Commentators such as Berger and Virilio, writing pre-WWW highlighted the over-saturation of the world with images. And since the rise of the WWW and social media the world has been saturated further with visual information not least because of the openness and accessibility that the WWW affords.
The universality and decentralisation of the WWW means that anyone can publish anything online for the whole world to consume. Whilst that, along with the economics of the internet, has resulted in a torrent of information, including visual information, there are no gatekeepers vetting content to assess its accuracy or truthfulness. As John Diamond wrote in 1995 “the real problem with the internet is that everything written on it is true”. Perhaps what he is alluding to is that there is no real way of discerning the truth from the lies.
The notion of truth has been debated by philosophers for centuries. But in the twenty first century the concept of truth seem more complicated than ever, and if reality is a truth then it’s fair to say that the boundaries between reality and unreality are as obscured as those between truth and lies.
Contrary to all appearances People Eaters is not a work about cannibalism but about (un)reality, or the hyper-reality in which we exist today. We are increasingly inter-connected to our wi-fi’d and 5g’d interfaces. We react to visual information, to simulations – to the television news rather than the world; to an app rather than social interaction, to email rather than vocal communication. In all these situations we react to visual simulations rather than to the immediate environment.
The internet has blurred the boundaries between the real and the imaginary, and between truth and lies further than any other media that preceded it. So what is real anymore? Whilst they may have been manipulated the images in this Instagram feed are as real as any other image that we might encounter online, despite their absurdity. The false signs contained within them are enmeshed with remnants of the real in a torrent of other signs which are variously real and unreal, digital and physical.
In fact this Instagram feed presents a simulation of reality that it could be argued is more real than reality. Social media is a hyper-real experience which is frequently perceived as being more real than the real. Social media platforms act as digital reproductions of real life, heightened versions of real communication between friends and acquaintances. But ultimately it does not reflect real life interaction – it is a hyper-real, a digital simulation of reality. And just as with those communications between friends People Eaters presents a series of images that are a hyper-real digital simulation of reality.
The People Eaters images are entangled in the torrent of visual information we are subjected to on a daily basis, the feed is a simulation of reality to be consumed, to be reacted to.
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