South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWWDTP) funded artist, games designer and PhD researcher Rob Sherman, also known as Bonfire Dog, to undertake a week-long residency at Inshriach Bothy in October 2016. Rob has previously worked on multimodal games with the publisher Random House, written children’s stories and interactive fiction for the charity Shelter UK and was Writer-in-Residence at the British Library. His PhD with the SWWDTP involves the creation of one fictional character, an animist, zoomorphic nature god, in two distinct forms. One is a digital simulation, a changeable and evolving computer-generated version, while the other is a static, non-linear text, telling the story of the god itself and giving cryptic instructions for interacting with and influencing the digital simulation: a text in the same tradition as grimoires and ‘magickal books’ of previous centuries, which proscribed methods for talking to angels, spirits and daemons.
Rob’s research, accompanying his artwork, deconstructs the many ways in which human beings conceive of characters, particularly those methods that lie outside the conventional avenues of writing characters in poetry, fiction, music or film. He is interested by the concept of the “autocosmic”; the pathological tendency of human beings to vividly simulate things that are not real. In particular this influences our relationship with the natural world around us, whether through the imagined personalities, feelings and personal lives of animals, or through the projection of human characteristics onto the surrounding environment, the basis for many of the world’s religions.
Rob will use time at the Bothy to develop his own character; to work out how the story that he wants to tell can be manifested in the programmed, digital systems that he will need to build. Rob will happily be leaving his laptop at home in England; by removing himself from human technology as much as possible, using only a long scroll of lining paper and charcoal pencils to draw diagrams, plans and rambling “pseudocode”, he hopes to create complex and compelling systems to program into his god from outside the context of the computer, discovering refreshing ways of working digitally, using the natural world as inspiration and material.