t have a present form of to be, which is why English translations of the Hebrew texts prefer “I will be what I will be”. Before God was GOD, it was an atemporal being that acted as a bridge to the future. Asking ourselves about what comes next is an old question.
The Postume Condition and the Meaning Crisis are some of the notions that were brought to our attentions, sparking conversations about the future of spirituality and precisely these conversations have eventually evolved to an ambitious project called ‘The First Supper’.
What is The First Supper
Our curiosity and observations in the digital age set in motion the project. Our initial aim was to start a discussion on the numerous questions that are rising in the age of computers, internet and smartphones. At the beginning, the conversations were mainly focused on the intrigues around the spiritual experience of the digital society. Will computers some day deal with human emotional issues? What implicit religious narratives can we find in the technocratic discourse? What if our mind ends up in the cloud, like in Black Mirror?
This is part of the reason why ‘The First Supper’ works on hypothesis around spirituality and faith: to place spirituality among the top priorities of our debate agenda, opening questions on Faith in times of rapid digitalisation could help us understand the interaction between the Meaning Crisis and issues like Gender, Sustainability or Humane Technologies.
We started to consider this as a golden age of artistic expression, the ideal tool to explore the intersection between all things digital and spiritual. At the core of ‘The First Supper’ lies the urge to make the debate about spirituality a priority for the development of Techno-ethics, and widen the front against the meaning crisis. That’s why we consider creativity as the right way to cope with such profound discussions.
Because, let’s admit it, we love beginnings; it’s where illusion and ambitions are pure. We began to review the history in the Western religious culture after the famous Last Supper. After that event, was there ever a first one? Subscribing to the Postume Condition, we wanted to put an end to a timeframe and called this ‘The First Supper’, a project that serves the purpose of exploring, investigating and debating the future intersections of spirituality, digital and creativity, a powerful triad of liminal technologies.
The manifestations and outcomes of this ongoing project will come in diverse forms, from collaborations with the academia to brand partnerships, from research to media productions; all culminating into an event soon to be announced. Stay tuned!