Narrative Hyperreality

Our project is a hyperreal narrative environment, running in the unity game engine, that references nostalgia, the memetic, and the liminal wherein these simulated realities become reference points in themselves.[1] Following Baudrillard’s conceptualisation of aggregated ‘signs of reality’, our project assumes a ‘secondary objectivity’ in the likeness of an artificial shopping mall.[2] The artefact unpacks the experience of collective memory through simulated nostalgia by exploring the potentiality of dreams in the past serving as modern fictions.[1]

Our simulated environment grapples with the oversaturation of choice provided by the hyperreal state of a shopping mall. The viewer is forced to make decisions in their exploration of the space, invoking the sense of the ‘flâneur’. The narrative built through this wanderlust is underlayered by the environment changing in response to those choices, by moving through Day, Evening and Night phases, representing different ideations of mall abandonment. As the audience encounters the space, they must relinquish the need for control and accept that in a narrative experience not everything can or will be seen.[3]

Reflecting upon facts as synthetic ‘representations of reality’, the uncanny architectures within our artificial spaces offer the subversive perspective of magical realism.[4] Inclusion of devices such as referential images of shopping malls evoke a magic where reality is acknowledged to be contingent on representation, fiction, and illusion.[4] The profusion of reproductions and memetic representations in the space configures image as reality.[4] With our simulation, the viewer engages in the referential representation of a shopping mall and then further fictionalises this representation, breaking that referent with reality by exposing the viewer to those underlying fictions: The busy shopping centre noises give way to the reverb heavy memory music of mallsoft and then to the quiet of an empty, uncared-for space. The sound of a vacuum plays in the distance and is revealed to be a Caution:Wet floor sign. Shops that are joking references to real life stores, or bizarre galleries close down and advertise their redundancies. The artefact is not ‘to gain access to a transcendent’, real heaven, but more scattered and reconfigured ‘pieces of the immanent divine’.[4]

The liminality of our narrative environment as a memetic nonplace, namely its dichotomy ‘between presence and absence’, induces an anxiety within the viewer pertaining to Mark Fisher’s notion of the eerie.[6] This is constituted by its connection to our unconscious and concepts of inhabited spaces under late capitalism. The mythology imbued within an architecture’s structure becomes apparent when that architecture no longer fulfills its intended purpose. This creates a disconnect within the viewer, registering as uncanny or eerie, as the inhabited space no longer is. Instead what remains is the trace of those inhabitants; Our mall shows in its dead, Night phase, tables and chairs overturned, objects in some shops left abandoned, evidence of a history the viewer has to manufacture for themselves. In doing so, necessarily engaging with the earlier scenes of a vibrant mall, and referents made within it to their own memories, as a hyperreal mirror environment to the liminal space they find themselves in now, which, through its affectation, acts as a window into the “real”.