Artist Jonathan Sims.

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Spell for Going Forth by Day (2019)

Site-Specific Digital Projection
Variable Dimensions
Manhattan Bridge Overpass, Brooklyn

Spell for the Coming Forth of a Man by Day Against His Enemies in Khert-Neter is a visualization of a text formula found in the Book of Going Forth by Day, more commonly known as the Egyptian Book of the Dead. This “book” is in reality a loose series of funerary texts: individual formulae that were intended to guide and grant powers to a dead person as they attempted to navigate the obstacles and dangers of the underworld known to the ancient Egyptians as the Tuat.

The spell in this animated piece comes from an English translation of the Papyrus of Ani, one of the most complete versions of the Book, dating to the 13th Century BCE. This specific spell formula is a statement of power and agency by the speaker, but it is also a recognition of and request for divine intercession as a source for these powers. The animation implies that the spell, translated into English, could also be recorded as a spinning mandala made up of esoteric and abstract glyph forms. This analog is a reminder of the obscure and impenetrable mysteries of past civilizations, but is also an observation on the endurance of the use of spoken or written invocation as a source of power—in conjuring, in prayer, and in other ritual acts.

This video was projected as part of Light Year 47, a monthly projection exhibition in DUMBO, Brooklyn.