Between the Sacred and the Profane in the S. João d'Arga's Festivities: A Digital Art Installation

Between the Sacred and the Profane in the S. João d'Arga's Festivities: A Digital Art Installation

Mário Dominguez (Research Centre for Arts and Communication and Centre for the Study of Language, University Institute of Maia (ISMAI), Maia, Portugal), Fernando Faria Paulino (Research Centre for Arts and Communication and Centre for the Study of Language, Communication and Culture, University Institute of Maia (ISMAI), Maia, Portugal) and Bruno Mendes Silva (Research Centre for Arts and Communication, University of Algarve, Faro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/ijcicg.2014010101
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This paper describes the concept, creative process and development decisions regarding an interactive art installation that materializes a point of view on the conflict between the notions of ‘sacred' and ‘profane' in a particular Portuguese religious festival. The initiative, besides constituting an experiment on the usage of a physical pendulum as control method, aimed to combine three main domains: digital art (in particular generative art), documentary value and game-like challenge. Each user undertakes a personal experience as interaction occurs with a poetic symbolic simulation of the real pilgrimage. As the user intervenes indirectly in the main struggle, the profane and sacred pilgrims, in the shape of digital autonomous agents, uncover a generated art piece that is both a product of the artist vision and the inevitable result of the users conscious and unconscious decisions.
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Object’S Background Context

Once a year, in the midst of Serra d’Arga, a mountain range located in Minho, a northern Portuguese province, takes place a very peculiar religious festival, arguably labelled as the region’s most typical festivity of its kind (Guerra & Paulino, 2010, p. 131). There, anyone may find the somehow unexpected promiscuous and almost symbiotic relation between the holy practices, the processions, the prayers and the culmination of pledge-filled pilgrimages, in parallel with the unholy revelry and primal behaviours. All comprehensively wrapped in an environment marked with ordinary folk music, dancing and dare singing between random people, the courting and flirting around the local trade stands, and the tasting of regional food and alcohol as the bonding element of all these earthly appeals.

These one-weekend summer festivities take place across a wide forest area in a specific green valley. However, the event’s epicentre matches the location of Mosteiro de S. João d’Arga, a remote but accessible monument that comprehends a chapel (in honour of St. John) encircled by the ruins of what used to be the pilgrim’s quarters – a support facility built to give roof to all believers who came to pay their promises to the saint. According to Garrido’s research, the chapel is actually only what’s left of the original secular Benedictine maximum monastery (Garrido, 1983, p. 18).

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