TOBIAS REVELL confronts bitter reality

29 Aug

At Thursday’s Improving Reality conference, Revell – an artist, designer, and an associate at Superflux – explored the future of infrastructure. Armed with new materials and techniques, we may be able to grow our way out of our current problems. The thing is, do we dare?


Humans can build worlds. So far as we know, we are unique amongst our fellow animals in that simulative ability; to animate a fiction in our mind and place within it the matrix of anxieties, fears, hopes and aspirations that we each have. We take a god’s-eye-view of this imaginary space and annotate the lives of the people and artefacts we have put in it.

Children are the best, most promiscuous and most fastidious world-builders. They construct startlingly complex micro-universes to play out fictional interactions and stories that, inadvertently, grow in them an empathy with the world. Play and fantasy become the weapons children use to fight the fog of solipsism they are born with from distorting and blurring reality.

I think it’s time we re-armed ourselves. Between the catastrophe of the past we’ve wrought and the so obvious and raw, almost-unspeakable terror of the centuries to come, we’re rediscovering that we are still children, humbled and gazing in wonder at the scale of our futures.

And now the fog is starting to come into focus: that obfuscating haze of progress and technology, of gadgets and celebrity that so seamlessly blurs the background and hides the dizzying depths of reality. The world-builders we left in charge of our future figured that we didn’t need to know the details.

So now we live on someone else’s world: the world of the Stacks, the NSA, the Troika, the Smart City, the Cloud, Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Scoop.

Slowly our complicity in this construction is becoming clear. We realise that the only way to get what we wanted out of our brave new capitalist paradise was to give our consent to living in a fiction – a fiction thinly-layered on a world of incredible depth and complexity that we let the fog creep into.

Humans can build worlds and I think it’s time we re-armed ourselves. At some point we decided that this was a childish thing, or that no-one has the right to build worlds, or that it meant nothing. And while we were staring at the fog, the weapon we thought a toy was used against us.


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