Posthuman Rituals

“Rituals serve as a background against which our present times may be seen to stand out more clearly.”

— Byung-Chul Han

Dr Nina Rajcic’s practice-based PhD, titled “Posthuman Rituals” asks us to consider new kinds of human-machine relationships that inspire meaning, frame identity and support memory. The exegesis and accompanying exhibition (“The Ritual Series”) connects posthumanist theory and creative practice.

In stark contrast with the dominant relationships we currently have with technology — infinite scrolling, click-throughs and ‘likes’ — the work proposes an alternative vision for technologies that furnish time rather than consume it, favour narrative over data, and meaning over information.

Developed over three and a half years during her PhD research at SensiLab, the Ritual Series consists of three unique works inspired by posthumanism theory and all connected by bespoke machine poetry: Mirror Ritual, Message Ritual and Worn Ritual.


The Ritual Series exhibition
The Ritual Series exhibition: Message Ritual
The Ritual Series exhibition: Mirror Ritual
The Ritual Series: Mirror Ritual
The Ritual Series exhibition: Worn Ritual
The Ritual Series exhibition: Worn Ritual

The Ritual Series

In Mirror Ritual, a circular mirror conceals a machine vision camera that detects human faces. Once a face is detected, a neural network performs emotion classification of the viewer, based only on their facial expression. The classified emotion is then used as the basis for a unique machine generated poem. The poem appears on the mirror’s surface for as long as you look at it. If you look away, the poem disappears forever.

Message Ritual uses a domestic lamp with built-in microphones to listen in to household conversations. A speech-to-text system transcribes those conversations from which key topics of conversation are extracted. These topics are used as a basic for custom machine generated poetry that is sent to each member of the lamp’s household upon waking each morning. Over time the lamp learns about the topics of conversation and adjusts its poetry accordingly.

For Worn Ritual, individuals confide a personal story or painful memory to the artist, who then uses this story as the basis for a bespoke machine generated poem. Selecting the right poem may take many iterations between artist and the AI system. Once a final poem is selected, a significant phrase is hand-stamped onto an aluminium bracket, that is then gifted back to the person who shared their story.

Worn Ritual
Worn Ritual
Worn Ritual


Dr Rajcic’s work is strongly informed by theories of posthumanist philosophy, in particular Karen Barad’s theory of Agential Realism. Theory not only informed the design practice, but also shaped the design and research methodologies applied to investigating what these artefacts become as they are put out into the world. This involved taking a “diffractive reading” approach to collected data, as well as the deliberate consideration of all agents in the assemblage; not solely participants, but the designers, researchers, and other influences.

You can read more about this research in the publications listed below.