comissioned by Critical Daily
Virtual Develoutopia is a series of public happenings that respond to the curious vision of real-estate developer utopias using visual communication and virtual reality in the form of an interactive site-specific installation. The first public event took place in the surroundings of temporary Bratislava Bus Station on Saturday, the 9th of November.
The public happenings invited locals to dive in the virtual reality and experience Bratislava “as it should always have been” according to developers. The 360° panoramas are synthesising the visual and verbal language that Bratislava real estate companies use – including specific citations from architectural visualisations, promo videos and slogans of PR texts. The developer vision deliberately excludes the diversity of the population or urban culture in the new districts and replaces it with cheap attractions such as street food festivals and circus art.
We decided to reverse-engineer the promoted vision and combine the collected symbols and meanings in grotesque 3D collages as obvious parody – as a critical design argumentum ad absurdum. The logic of the argument to absurdity is used here as an accessible form of dystopian speculative design, which manifests a negatively defined vision of a preferable future by positively defining (typically in an amplified way) a future that might be possible but which would be decidedly not preferable. In other words, it hints at preferable future by conversely exposing undesirable futures that might be possible, plausible or even probable. The surreal collage, the juxtaposition of images and the tactics of ambiguity and absurdity aim to disrupt the prevailing narrative of current architecture development, which still presents the vision of non-sustainable progressive growth, out-dated futuristic concepts of luxury and human-centred individualism.
The absurdity of such a vision is given to the viewer through a visual hyperbole without commentary, leaving room for one’s critical judgment. The perception in virtual reality triggers an immediate emotional response and is supported by cognitive shock, that comes after taking the headset down. It is intentional that the VR collages are experienced at the very same spot they depict. The project achieved great response in the viewers, whatever expectations they came with. Although seemingly nobody believed the far-stretched futuristic vision, seeing and being inside of it triggered so much needed critical questioning of the actual intentions of the real estate companies and initiated further demand for more precise plans and information.
The 360° collages are available here:
Documentation from the first happening: