In 1983, French philosopher Jean Baudrillard wrote: “The very definition of the real becomes: that of which it is possible to give an equivalent reproduction … the real is not only what can be reproduced, but that which is always already reproduced. The hyperreal.” [Jean Baudrillard, Simulations, Semiotext[e] 1983]. Many years later, it seems that this critical analysis of the transition from the real to the hyperreal describes very accurately the relationship of Google Street View to the real and the way it changes its perception.
Starting from this, the Googlespace project by Jernej Čuček Gerbec explores our understanding of space and the relationship between the real and the virtual. Googlespace projects onto the real space its virtual simulacrum – that is, its three-dimensional copy offered by Google Street View – and, in doing so, interrogates their semiotic relationship, “materialises” the theories of hyperrealism and explores the structural nature of the visible (with explicit references to French structuralism). Thereby, the simulacrum becomes objective reality, which absorbs the visitor, who thus becomes an integral part of the installation.
As it is known, Google Street View offers a three-dimensional copy of the real space: by virtue of algorithm, it assembles photographic material, recorded with a photographic device with nine lenses, into a simulation of the visited space, in which we can move. In the exhibition, the “simulacrum” of the space is projected onto the exhibition space. The viewer senses the doubled space, which, albeit the same, feels changed and different from both the real space as well as its double conveyed by Google Street View. The overlap of the simulacrum and the actual reality creates a metaspace, which is the same, but visually different from the original space. Due to the impossibility of a perfect match between the real space and the space generated by computer software, differences will become evident, producing the exhibited, deconstructed space, similar to a cubist collage, in which symbolic depiction and representation of the real coexist.
Thus, the visitor is continuously exposed to the conflict between the simulacrum and the actual object, and they are witness to the deconstruction of space by means of the simulacrum of this space. Its projected shadow “animates” the simulation and recalls the ethereality of the simulacrum, exposing the absence of humanity and the immanent static, which are characteristic of the simulacrum of the real. Thus, the visitor is no longer just an observer but rather becomes an active part of the installation.
Googlespace problematises new technologies and their impact on the everyday world, holding up a critical mirror to the contemporary society obsessed with the creation of simulacra and the duplication of all aspects of reality – these tendencies are criticised and, at the same time, sublimated into aesthetic forms.