By Adam Nocek & Stacey Moran on behalf of The Center for Philosophical Technologies


Dust and Shadow was mythological from the beginning. Stories wrapped in stories, wrapped in ever more stories. Stories we told about the scope of the project, about its relevance for thinking sustainable futures in the desert southwest. Stories we told ourselves about what the project was really about, establishing critical and speculative distance from technocratic solutionism and business-as-usual. There were stories we constructed about how we could work together as Professors, nomadic practitioners and activists. And there were always stories about how it was going to end. How do we conclude this story? Or do we? Maybe it continues or maybe it ends right where it began: in search of old and new myths.

The Center for Philosophical Technologies has its own story about Dust & Shadow of course. In our version, the project began during a family residency with FoAM in Brussels. There, we began asking questions about how to transform animism and other non-modern practices into a praxeology for the contemporary world. These questions were in many ways at the core of the Laboratory for Critical Technics, which morphed into The Center for Philosophical Technologies (CPT) in 2018.

How might we transform philosophy into a technics for thinking-feeling-practicing otherwise? And what could be in more need of this philosophical technicity than a sprawling urban center in the middle of the desert? Our Field Marshal, Ron Broglio, was the missing link. He made it possible to work with FoAM in the desert and to begin crafting technics for living and dwelling otherwise.

Paul Ricouer once noted in an interview that there is an “imaginary nucleus” at the center of every culture, and this nucleus is the culture’s “opaque kernel” that exceeds all self-understanding and is irreducible to any set of “explicit functions—political, economic legal, etc” (Ricoeur and Kearney, “Dialogue With Paul Ricoeur,” 236). It is only when we “try to grasp that kernel,” Ricoeur explains, “that we may discover the foundational mytho-poetic nucleus of a society” (239).

What became readily apparent to us, as we researched the urban desert, as we listened to it, and as we tried to make sense of its many contradictory elements, is that the mythical nucleus upon which its neoliberal and technocratic logics are built needed a redesign. We need new myths. We need new stories upon which to build and redirect our practices.

But how do we go about this? How do we rewrite the stories of progress, development, and competition that we have inherited and so easily reproduce? We knew that our myths could function as antidotes to the stories poisoning our relation to the desert for so many generations. They should also be attentive to indigenous ways of knowing and being-with the desert. Our counter-mythology would be an amulet capable of protecting us from the many seductive, yet treacherous sustainability narratives. Our design work appeared more like witchcraft than any recognizable human-centered approach to sustainability design. It had to be carefully staged and lurk in the shadows.

Our desert laboratory doubled as a secret lair for occult practices where stories and rituals for parallel technologies, gnostic healing, and mystical pedagogy could be woven. The first experiments or spells cast would redirect human attention toward the many layers of sonic experience. Their effects are just beginning to take hold. If a soundwalk and album look like recognizable outcomes, then this is a good thing: the amulet worked.

We see Dust & Shadow as one of many ongoing attempts to pry open the cracks in our cultural imaginary and craft propositions for protection, healing, and thriving in a world that is in dire need of more shadowy practices.