VR site-specific installation, happening, public space intervention, essay, 2018-19
Virtual Develoutopia is a VR site-specific installation and a public intervention that responds 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 the temporary Bratislava Bus Station on Saturday, the 9th of November 2019.
It invited locals to dive in the virtual reality and experience Bratislava “as it should always have been” according to real-estate companies occupying the public space of the city. The 360° panoramas are synthesizing the visual and verbal language that Bratislava developers use – including specific visual citations from architectural visualizations, 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.
This project reverse-engineers the promoted developer vision and combines the collected symbols and meanings in grotesque 3D collages as an apparent parody - as a critical design argumentum ad absurdum. The logic of argumentum ad absurdum is employed here as an accessible form of dystopian speculative design that manifests a negatively defined vision of a preferred future by positively defining (usually in an amplified way) a future that might be possible but which would certainly not be preferred. In other words, it suggests a preferred future by revealing, in contrast, undesirable futures that might be possible, probable, or even likely.
The surrealist collage, juxtaposition of images and tactics of ambiguity and absurdity aim to disrupt the prevailing narrative of contemporary architectural development, which still presents a vision of unsustainable progressive growth, outdated futuristic notions of luxury and human-centered individualism.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 a great response from the audience, no matter what expectations they came with. Although seemingly no one believed in the far-reaching futuristic vision, seeing it and being in it sparked much-needed critical questioning of the real estate companies' true intentions and initiated further demand for more accurate plans and information.