A Banquet for Wandering Ghosts

Thursday, 31th October, contemporary art platform TENT Rotterdam organized an all night program of performances, films, videos, dance, readings, art, night walks, mini-lectures, and food design, that explored the interfaces between Halloween and contemporary art.
In his mini-lecture Who’s Afraid of the Dark?, Folgert Karsdorp told how folktales give insight into cultural beliefs about darkness. Folktales are replete with themes and motifs about the night, graveyards, black animals, witches, devils, being lost and of course, death. As such, folktales provide unique insights into a culture’s view on the realm of the dark.

Folgert Karsdorpkl

Using computational means, Karsdorp investigated how the word black functions in Dutch folktales. What entities are most prototypically associated with black, for example. Black arts and black magic are dominantly present in Dutch legends. Furthermore we find many references to black body parts, such as eyes and legs, often implicit references to the devil himself.
Most black entities are animals. Animals, such as ravens and crows and especially cats are closely connected to darkness.
Karsdorp proposed a method to classify folktales on a scale of darkness: how dark is a particular folktale on a scale of zero to one? He computed the darkness for more than 10.000 folktales and projected the darkness of each folktale on a map in order to visualize what parts of the Dutch folktale landscape are the darkest.