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Castle of Crossed Destinies: When the Sonic Becomes Physical

Aouefa Amoussouvi / Berlin, Germany | Sasha Engelmann / London, UK | Olivia Berkowicz / Göteborg, Sweden


Castle of Crossed Destinies is a transnational experiment in feminist solidarity using divinatory tools and creative techniques for collective knowledge production. For the sixteenth Web Residency »Solidarity is a verb,« the collective started developing a card game. The game introduces the three technologies of tarot reading, DIY pirate radio, and raw cacao, and applies guiding principles for practicing techno-feminist visions.

The collective is named after writer Italo Calvino’s book The Castle of Crossed Destinies and was initiated as a 3-part sonic project by geographer Sasha Engelmann, curator Olivia Berkowicz and curator and biophysicist Aouefa Amoussouvi whilst being fellows at Akademie Schloss Solitude in 2020-2021. The Castle of Crossed Destinies encounters merge rituals, technologies, feminist narratives in science and art, as well as personal experiences and reflections on transgenerational memories and migrations.

Sasha Engelmann

Sasha Engelmann is a London-based geographer exploring interdisciplinary, feminist and creative approaches to environmental knowledge making. She collaborates with artists and activists to investigate different ways of sensing and our environments that reach beyond models of capture and enumeration. She is an active member of the Aerocene Community and a co-founder (with Sophie Dyer) of the feminist project open-weather. She holds a Lecturership in the GeoHumanities at Royal Holloway University of London where she teaches at the intersection of geography and the arts and humanities.Link to Bio

Olivia Berkowicz

Olivia Berkowicz is a curator, writer and editor. She works at the intersection of critical visuality studies and contemporary art theory, manifesting itself in work on memory, translocality and alternative solidarities. Her previous studies include an MA in curatorial studies (2016) and a BA in History of Art (2013), at Stockholm University/Sweden and Goldsmiths College, University of London/UK respectively. Link to Bio

Aouefa Amoussouvi

Aouefa Amoussouvi is a research scientist based in Berlin/Germany. Currently, she is researching on history and alternative narratives of science in the prism of intersectional feminism and coloniality. Especially, she is exploring how the development of digital technologies creates opportunities as well as ethical challenges within western and non-Western contexts. Link to Bio

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Castle of Crossed Destinies


Welcome, player, to Castle of Crossed Destinies. We urge you to enter, please. Don’t hesitate.

Imagine you are traveling in a forest, and you come upon a secluded inn. There is glowing light in the window. You knock on the door, and are invited inside. There, around a sparse wooden table, you find a group of other travelers who have taken rest on their journeys. As you remove your coats and stow your belongings, you attempt to introduce yourself, and you realise you have lost the capacity to speak.

The other travelers gesture to three stacks of cards on the table. They are illustrated and marked with numbers and words. Each stack appears to have different properties. The cards are spread in front of you, and you understand you should choose one card from each pile. These cards, you realise, are the shared language in the group. They are props for telling your story to those listening, and they are devices for asking questions of yourself and other travelers.

Choose one card from each stack. As you pick one and turn it over, an image appears and the card speaks. It will tell you a story about itself and ask you some questions that you may ponder over alone or with a fellow player. Listen to the card speaking, as it encourages you to think about how different forces, narratives and molecules affect your body and thoughts. Let’s speculate together and think about how we can recount new stories about ourselves and our relations which travel across multiple scales and perspectives.

In a near future, COCD will be presented as a card game to be used in everyday spaces and workshops. The cards presented here are prototypes from three ‘houses’ that will ultimately make up the game. Also to make the game more sensuous, we will also record the monologues of the cards as spoken voice tracks that one may listen to whilst playing.


