As the physical world degrades and so corrodes the credibility of institutions that enable consumption, the status quo in the global north goes virtual. Within a short time, we’ve witnessed a rapidly increasing capacity to design, simulate and conjure a virtual perception of reality with exactitude and definition. Our ability to simulate reality has come to match our ability to record it. We’re able to simulate and produce a photographic image of an object without any need for the object itself. The same goes for retouched images and the act of retouching. As a result, images no longer need to represent the limits of production, but are limited only by our programs of artifice. This calls for a renewed focus on political subjectivity, specifically a subjectivity that mediates and problematizes artistic production and experience now inescapably laden with nuanced political dimension. The simulated photograph exists and functions primarily within this socio-political landscape. So, it is critical to unpack its relation to post-industrial production and illustrate its primary functions as they relate to a larger and more complex network of processes and concepts, which have the potential to obscure or abstract the physical externalities of capitalist consumption through idealist virtual worlds. Relating directly to capitalism’s habit of systemic failure, these virtual constructs are designed for the purpose of continuing capitalist consumption in our modern era. More than a decade after the earliest speculations on the virtual, we can now look critically at the ways in which these virtualities have been developed to offer insight into idealist technologies, and the way they morph and transmute with their social adaptation.

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