Hand-crafted videogame installation (2004).
This installation was created using a series of 3-D modeling programs, video and sound editors, and an abandoned-ware videogame engine created by Adobe (Atmosphere). The final rendering of this work allows the user to move through a series of virtual-reality environments and soundscapes, navigating with a mouse similarly to a PC videogame. This installation has been presented on a large plasma screen, projected, and on a computer monitor.
From within a videogame environment, Simulacra takes a critical look at 'reality games'. These are games that we routinely play but in which we are often unaware of the nature of our role. They are continuously deployed and reenacted by our cultural mythology, with the media influencing and reinforcing the rules. If these activities are really game-like, then they should be presented as such so that a proper critical look can become possible.
Oftentimes, playing a long session with a videogame, especially a first-person-shooter, can make one feel that there will be danger lurking around every corner. Sudden movements trigger an emotional rise and an adrenaline surge. The activity of the videogame temporarily leaks into reality. One may momentarily feel the urge to replay a situation or to undo it.
Similar to the way in which videogames can act as a training simulator for particular activities, commercial and news media trains viewers to behave, respond, and act in predetermined ways. Although an educated person will likely try to resist media influences, it is tempting to give-in occasionally as it takes a great deal of energy to continually resist something. As commercial media continues to glamorize and idealize phenomena, it creates a continuous stream of simulacra. As we spend more and more time subjected to this ever-increasing barrage of media production, our interpretation of reality becomes mediated; it becomes an interpretation of simulacra. We respond emotionally to media-generated non-phenomena. Activities performed in reality begin to resemble activities performed in a simulator.
Representing this situation in a videogame context reveals some truth to these activities. Simulacra uses familiar symbolic elements such as the suburban house, the cell phone, the twin towers, the cross, globes, maps, currency, and pages of text, but reconfigures these elements into surrealistic dream imagery. The trope of simulator-navigated interpretation of phenomena becomes a deliberate function of reality; but it also resembles a dream.
Oftentimes dreams, whether daydreams or dreams during sleep, allow the mind to replay a scenario or event, giving the opportunity for further exploration or to alter the outcome. Dreams act as a biological simulator; a simulation machine built into the brain. Similarly, highly realistic 3-D videogames present the mind with a more concretized dream/simulator; one that generates an imaginary environment, but with a concrete set of parameters for actions and occurrences. Unlike pure fantasy, videogames have rules. In this way, videogames more closely resemble mediated reality than dreams. The videogame installation of Simulacra repurposes the familiar videogame/simulator activity with components from our cultural mythos. It allows the user to re-dream and re-explore symbolic interpretations of reality so as to create a 'loosening' effect: not only loosening the hold that the media has on predetermining reality-interpretation, but loosening the hold that our cultural mythology has on our interpretations of natural phenomena and social relationships.
Film version (2005)
Simulacra is a short film created with a technique known as Machinima. This technique uses videogame engines in order to make it possible to shoot a film from within virtual-reality environments. These environments can be hacked or customized, or as with the case of the Simulacra movie, created entirely from scratch by the artist.
Shot from within a gaming environment, Simulacra takes a hard critical look at games that we are continuously engaged in. Just as virtual-reality is a consensual hallucination, structures such as money, power, borders, ownership, and tele-presence are also consensual dreams. These thought infrastructures are so deeply embedded within our psyche that they become manifest in physical reality and affect popular views of power, luxury, war, and oppression. Simulacra comments on our own created 'virtual' reality. The representations within this work are of nothing real, only a mirroring of the representations that we already live in.
Simulacra moves through a series of ten imaginary environments, each a metaphor for narratives that are performed in meat-space reality. The videogame camera controlled in real-time, keeps the story in first person and places a continuous awareness on the position of the spectator. The viewer, playing a critical role in terms of analytical perspective, is never released into the role of impartial observer. As many familiar sounds are packed closely together in a dense audio montage, surreal images (rendered by the game engine with photographic precision) are juxtaposed together in a continuously surprising and frenetic pace. Drawing parallels to Lewis Carroll's mirror, reality is distorted but still maintains an inherent internal logic.
Similar to how dreams are re-symbolized replays of the day's events, the constructed spaces of Simulacra re-contextualize familiar sounds and image elements into a new vision. In this way, the usual narratives are de-familiarized, creating a new opportunity for examination.