Metric Mysticism is a lecture-performance that gazes into the crystal balls of the Silicon Valley and charts the transmutation of big data into a magical substance that predicts—and polices—the future.

Focusing on the appropriation of mysticism and magic by Silicon Valley start-ups and governmental surveillance agencies alike, Metric Mysticism suggests that the crystal ball, a transparent device that permits one to see into the future, has come to stand in as a paradigm for how tech entrepreneurs prefer to imagine the algorithmic processing of information.

Palantir Technologies is identified as at the forefront of such metric mysticism. Co-founded by Peter Thiel, the controversial data analytics company appropriates the palantir, a fictional all-seeing crystal ball used by wizards in The Lord of the Rings. Here, in the palantir, data becomes a new absolute, determining what the future is and how it should be controlled.

Yet what if one were to gaze not into a crystal ball but rather a chunk of silicon? Not transparent glass but rather an opaque, chemical element at the very core of digital technology. Against the prediction of the future, can reconfiguring the act of crystal gazing offer a way to better comprehend the crisis of the present?

Metric Mysticism is a companion piece to Blas’s Silicon Traces trilogy, a series of moving image installations that contends with the beliefs, fantasies, and histories influential to Silicon Valley’s visions of the future.

Zach Blas is an artist, filmmaker, and writer whose practice spans moving image, computation, theory, performance, and science fiction. He is an Assistant Professor of Visual Studies in the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto. Blas has exhibited, lectured, and held screenings internationally, recently at the de Young Museum, British Art Show 9, Tate Modern, Walker Art Center, 2018 Gwangju Biennale, the 68th Berlin International Film Festival, Matadero Madrid, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Art in General, Gasworks, Van Abbemuseum, Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, e-flux, Whitechapel Gallery, ZKM Center for Art and Media, and Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo. Recent works have addressed fantasies of artificial intelligence, policing as mysticism, the crystals balls of the Silicon Valley, time travel, and smart drug psychedelia. His artist monograph “Unknown Ideals” is published by Sternberg Press.