“We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” -John Culkin
The term “New Media Art” emerged in the 1990s following a wave of artists using the latest technologies in their works, such as the Internet, the World Wide Web, and video games. New Media Art focuses on the interaction between the artist, the viewer and the artwork which responds to them. These new technologies transformed the way artists thought about the role of the art institution in the physical space and the virtual space. Today, we continue to see the social and cultural changes following the explosion of these new technologies and we are witnessing the evolution of video making, applications, and both virtual and augmented reality.
What is reality and what constitutes it?
This was the main concern of the French philosopher and sociologist Jean Baudrillard, who wrote Simulacra and Simulation (1981). Baudrillard predicted that we would live in a society where our virtual presence would be more present than our physical one. This book also inspired the creators of the movie The Matrix (1999); for example, the Matrix (simulation) - is just as vivid and convincing as the physical reality.
Jean Baudrillard’s concept of the ‘hyper-reality’ came from his belief that the media have taken over our reality, to the point that simulation cannot be distinguished from the real. Baudrillard stated that our postmodern society was defined by a shift to hyperreality in which simulations have replaced the real. He elaborates, how society has evolved more distant from the production of our consumer goods, leaving us unable to understand and live without any concept of value - like where did it come from, how much did it cost to make, and who made it? Baudrillard further discussed how postmodern society is driven by consumption, how our daily life has become an excess of media images, and how this has driven society to a new age of simulation.
London-based designer and artist Keiichi Matsuda created a series of three concept films called Hyper-Reality (2016), where he fused both the real - physical world- and the virtual world. Matsuda experimented with these films by thinking of the city as a space “full of layers” and how our environment can be “adapted and digitally enhanced” to some levels. It is true that we all see the world through our own lens, and that our experience of the city is inherently subjective. Matsuda imagines understanding a person - or a character - just by observing their environment and envisions a future where augmented reality is in everything, and everywhere.
The creators behind the video game, Cyberpunk 2077 use actors to play characters on another level. By using motion-capture, this new technology gets close to the actor’s real-time gestures. In their release last year, they featured Keanu Reeves. The actor is no stranger to motion-capture, as he is familiar with using it in The Matrix trilogy; this time he got to transform himself into a video game character. The Cyberpunk 2077 series has become an international favorite, mainly because its games engage players’ emotions through the hyper-realistic graphics and their participation.
Located in East London, Hyper Reality is a state-of-the-art virtual reality gaming center - and one of the most popular attractions for both locals and tourists in the district. The Hyper Reality gaming bar is a 3-story center that not only features gaming rooms, but also a bar, lounge, and karaoke. Hyper Reality uses the latest in virtual reality technology, including goggles, wands, and rooms reserved exclusively for players to offer a fully immersive experience. They also have nostalgic games for older generations, as well as other games like zombie apocalypse, and dragon hunt.
Artists are always confronting us with new ideas and ways of thinking about either social, cultural, and/or political issues. The notion that our reality can be fragmented into spaces other than the physical realm is not so far-fetched as it might have been thirty years ago. Imagine being completely immersed and adapted to a way of life where augmented reality is no longer considered technology? While most of the world is still under lockdown or quarantine, perhaps the only solution to escape the pandemic is to live in hyperreality.