Welcome to the pentagramic pathway

You identified the item we have called as and selected the question:

There is no right answer to this question. Maybe you already knew that. Each theme on this website—technology, ecology, religion, and art—is a socially constructed category. All four themes intersect. They are unstable, emergent, and creative.

Complexity can be difficult so we often simplify information by sorting it into familiar categories. For instance, the academic study of religion was built on the categories of sacred (religious) and profane (secular). The Periodic Table groups chemical elements into blocks with similar characteristics. The Dewey Decimal System organizes books according to pre-selected subjects. And in the natural sciences, Carl Linnaeus’ taxonomy subdivides living things based on morphology.

How we categorize the world matters. It structures how we create knowledge and make ethical decisions. Common categorical systems inherited from Europe and its settler colonies laid the groundwork for democratic states and legal human rights, along with new medicine and sciences. But these systems also ranked people along an evolutionary scale, obscured some forms of knowledge in favor of others, and encouraged a division between humanity and nature.

As scholars and artists in the TERA collective, we wanted to experiment with new organizational systems. Together, we asked: What if we refuse to accept inherited classifications as natural? What if we become knowledge makers and shapers? What if we organize our world differently?

Over a year, we gathered dozens of “artifacts” related to technology, ecology, religion, and art. We included all manner of things: texts, recordings, photos, and objects. Then we mapped our artifacts to classify them in new ways. And then we did it again. And again. Those experiments inspired the pathways that structure this site.

We invite you to think along with us.

Follow one attempt at reclassifying through the pathway by clicking here. Or you use the button below to learn more about the pathway.

This pathway is a network of relationships that began by grouping the artifacts into themes. The challenge was less one of “correct” identification, as if each artifact belonged to only one ideal category, and more an attempt to distill each artifact’s essence based on any of its many elements. Through this process, six themes or qualities emerged that became the labels on each side of a triangle: Origins, Futures, Sensory, Technology, Animals, and Natural/Unnatural. Placing each of these qualities in relation to the others in a pentagram shape, we identified the pathway’s overarching theme: a focus on deep, or geologic, time.

Each side of the two overlapping triangles became a spectrum, with the artifacts on each of its points representing different extremes. At the intersections, we placed artifacts that mediated the relationship between two themes. The first triangle, which points down, maps three distinct but interconnected themes: Origins, Sensory, and Animals. The Origins section maps the human evolutionary experience, asking “Where did we come from?” For example, the artifacts Banff Merman and Sea Threads point to narratives related to human origins. Merman also intersects with the Animals category, as this liminal figure helps us consider our own animality and our intimate connections with non-human organisms. The Foraging artifact then connects animality to sensory practices by highlighting other types of knowledge beyond human understanding.

The second triangle, which points up, is also oriented toward deep time but is more future facing. Colonial Gaze at the top point connects Futures to Natural/Unnatural, complicating a dualistic view of the artifacts as either natural or unnatural because, in many ways, they are both. It evokes the role of technological innovation in shifting human interactions with the non-human natural world, particularly as an outcome of the scientific and industrial revolutions. Moving across the triangle, Cursed Dreams is placed where Technology and Futures meet. This artifact, and others in the Futures category, tracks human evolution into the deep future.

What other artifacts would you arrange along the sides of each triangle? How does the pentagram shape enable us to interpret information differently? What would a different shape reveal?