William Gibson’s Spook Country, religion and locative art

spook countryIm half way through William Gibson’s new novel spook country. It’s a fascinating read, which effortlessly manages to sound science-fictionny while being set in Feb 2006. It will come as no surprise that religion pops its head up here and there, and in a rather positive way. The pre-christian religion of a russian-speaking cuban new-yorker. Whose gods accompany him all over. The religion has no ethical overtones, and is no grandiose WorldView either. It’s just the language Tito uses to describe the world around him: he sees his gods around him, lending him a helping hand, warning him and just plain being there.
For Gibson (at least in this book, i haven’t read enough of him to venture any generalization) religion is not individualistic (Tito got his from his family), though it fits some people better than others (Tito and old Juana are the only two ‘religious’ people in the book). Religion doesn’t ‘tell you to do things’ either. It’s just an added layer to one’s world, for Gibson, an extra narrative perspective.

This new religion à la Gibson is not the grandiose establishment that the Catholic church or Islam are. It is not either the false, comfort-for-the-weak religion of many atheists. It is rather a new type of virtual space, a devaspace as opposed to a cyber one.

In the novel, some newfangled artists are creating “locative pieces” of art that are 3-D renditions that you can view at a specific geographical location when you put on a web-enabled virtual reality visor. These are thus pieces of art that are invisible to everyone unless you have a visor and a specific set of GPS coordinates. It is a new artistic layer that is being created in cyberspace atop the existing world.

In a sense, that is exactly how Gibson sees the religious world in his novel too. Instead of art aficionados viewing invisible sculptures throughout the city through special headgear, Tito sees Ochun or Eleggua around a corner or behind car. This new/very old religious world is not in conflict with what realists call reality, it is an extra layer atop it, like a locative piece of virtual art.

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One Comment to “William Gibson’s Spook Country, religion and locative art”

  1. Sounds like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

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