May 6, 2021

"Paper architecture has often had a real utopian or critical underlying agenda to it... [It] was often explicitly anti-capitalist, and emphasized the possibilities of a post-revolutionary society."

"Today’s C.G.I. interiors, on the other hand, offer a fantasy of individual consumption and relaxation, but suggest a certain amount of political indifference. 'This seems like there’s no plan, no societal vision, no critique....Taking a historical view, to have anything appropriating fictional utopian architecture with no utopian vision is a bit depressing.' The earlier part of the twenty-tens saw an explosion of 'cabin porn' on Tumblr: a nostalgic, earthy aesthetic of Obama-era hipster Americana—all wool blankets and gas lanterns and flannel jackets—which, in hindsight, may have channelled a growing uneasiness about accelerating digitization. By contrast, the aspirational, hyperrealistic interior-design imagery on Instagram—some call it 'renderporn'—isn’t wary of digital life.... 'There might be a way in which C.G.I. architecture is appealing because it completely disavows the reality of scarcity—monetary, planetary.... There’s this fantasy of freedom, where the real pinnacle of freedom is doing whatever you want without any material constraints.'..."

From "The Strange, Soothing World of Instagram’s Computer-Generated Interiors “Renderporn” domesticates the aspiration and surreality of the digital age" by Anna Wiener (The New Yorker). A random example of what she's talking about:

This had me thinking about the "layouts" in "The 3 Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch." The Wikipedia plot summary begins:

The story begins in a future world where global temperatures have risen so high that in most of the world it is unsafe to be outside without special cooling gear during daylight hours. In a desperate bid to preserve humanity and ease population burdens on Earth, the UN has initiated a "draft" for colonizing the nearby planets, where conditions are so horrific and primitive that the unwilling colonists have fallen prey to a form of escapism involving the use of an illegal drug (Can-D) in concert with "layouts." Layouts are physical props intended to simulate a sort of alternative reality where life is easier than either the grim existence of the colonists in their marginal off-world colonies, or even Earth, where global warming has progressed to the point that Antarctica is prime vacation resort territory....

Maybe people are using drugs with those "Renderporn" images. 

Interesting to think of these trips into Instagram as an alternative to travel in a world wrecked by global warming and disease and violence and excessive tourism. If the places don't really exist, there's nowhere to travel to and no one is able to get any closer to this unreal idea than you are. Instant equity. 

I think a better use of your mind would be to look at the Renderporn and not feel dreamily pulled in but to see it as insipid and disgusting. Resist the fake.

Which reminds me — the author of the New Yorker article — has a book titled "Uncanny Valley." I think it's a good idea to retain whatever aversion to the fake you've managed to preserve thus far.

FROM THE EMAIL: Policraticus says:

When I browsed the work of Fournier on Instagram I was immediately struck by how much they evoke the Renaissance paintings of the "Ideal City". The imposition of art upon nature can often be beautiful, but it is always seems sterile. Like the man who was disappointed in his modernist architect, I have to ask, "where do I hang my coat?"

Here's the Wikipedia article, "Ideal City" ("An ideal city is the concept of a plan for a city that has been conceived in accordance with a particular rational or moral objective"). Here's a painting from the 15th century:

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