Ritual Fields is a collection of work by Candy Chang and James A. Reeves that imagines the future of rituals in an increasingly alienating world.

Ritual. Unlike a habit or routine, a ritual seeks communion with something greater than ourselves. For some of us, the only worthwhile ritual is one that cultivates a relationship with the otherworldly. For others, it might be a means of reckoning with the past or future, a way of communicating with the ones we love or figuring out who we might become. A ritual can be a private act, a collective ceremony, or a cultural rite—it is a gesture that craves connection.

Fields. The field is the first canvas of civilization, marking the transition from nomadic life to permanent settlements. “The city of the dead,” wrote the historian Lewis Mumford, “is the forerunner, almost the core, of every living city.” As our burial fields led to crops, the field transformed us into citizens. It is the deliberate cultivation of nature. The field is a source of sustenance and it is a threshold, a boundary for play and sport. It is a zone which shapes our behavior.

Candy Chang and James A. Reeves both grew up without religion or any spiritual practice. After personal tragedies, they felt unmoored and unequipped to deal with the emotional wreckage that followed. Drawing upon her background in urban planning, Chang began injecting introspective experiments into public space to seek emotional communion. After losing his parents, Reeves began researching and writing about mourning, myth, and aesthetics. Through this work, they became increasingly sensitive to the ways our visual culture damages our psyches in the service of commerce. There is no acknowledgement of the grief-stricken. No reassurance for the anxious. No mention of the fact that we are all walking wounded. No wonder loneliness and social isolation are becoming a public health crisis. In an increasingly fragmented, disenchanted, and alienating age, how can our public realm better address our emotional health?

Chang and Reeves began to channel these questions into their collaborative work, believing that secular ritual can be a valuable balm against individual distraction, as well as a feature of our streets and plazas that allows us to contemplate the fears and desires that bind us. Inspired by a range of classical and contemporary practices, from the devotional images of Catholicism to the ancient I Ching to the speculative worlds of cyberpunk, Chang and Reeves have created public installations, stories, video, music, and multidisciplinary artwork to facilitate conversations about secular refuge in the modern world.

Trained as an architect, urban planner, and designer, Candy Chang has spent over a decade creating participatory public art which examines the dynamics between society and the psyche, the threshold between isolation and community, and the role of rituals in public life. James A. Reeves is a writer, educator, and interactive designer whose work addresses philosophy and ritual in the digital age; his first book, The Road to Somewhere: An American Memoir, was published by W. W. Norton. Together Chang and Reeves have collaborated on interdisciplinary art projects in cities around the world including New York, Hong Kong, New Orleans, Lisbon, Heraklion, and Los Angeles.

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