In Search of… (Digital, Virtual And Speculative) Realities Design in Perspective — 14 March 2019 — Curation and words by Martin Stesko and Ferdinand Lu REALITY noun UK…
In Search of… (Digital, Virtual And Speculative) Realities
Design in Perspective
14 March 2019
Curation and words by Martin Stesko and Ferdinand Lu
noun UK | riˈæl.ə.ti/ US | riˈæl.ə.t̬i/ 1. The state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. 2. A thing that exists in fact, having previously only existed in one’s mind. [en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/reality, Retrieved in May 2019]
As a concept, reality is often perceived as being more “desirable” an outcome than dreams or ideals. Yet, by definition, dreams and ideals grow into expressions reality. One could argue they cannot exist without one another. The relationship between reality and ideals was at the core of our “In Search of …” session, which aimed to investigate how reality as a concept had evolved in a contemporary society laced with virtual reality headsets and digital landscapes.
[Fig] Gonzalo describing the goals of the “Invisible Landscapes” exhibition series.
IN SEARCH OF…
Our session began at the Royal Academy (RA) where Gonzalo Herrero Delicado introduced us to his work as the curator of Invisible Landscapes – a three-part series of exhibition organised by the RA’s architecture studio. The first two parts focused on Home and Environments with the final part, Imagination, concerning the influence virtual and physical spaces could have on one another. Different facets of reality were challenged by the four projects on display: how augmented reality software could be used to fabricate (rather than visualise) reality (Gilles Retsin Architecture), how ephemeral physical moments could be preserved as eternal digital maps (ScanLAB Projects), what dangers hyperproductivity in a digital-intensive work environment may pose humans in the future (Keiichi Matsuda) and, finally, what virtual spaces might look like should physical objects become embedded within them (Soft Bodies).
During the discussion with Gonzalo, he summarized intentions behind exhibition series as to speculate about the future defined by technology, where material and virtual/digital space merge together and the impact it could have on possible perception of the world in future. It appeared to him that there is a abundant potential of currently available technology to both critically and creatively interact with diminishing boundaries between virtual and physical spaces. Additionally, Gonzalo spoke about challenges posed by curatorial practice to get audience actively interact with exhibition artifacts.
[Fig] Still from Keiichi Matsuda’s merger (2018).
IN SEARCH OF…
After the Royal Academy, we visited Home Futures at the Design Museum where we met curator Eszter Steierhoffer to discuss the intentions behind the planning of the exhibition. Eszter explained it was impossible to imagine the future without looking at the present – and to focus on the present without looking back into the past. The past discussed within the parameters of Home Futures is one where significant technological revolutions were taking place on a regular basis, resulting in a “20th Century of [individuals] having capability and having no idea what to do with it”. The result is a collection of highly imaginative and speculative artefacts questioning how far our society might evolve should those technological revolutions continue exponentially – yet the present day pales when compared to some future models of yesteryears, with technological integration occurring in less obvious (yet more intrusive) ways than expected : where past futures focused on imagining contemporary societies in highly futuristic landscapes, the present reality demonstrates a less advanced landscaped for a highly transformed society. The exhibition was cleverly categorised into six different ways of living : living with others, living smart, living on the move, living with less, living autonomously, or the idea of the domestic Arcadia. These categories allowed for the distillation of the definition of home into the key aspects individuals might associate with the most significant infrastructure of social reality.
Comparing today’s realities with visions presented in the exhibition, one might ask if we currently live in yesterday’s tomorrow and why it wasn’t realized. What these futuristic imaginings of twentieth century deconstructed and ignored was inherent human nature of home – a site of ritual and belonging, a sensory depository of memories, as Ezster mentioned during discussion. Reflecting on the core theme of our ‘In Search of…’ session, current merging of established concept of physical reality and digital/virtual reality needs to consider inherent human relationship with physical reality in order not to become yet another unrealised techno-utopian imagining of future.
[Fig] Satirical prototypes for headsets with functions similar to modern mobile devices, yet different from current phone designs. (Haus-Rucker-Co, Environment Transformers)
IN SEARCH OF…
To conclude our session, we studied a selection of objects that would open questions around the theme of reality left unexplored by both exhibitions visited.
— The first object we presented was FF Gaiden: Legacy by Larry Achiampong and David Blandy (2017), which challenged how 3-Dimensional video game maps could be subverted and repurposed to express critical narratives of global political importance.
— The second object we presented was Field Studio‘s portfolio of work, as we were intrigued by how reality-challenging designs and concepts could be harnessed to create concrete, commercial projects which offer real-world design solutions, as opposed to speculative projects.
— The final object we presented was the Janus VR Browser for its experimental way of mapping the world wide web : the browser has the ambition of visualising the web as a physical, 3-Dimensional space that users can walk through and explore as if they were physically experiencing it.
All objects studied aimed to further push the scope and boundaries of what we might expect reality to look like, both from a human perspective and from a designer’s perspective. We hoped that in doing so, the session’s participants would be motivated in challenging their own realities in new and innovative ways.
[Fig] Reviewing the session’s chosen objects
IN SEARCH OF…
Our session’s focus on architecture and its relationship to reality and physical space was born from a desire to strengthen our understanding of what our future might look like. Both exhibitions offered contrasting glimpses of reality : while Invisible Landscapes presented a technologically-oriented vision of the future, using tools and materials currently in existence to rethink the ways in which we interact with environments, Home Futures offered different perspectives on domestic reality through prisms of idealism, practicality, fatalism or speculation. Invisible Landscapes was very much ingrained within the practical plausibility of reality that felt more focused on the idea of the near-future, where Home Futures (though exhibiting some practical projects) also explored the more optimistic or historical views of the home in a less immediate future. Both equally valid perspectives raise new questions, especially with regards to how the tools and methods presented in Invisible Landscapes might be used when applied to ideas of a more distant future (as exhibited in many of the pieces displayed in Home Futures).