Technology and spirituality: a conversation with Teresa Fernández-Pello
Emerging technologies are increasingly transforming the way we interact with one another but also the way we make sense of our world.
Through various projects including the exhibition “ Objects for a New kind of Society: The way we work” , Dutch Invertuals explored the impact of the emerging technologies on design but also on everyday life and even on our sense of spirituality. By collaborating with various designers, such as Teresa Fernández-Pello, we questioned what aspects of this invisible and constantly expanding digital infrastructure remain hidden to us and what are the possible future implications.
We invited designer Teresa Fernández Pello to answer a few questions about the increasingly blurring boundaries between the digital and the physical ream and the ongoing collaboration with Dutch Invertuals.
During the past year, you were invited to collaborate with Dutch Invertuals and investigate the impact of emerging technologies on our social interactions and on our sense of spirituality. How do you see the relationship between technology and human spirituality evolving in the future?
Spirituality and technological development have always been two intertwined aspects of human activity. In the future we might see much more blurred boundaries between these two realms, which have not always been understood as separately as we have become used to. I believe this change in perspective has been occurring for quite some time and it has the potential to evolve a lot further. Art and humanities shouldn’t just increase their use of contemporary technologies as mediums for research and creation but also take high-tech and scientific advances as their subject of study. I believe that engineering projects and tech companies will increasingly become centers for discussing human epistemologies, belief systems and spirituality.
What is the role of AI in your work and how does this influence your end result?
I have been working with Artificial Intelligence tools to develop the aesthetics of my work. As these tools have the capability to put together vast amounts of data across many different times and places, I see in them the possibility of connecting with a wide representation of concepts like technology, religion or mysticism. Many AI tools use the creation of images as a primary medium for communicating this knowledge, making me very interested in pursuing my research precisely through the aesthetic and visual layer. In “Dictum Terminal” I used AI to search and combine together image references from altarpieces in various cultures and historical periods, aiming to develop an aesthetic language that would express human spirituality beyond traditional classifications.
For Dutch Invertuals’ exhibition ‘Objects for a new kind of Society: The way we work’, exhibited in Milan in May 2023, you created an altarpiece showing the invisible data flow resulting from our constant digital interactions. Why do you think it is important to explore this theme in your design practice?
Totally mediated by digital and electronic technologies, contemporary daily life is amply expressed, collected and stored in data flows that remain invisible or even unknown to the majority of us. The piece that I created for “Objects for a New Kind of Society” transforms some of this data flows into light, color, and vibration patterns by connecting them through a coded set of rules. The intention behind this was not only to display and visualize these data flows, but to show as well the infrastructures that store, link and interpret these data as an important part of the picture.
What did you learn from the research conducted during the collaboration with Dutch Invertuals and is there anything interesting that you discovered?
All along the process of creating the piece there were many moments to discuss, analyse and reflect ideas together with the Dutch Invertuals team and the rest of the designers involved in the exhibition, which took my piece to higher levels of conceptualisation and discourse. By exhibiting the piece in Milan and posting it in social media, I was surprised to find that many people shared a sense of urgency -but also danger- when speaking of contemporary spirituality linked to the development of technologies like neural networks and AI. It made me think of the importance to understand these developments as closely aligned with our belief systems and existential needs; not to see the development of AI as much separated from who we are as a society and from the overarching narratives and values that we share.