Morten Rockford Ravn: Enter Fear and Loathing in GTA V
The task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees.- Arthur Schopenhauer
It is a little odd that in a time when we are more connected than ever that we should feel a lingering sense of isolation and alienation. Perhaps it’s that our connections are no longer personal and tactile as we hide behind our screens, turning away from what we can actually see, touch, and smell. That alienation has made humans want to connect in new ways and virtual reality of one of them. The new realities created in video games are becoming more layered and real and that landscape is what Morten Rockford Ravn is mining with his new project, Enter Fear and Loathing in GTA V. Morten states, “Grand Theft Auto V is one of the most complex virtual worlds ever created, with higher production costs than a Hollywood blockbuster, and more than 70 million copies sold. It is based in a faux version of Los Angeles where sophisticated algorithms generate and simulate everything from the weather to investment bankers, prostitutes and surfer dudes. You have complete freedom within the game, and you also have a camera phone“. And that’s where it starts. A camera phone IN the video game….a whole new way of making work.
Morten Rockford Ravn is a professional poker player-turned-artist who explores themes of chaos theory, alienation, and the dichotomy of darkness and light through his multi-disciplinary practice. He works with mediums ranging from painting and photography to sculpture and digital media. His work has been highlighted by media outlets like VICE, BBC, and ZEIT. Fear and Loathing in GTA V have been the subject of a solo exhibition at Galerina Steiner in Berlin, and will also be part of upcoming group exhibitions in South Korea and Germany in 2017.
Enter Fear and Loathing in GTA V
After losing his real camera on a ride in the woods, Danish artist Morten Rockford Ravn stumbled into the virtual world of Grand Theft Auto. Here he found a form to match his growing discontentment surrounding virtual reality through the virtual camera phone. This was back in 2015, roughly a year after Facebook’s 2 billion dollar acquisition of Oculus Rift at the height of the virtual reality hype. As the media machinery pumped up the consumer biceps, flexing flashy headlines about the “revolutionary new technology”, Morten went the other way and explored the darker recesses of his subconscious. That is to say, the primal fears lurking beneath the surface, regarding a technology he believes is highly likely to detach our minds from our bodies, and create a paradigm shift that will only continue to enhance mindless consumerism, as opposed to humanism, on deeper and deeper levels. With loneliness and alienation from ourselves and society already being at an all-time high, along with global warming and rising populism and nationalism in the US and Europe; all developments connected deeply to the technological progression, the playground provided by this virtual world seemed to be the frontier of existential dread, present and future.
We are increasingly living in a “hyperreality”, as Jean Baudrillard talked about, in which the real and virtual blend together more and more seamlessly. As a bi-product it could be concluded that we in fact lose touch with our humanity, as many philosophers have argued since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Grand Theft Auto V encapsulates this essential postmodern alienation on every level. The game itself is beyond a bestseller, raking in profits in the billions while the content of the game takes a critical stance toward capitalism and contemporary American society. The social network within the game, a simulacrum of Facebook, is called “Social Climber”, for instance. Everything is created on a foundation of irony. Everyone is reduced to feeble stereotypes within this universe, while the world itself contains a certain uncanny poignancy due to the nature of the criticisms.
In this context, Morten moved through the world like a deranged gonzo anthropologist, capturing the elements of the hyperreality, and sometimes influencing events to heighten the spectacle in an attempt to transcend the immediacy of the images themselves, and let the hyperreality reveal itself.
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