Investigating AI as ritual through an experiential installation

Kevin Walker, Anna Drupka

Research output: Practice-Based and Non-textual ResearchExhibition


We demonstrate how artistic practice can contribute to understanding nonlinguistic aspects of artificial intelligence (AI) as a cultural actor, through the creation of a multisensory installation informed by ethnographic research. Focusing specifically on rituals and spirituality, we invert the common trajectory wherein anthropologists (for example Turner 2001) investigate rituals and shared experiences created through artistic production, then publish their findings as academic texts; we instead draw on rituals and symbolism from multiple cultural traditions to create an embodied experience of ineffable aspects of AI using tactile materials and spatial audio in an immersive space.

This artistic form of ethnography (or conversely ethnographic art) sits alongside approaches such as sensory ethnography (Pink 2009) and alien ethnography (Lenskjold and Jönsson 2017), and aligns with the experiential research cycle of Kolb (1984), encompassing phases of concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation, and active experimentation. We see parallels between artistic and ethnographic research – for example, both require the researcher to be both insider and outsider. According to O’Donoghue (2014), this means resisting the imperative to record immediately or force an interpretation from a distance; instead it means immersing oneself directly in the research experience.

Individually we have created ethnographically-informed artworks, for example Ritual (2014) by Walker, The Water Ritual (2017) by Drupka, and Daily Rituals (2022) by Walker. We have collaborated to create a multisensory space devoted to ritualistic and spiritual aspects of AI, avoiding AI’s reliance on language and measurement, and common contemporary practice of using AI to create words or images.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2022
EventAI - NDSM Fuse, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 1 Oct 202226 Mar 2023


  • ethnography
  • Artificial intelligence
  • spirituality
  • ritual
  • art

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • Religious studies
  • Artificial Intelligence


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigating AI as ritual through an experiential installation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • F0lded 1n

    Walker, K. & Drupka, A., 30 Sept 2022

    Research output: Practice-Based and Non-textual ResearchExhibition

Cite this