WE ARE THE SHAMANS is an interactive installation inspired by the soul lock, where people were invited to release fireflies from a locked jar.
The Hmong have, for centuries used the soul lock to prevent souls from leaving the body prematurely. They believe that illness indicates the soul’s exit from the body. Yet the idea of forcefully containing the soul seems strangely at odds with nature.
The installation presents the anti-thesis of the soul lock concept. The audience were given an enigmatic invite that when opened, revealed a guide with a series of ink blots that they had to decipher in order to unlock the jar and release the fireflies.
Fireflies were chosen as a metaphor for the soul. Many Buddhist and animistic cultures believe in the process of reincarnation, especially as an insect. Also, since the fireflies are only visible between sundown to sunrise, they are an allusion to dreams: that souls travel an alternate dimension when the body is asleep.
Just as the imprisonment of fireflies (a metaphor for the soul) leads to their imminent death, the installation asks questions about fears, both rational and irrational, that drive human intervention.
If shamans act as intermediaries between heaven and earth, then we who preside over the fates of fireflies, are shamans.
The communication and design strategy incorporated Rorschach ink blots. The ink blots further insinuated the mystical nature of the subject and added a new layer of meaning: that only if you read the ink blot in a certain way were you able to decipher the lock; and only then were you considered a shaman. In truth, shamans are normally ‘summoned’ for the role by what the society believes to be a higher power. Otherwise the title is inherited.
The logo was adapted from the ink blot shown above. It was chosen for its resemblance to a mask and an insect all at once, lending a duality and aura of enigma to the project’s identity.
Invite + Guide
It wasn’t enough to just have an invite due to the highly interactive nature of the installation. The guide titled ‘A guide for shamans’ included the ink blots and specific readings corresponding with the number for the lock.
A challenge was to make the collateral manageable whilst the user was simultaneously viewing the installation and the guide and at the same time trying to unlock the lock with their hands.
The solution was to scale the size so it was comfortable in the users hands. The saddle stitched guide can be pulled out to become more manageable whilst the viewer was on site.