Le Diable

I shake the foundations of cathedrals and institutions, and obliterate them from below. I spit on dogmas and norms, and disrupt the established order with my transgressions. Nothing and no one restricts me; I am the bearer of light and fire; I am supreme and whole in myself. I queer and query the universe around me, simply by existing in this multiple form of eyes, breasts and organs. And from this chaos, comes infinite passion, creativity and desire; I cross the lands of eternity over and over again. When you encounter me, I urge you to consider the following questions.

What do you desire deep down? What norms are affecting or restricting your life? I call for resistance and disorderliness; how could you be more disobedient?



My chemical formula is C22H37NO2, but I am better known as anandamide. My name comes from „Ananda“ the Sanskrit word for „bliss, joy and delight“ as I am a neurotransmitter naturally produced by the brain when people feel happy! I bind to cannabinoid receptors present in your brain as well as your entire body and therefore affect several of your behaviours such as memory, appetite, sleep, motivation, pleasure, pain and relief. I am one of the molecules responsible for the “runner’s high” and is produced by our brain when we exercise, meditate, cuddle, listen to relaxing music or stroke a pet... You also find me in cacao and black truffles. When you encounter me, I urge you to consider joy and delight as a radical political practice.

When was the last time you produced me and had a blissful experience? Do you outsource the responsibility of your joy? Do you allow yourself to feel delight everyday? How could a politics of bliss reshape your life?


7 MHz

I am an invisible ocean of energy. My waves are 40 metres long from peak to peak. At sunset and sunrise, I traverse continents and oceans, skipping between the ground and the sky. I ride the waves of ions energised by the Sun and the tails of meteors as they streak through the atmosphere. Yet, at the height of day and at the depths of night, I move locally. I bounce between cities, hugging streets and highways. I hug the surface of the earth. I am grand and I am intimate, I am vast and contained. Extend a copper wire ten metres between two trees, attach a radio and listen carefully.

Can you hear my many voices, human and nonhuman? As you listen, I urge you to consider several questions. Where are you grounded? How far might you extend? Can you amplify your voice, and if so, with what tools? Do you resonate with your local community, and do you resonate with communities you have never met?


Castle of Crossed Destinies - Podcast



TIER.cast is a series of sonic encounters creating a platform for interdisciplinary intimate, process rather than goal-oriented listening sessions. Guests are invited to discuss and present with voices and sounds their past and current projects, intellectual and personal inspirations, methodologies and practices.

It is a journey through voices, music, noise, sound and silence.

The first edition is a three-way conversation with curator Olivia Berkowicz, geographer Sasha Engelmann and new co-director of TIER and biophysicist Aouefa Amoussouvi. They discuss radio, rituals, technologies, feminist narratives in science and art, as well as personal experiences and transgenerational memories & migrations. This encounter focuses on the practice of tarot.

Episode made in collaboration with the Akademie Schloss Solitude.
Sound Design by Sara Pereira; mix&mastering@Living Note Studio


Castle of Crossed Destinies - Podcast


Open Weather

The Castle of Crossed Destinies is 3-part sonic project with geographer Sasha Engelmann, curator Olivia Berkowicz and biophysicist Aouefa Amoussouvi. Part 2 focuses on Engelmann’s project open weather, earth sensing, radio technologies, feminist divination practices as well as transgenerational memories & migrations.

The project departs from Calvino’s book The Castle of Crossed Destinies (1973). In the tale, a group of travellers meet in a tavern in the woods. Afflicted by a strange predicament that affects their capacity to speak, they turn to tarot cards to tell stories about one another. Situated in pandemic times, the conversation conjures vocabularies, glossaries and sounds. Moving in a circular motion, three fellow travellers explore stories within stories within stories.

Sound design: Sara Pereira
Sound mix&mastering @ Living Note Studio
Episode made in collaboration with Akademie Schloss Solitude


Castle of Crossed Destinies - Podcast


Raw Cacao

The Castle of Crossed Destinies is 3-part sonic project with geographer Sasha Engelmann, curator Olivia Berkowicz and biophysicist Aouefa Amoussouvi. Part 3 focuses on Amoussouvi’s practice with raw cacao and her research on the science, rituality and the entanglements with imperialism of this food commodity.

