E-mail This Page

More Real? Simulation and Hyperreality in
Contemporary Art and Culture

Art of the More Real from Trompe l’oeil to Truthiness
Moderator: Alex Bortolot, MIA
Presenters: Kaywin Feldman, MIA and Liz Armstrong, MIA

We are told that in the 5th century BC the painter Zeuxis produced a still life painting that was so realistic, birds flew down to peck at the fruit. Although artists have always played with illusion in art a new role for painting was presented by artists of the Early Modern era in Europe through the mechanisms of illusionistic space and trompe l'oeil painting. How did this art function in society? How was it perceived by contemporary viewers? Did it offer them alternative realities? Given the new technologies of linear perspective and optics that made these forms of deceptive painting possible, what is the role of technology in current forms of simulation and hyperreality? Can painting today still offer the simulated experience? Since the late 1970s, Jean Baudrillard has argued that we live in a world in which simulations and imitations of reality have become more real than reality itself. He calls this condition ‘hyperreality.’ How do we define what is actually ‘real’ in a world where media can radically shape the “original” experience being depicted? How do artists critically engage with this condition? What is the role of technology in such artistic expression? If indeed we live in a hyperreal world, how do we identify and understand art that manipulates, subverts, and/or blends in with this world? How are artists reconciling their choices between “mediated” and traditional space, interactions, and experiences?

Cinema, (Deceptive) Simulations, and Speculative Reality
Moderator: Bruce Jenkins, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Presenters: Tom Gunning, University of Chicago, Mark Hansen, Duke University and
John Gerrard, Dublin, Ireland

“For we do not change place, we change our nature.” (Gaston Bachelard, 1964)

How has “the moving image” contributed to our shifting sense of reality? Historically speaking, when have there been the most significant changes in a culture’s entrenched understanding of reality and under what conditions? How are these changes taken up in the art of these times/places? How is the field of philosophical scholarship changing in the era of post-cartesian subjectivity and hyperreality? What is the role of art in this emergent epistemological shift?

Unreliable Narrators, Docufables, and Double Agency
Moderator: Bill Horrigan, Wexner Center for the Arts
Presenters: Bruce Jenkins, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Chicago and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Raqs Media Collective, New Delhi

In his article “Art in the Age of Biopolitics,” Boris Groys argues that the art world has shifted its interest away from the artwork and towards art documentation. This shift, he argues further, is symptomatic of a broader transformation in art (and therefore in life) today. Traditionally, art was concerned not with reality but with images of reality. Today, even media that are usually thought of as reproducing reality faithfully – such as photography and film – are used in the context of art in a way that seeks to undermine any faith in reproduction’s ability to be faithful to reality.

In an age in which it is no longer possible to distinguish between the original and the reproduction, do we gravitate towards the copy and, if so, why? Is the original intrinsic to the meaning of the copy? What happens to the original?

Illusionist Culture and the Ontology of the Real
Moderator: Natasha Becker, RAP
Presenters: Norman Klein, Cal Arts and Carrie Lambert-Beatty, Harvard University

When is a documentary not a documentary? How have shifts in our current understanding of reality (as an” artificially fashioned lifespan,” to quote Groys) changed art? What do we mean by the acknowledgement of the superficial? [Why] do we like to be “tricked” by the copy or some version of the original? How does the current exploration of fiction, deception, fakery, and pranksterism suggest differences from as well as continuities with the theory of the hyperreal? What does it mean for art, politics, and the distinction between them?