Featuring virtual desktop windows, stickies, folder icons and even an open iCal calendar, the campaign collateral for this year’s Singapore International Photography Festival resembles a series of Mac screenshots. Well, that’s because they are. The designers intentionally chose to include visual elements directly associated with the production of the design's aesthetic.
“Photographs are circulated more than ever online. You may not even have a gallery space or a museum showcase, you can just circulate them on Facebook and Instagram or email your work to somebody,” explains the studio’s creative director Hanson Ho. “A lot of photographs are actually stored in desktop folders, not so much on shelves.” According to Ho, this means photographs and their archives can no longer be thought of as records of truth. Instead, they are “constructs” that anyone can create, Photoshop and disseminate—an idea that Ho frames by presenting the desktop interface and its elements across the festival’s invites, banners, passes, and catalogue. The virtual TextEdit window was even recreated as physical frames to hold wall texts for the festival’s public exhibitions of photographs from around the world.
What this work demonstrates to me is the conscious inclusion of signs and symbols which have no physical reference, as they exist solely in the virtual sphere. This is a direct manifestation of a hyper-reality, as the boundaries between the cyber world and 'real world have blurred and completely merged. The motivation behind this particular design treatment is evidently conceptual and purposeful and reveals both Modernist and Postmodernist influence. It can be viewed as Modernist in the sense that it contemplates the current moment and responds directly to it; undeniably self-reflective and referential. However, it is this self-referential quality that gives it a Postmodern flavour. It is the ultimate form of pastiche because it is quoting a reference that is in essence, non-existent.
Further examples of simulacra/hyper-realities, mainly in poster design: