Spiritual Technologies Project:

selections from A Charge To Keep 

video and sound installation
courtesy of the artist

Project site

Michaela Leslie-Rule site

Ron Ragin site

T. Carlis Roberts site

“Stirring Up Spiritual Atmosphere in Song with Ron Ragin,” Nick Venegoni, The Queer Spirit podcast 

A significant element of cultural production in rural America and Indian Country in the last century has focused broadly on documenting the past and its connections to traditional arts, foodways, and spiritual belief. Just as the methods of this work tend to be academic in nature, the products of these efforts – the archives, fieldwork, and codification of creative expression – have often created deeper inequities through isolating communities from access to their own cultural resources.

By activating established documentation practices through a social justice framework that focuses on the embodied experience of collective singing, the Spiritual Technologies Project creates platforms that gather and transmit knowledge, honor lived cultural experience, and share liberation aesthetics. Led by artist and social scientist Michaela Leslie-Rule, singer and artist Ron Ragin, and scholar and artist T. Carlis Roberts, this group threads a deep, multidisciplinary understanding of the act of singing as a force for solidarity and social change, a history threaded through groups such as Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and forward into the work of the artists and cultural organizers within the Alternate ROOTS membership. The Spiritual Technologies Project dwells within these connections through creative research practices that themselves lead to performances and workshops with communities across the country.

“I’m interested in the ways in which resonating, turning your body into a resonator – a thing that can conduct sound – is a physical practice of opening and releasing,” Ron Ragin told the Queer Spirit podcast, “Singing is about creating a space in your body for vibrations to occur – and it’s the whole body, not just the vocal cords...it’s the whole body that is singing. I’m really interested in what is possible after we’ve sung and when we are singing. I think we are different beings in the practice of singing and the aftermath of it.”

The videos installed in this exhibition are a part of the research and film project A Charge to Keep project, which focuses on metered hymn singing in southern Black churches – a style of congregational singing with roots in Scots-Irish traditions that was brought into new expression on this continent as enslaved peoples barred from reading, and thus following along in a hymn book, created new technologies to learn music and sing together. Throughout these videos, which were recorded in central Georgia and the South Carolina and Georgia Sea Islands, a multigenerational range of singers share the transformational strength, and the deep cultural memory, that the act of singing together creates.

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High Visibility is a longterm, collaborative partnership between Art of the Rural, Plains Art Museum, and individuals & organizations across the continent. Please feel welcome to join us in this work.