The project departs from Calvino’s book The Castle of Crossed Destinies (1973). In the tale, a group of travellers meet in a tavern in the woods. Afflicted by a strange predicament that affects their capacity to speak, they turn to tarot cards to tell stories about one another. Situated in pandemic times, the conversation conjures vocabularies, glossaries and sounds. Moving in a circular motion, three fellow travellers explore stories within stories within stories.

Sound production & mix by Sara Pereira (and a thanks to Rosa & Altes Finanzamt)

Episode made with support of Akademie Schloss Solitude


Castle of Crossed Destinies - Interview

In Conversation — Nov 30, 2021

Curator and biophysicist Aouefa Amoussouvi, geographer Sasha Engelmann, and curator Olivia Berkowicz in Paris, 2021.

In this interview, Aouefa Amoussouvi, Olivia Berkowicz, and Sasha Engelmann speak about Italo Calvino’s story »The Castle of Crossed Destinies,« the game’s three prototype cards, and why sharing our stories with each other is a form of solidarity.

Digital Solitude: Can you introduce us to your collective? What is your process of working together?

Castle of Crossed Destinies: We are Aouefa, Olivia, and Sasha, and we come from different fields and practices. We met while on residency at Akademie Schloss Solitude between summer 2020 and spring 2021, which was marked by a very specific time of restricted travel and a sense of uncertainty about the future. We discovered a shared interest in radio, storytelling, and intersectional feminisms. During the winter months at the residency, we started meeting every Sunday to read and discuss texts together, while bringing our respective interests to the table and reflecting on how the personal, poetic, and political could be explored through our sessions. We took a cue from the Italian writer Italo Calvino’s story »The Castle of Crossed Destinies,« which offered us the strategy of using our different props for investigating new forms of sense-making in a situation in which we were searching for alternative vocabularies.

During a recording session of TIER.cast hosted by Aouefa Amoussouvi, Olivia Berkowicz and Sasha Engelmann, Akademie Schloss Solitude, 2020.

Digital Solitude: What is your understanding of solidarity and how does it translate into your practice?

CCD: »The Castle of Crossed Destinies« perhaps offers a metaphor for our approach to solidarity. It describes a group of strangers meeting in a forest inn during the darkest part of winter. When the strangers realize that they have lost their capacity to speak, they use a deck of tarot cards to tell their life stories to each other. Tarot becomes a vehicle and platform for a common space of exchange.

Our collaboration took a similar format, in that we focused on three different tools for sharing our stories with each other and building a collective methodology. This was not a collaboration founded on existing work, institutional positions, or disciplinary backgrounds. It was rather about meeting each other in physical and sonic spaces through the interventions of raw cacaorituals, amateur radio experiments, and tarot card readings. What emerged was an intimacy and a mode of understanding each other unique to this collaboration. For us, this is a form of solidarity.

Digital Solitude: For the Web Residency, you chose to bring the practices of tarot reading, DIY pirate radio, and raw cacao rituals into a common dialogue by developing a card game. How do you imagine that this game will activate those different »frequencies« and the crossing, imagining, and exchanging of a set of thoughts? Can you unpack your interest in tarot/card games?

CCD: Tarot cards, radio antennas, and raw cacao beans are all »props« that we use to ask questions about our environments, our memories, and our relations to community and scale. These props operate in different modalities. While a raw cacao ritual attunes us to our biochemical and embodied feeling-states, a radio antenna gives us access to frequencies that have traversed cities, oceans, and continents. Tarot offers a set of archetypes through which to pose questions about identity and ways of being. Yet, within each of these props there is significant complexity. Raw cacao derives its power from many different chemicals that produce different embodied states; a radioantenna receives a range of frequencies simultaneously; a tarot deck has many figures, from the Major to Minor Arcana. In the game, we wanted to draw from this complexity to cross-pollinate and intersect the chemicals of raw cacao, the frequencies of radio, and the archetypes of tarot. This allows us to hone in on the variations and nuances within each of our practices while speculating on how they might inform eachother and sharpen the questions we ask of ourselves and our work as feminists.

