taking pictures, worlding worlds
Plato’s diminution of mimesis as an inattentive child’s game of “Telephone” was, by all accounts, wildly successful. The ontological disorder of the pre-Socratic era soon seemed like little more than a bad dream.
Under the Homeric regime, there is no possibility of an ordered cosmos: A story-teller’s retelling of Odysseus’s adventures brings forth the famous hero; his account, in turn, of his time at the court of Alcinous gives life to that place; there, the court musician Demodocus sings of an affair between Ares and Aphrodite, casting a spell with his voice that bodies forth the amorous gods. In orality, worlds bloom and die with abandon.
But worlds generated under the Platonic regime, and later, were different: Not worlds-within-worlds; not worlds made immanent, made present, but grainy, smeary symbols that pointed to a world that remained absent. Black and white, and mute, and always pointing to something beyond itself.
With a few interesting exceptions — most notably, the moment of transubstantiation in the Catholic Mass — Plato’s impoverished mimesis holds sway still: As Hayden White observed, all of Western history is just a footnote to Plato. We all remain unwilling guests of the Republic.
And so our video games, virtual worlds, and simulations are unwelcome, and not to be believed. They are “abject media:” False, deceptive and dangerous.
evidence of worlds beyond the walls of Republic
To create the photographs that appear in modest exhibits like this one, my GTA-V avatar is equipped with a digital camera, and we spend days driving around Los Santos, visiting with locals, hiding from rowdy, murderous teenagers, and grabbing photos where we may.
I see the photographs, once exhibited in this world, in our world, as tiny provocations that worry the invisible cracks and fissures of the real. It would be easy to misread these images: To see them as a celebration of the “realism” of virtual worlds; or to imagine that they are part of my performance of virtual photography; or to see them as bearing witness to the way that technologies like this can be deployed in ways the designers may not have foreseen.
Instead, my intention is this: The worlds to which these photos refer are legion, and they persist. My photographer-avatar has not visited Los Santos in months: But the sun still rises and sets on that city, even when I am not there to see it.
Or this, in a nod to the Heraclitean chaos Plato worked so hard displace: Even when I am not there to put my digital foot in the stream, the stream is always changing, still.