Through a principled exploration of the implications of ritual interaction, multimodal aesthetics, and computational technology in the intersection of spiritual and technological cultures, in this thesis I describe a contemporary approach to the creation of sacred space. Specifically, a multivalent aesthetic environment constituting an immersive architecture which I call the Sacred Sound Temple was presented at the Burning Man Festival in 2011, and is the subject of this exploration. When it comes to the human endeavor of grappling with the Sacred, art has always been an indispensable vehicle for the experience and expression of the Sacred. Traditional cultures frame art not simply in terms of its aesthetic dimensions, but also for its transcendental utility in binding the material realm to the intelligible realm of the Sacred. There has always been a fundamental relationship between technology and the creation of sacred art, especially within the Persian artistic tradition. In more recent times, electronic and digital media have grown to constitute an emerging technological palette with which traditional principles of art may be reinvigorated through a contemporary effort termed technosacred art. Through participatory design research, guided by traditional principles in art, this thesis charts an exploration of the symbolic and aesthetic agency of the visual, sonic, and architectonic dimensions of immersive architecture. Modes of embodied engagement within sensuous space are discussed as a form of ‘aesthetic practice’ which amalgamates with traditional modes of ritual participation. A grounded interpretation of the aesthetic and ritual dimensions of technosacred space based on hermeneutical knowledge from Sufism as well as neurotheology elucidates the relationship between aesthetic experience and the phenomenology of sacred experience. Although the design of technosacred space explores the contemporary use of technology in the design of built environments, it simultaneously expresses a foundational orientation toward the Sacred, similar to traditional modes of art. Through the interfusion of the premodern with the contemporary means, as well as the real and the virtual, this research points towards the use of art as a sacred media – a technology which mediates between our outer and inner realities and therefore reifies our sense of ‘being in the world.’
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Thesis advisor: Gromala, Diane
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