Digital Solitude: In the long run you aim to create three card decks based on the Major Arcana. During the Web Residency, you begin with creating one figure from each deck. Can you tell us more about those three figures?

Indeed we want to develop three carddecks or »houses« based on the chemicals of raw cacao, the frequencies of radio, and the archetypes of tarot, respectively. To present the game, we developed three prototype cards with the figures of the molecule anandamide, Le Diable and the 7 Mhz radio frequency and accompanying monologues which introduce the cards to the players.

Anandamide is an important neurotransmitter present in raw cacao. It is responsible for »runner’s high« and our brain produces it when we exercise, meditate, cuddle, listen to relaxing music, or stroke a pet. We created the anandamide card to invite the reader to consider joy, delight, and self-care as radical political practices.

Seven Mhz has long been a favorite frequency of radio amateurs, and has the peculiar ability to travel locally during the day,and over oceans and continents at night. We felt this frequency offered a series of queries about locality and translocality, the ways we are simultaneously invested in our immediate communities, yet connected and entangled with places and communities we have never visited.

Le Diable, also known as the Devil, is the fifteenth card of the Major Arcana in the tarot deck. The Devil spoke to us as a card that questions established norms and institutions through unbounded desire and creativity. It can also be interpreted as more queer than others of the same deck, as it portrays a figure of multiple genders. So, the Devil questions narratives of the Self, of how one formulates desire and disobedience and puts that into action.

Digital Solitude: How did your proposal develop during the Web Residency?

CCD: Over the period of the residency, we met online weekly. Our initial idea to lead a workshop in Berlin quickly became unfeasible due to time and budget constraints. Early in the residency, we landed on the idea of producing a game that would ultimately become a diagram or a format for future workshops or for individual/collective moments of play.

Olivia and Aouefa using an antenna to explore feminist approaches to weather sensing and embodied methods for decoding satellite transmissions. Find out more about this research on Sasha Engelmann's website https://sashaengelmann.com

Digital Solitude: Your individual approaches as artists are multidisciplinary, from exhibition making to research-based and field works, to audiovisual encounters and multisensorial pieces and workshops. How do you intend to facilitate these multisensory experiences and encounters within your Web Residency project?

CCD: This is something that has been very important to us when doing the trilogy of the »Castle of Crossed Destinies« sonic interventions. We did the recordings in one of our studios, where we set up a table full of props and objects that served to trigger the conversation. Every session was hosted by one of us and our respective props, whilst weaving in and out of personal memories, feminist theory, and histories of our technologies. Our encounters were always accompanied by something to eat or drink, and objects that triggered sensorial experiences.

The game will serve as an embodied tool or technology for future workshops, with prompts for exploring your body in relation to your environment. To make it more sensuous, we will also record the monologues of the cards as spoken-voice tracks that one may listen to while playing. In a workshop setting, we may also involve aspects of meditation, live radio tuning or raw cacao. This is something that we’re currently experimenting with to bring the cards into the realm of the senses.

Digital Solitude: For translating your intimate physical experiences into a collective (digital) encounter, you will need a clear structure, clear principles, and rules. Is there already a concrete direction here?

CCD: Yes! The game has a clear, yet open-ended structure for self- and collective discovery. The querents will pick one or several cards with an intention in mind – very much like a traditional tarot card reading. The cards will be read and interpreted alone or together to provoke further reflection and self-questioning. In contrast to other games, there is no scenario of »win-lose.« More closely related to speculative fictions and divination, the Castle of Crossed Destinies game will center subjective explorations of the mind-body connection and the dynamic relationships between individuals and collectives.