Japanese ghost stories are more eerie than the corny ones I grew up with. They depend on atmosphere and context, not a mere bump in the night. There are some that do it right, like those from the classic anthology series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Maybe it’s because of the terrifying illustrations from Stephen Gammell, where limbs dangle and wounds drip and spiders literally crawl out of peoples’ faces and everything looks, well, scary. When I had to immerse myself into ghost stories in the name of education, I found myself repeatedly creeped out by even the oldest of tales. Where even the more tame ones stuck with me—like the ex-mistress Lady Rokujo in The Tale of Genji, striking down Genji’s lovers as a spiteful spirit. Ghosts are always creepy. And in the same way, so is augmented reality.
AUJIK is a Swedish-Japanese self-identifying cult that describes itself as “an esoteric sect who believes in animism and worships nature.” Animism, meaning that they believe that everything has a soul—even plants. Despite the mysterious group’s fixation on nature, their main outputs are technology-addled videos. In the recent video “Obake no Kage (Ghost Shadow),” a camera pans around a desaturated temple, with an augmented reality spillage of water-like spirits oozing out of every crack. In “Temple Encounter,” featuring music by Guzz, fleshy and bony creatures contort and squirm against their real forest environment, while AR eggs spill an eerie substance in the depths of a forest.
In the description for “Obake no Kage,” the internationally famous ghost story writer Lafcadio Hearn is quoted, hinting at the intent behind the mysterious imagery. “And it was at the hour of sunset that they came to the foot of the mountain,” reads the quote. “There was in that place no sign of life—neither token of water, nor trace of plant, nor shadow of flying bird—nothing but desolation rising to desolation. And the summit was lost in heaven.”
ghosts are more akin to augmented reality than you think
Its counterpart, the Guzz music video, is less oblique. In an interview with Noisey China, more concrete details have emerged. The interview tells of the video’s forest being an old, overgrown temple. And now, spirits and ghosts have made it their home. “These esoteric creatures have the abilities to change bodies once a tree reached its highest spiritual form,” they told Noisey China. “The video depicts this evolution.” Both of AUJIK’s recent videos share inherent eerie, ghostlike qualities, with the use of AR technology. In a lot of ways, this is nearly a commentary on the world of augmented reality itself. Where mythical, nonexistent digital beings have the ability to infiltrate our worldview and then promptly disappear. Just like ghosts.
You can watch AUJIK’s “Obake No Kage (Ghost Shadow)” and “Temple Encounter” below.