Firstly I am going to examine the terms of hyperreality and begin to put it into context in terms of Postmodernism. In order to fully understand the true meaning of hyperreallity I want to look at the roots of the word ‘hyper’ and ‘reality’. The word hyper is commonly referred to energy and excitement, for instance for someone’s behaviour to be more active than normal: beyond the normal amount. Hyper also is a prefix for many words.
The word reality refers to the world or the state of things, as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.
So putting both ‘hyper’ and ‘reality’ together to form hyperreality we are indeed blending reality and fiction. Jean Baudrilliard provides a simple, and yet very deep, example of hyperreality at work all around us: ‘American is neither dream nor reality. It is a hyperreality.
It is a hyperreality because it is a utopia, which has behaved from the very beginning as though it were already achieved.
Everything here is real and pragmatic, and yet it is all the stuff of dreams too’ (Baudrilliard 1989:28) So in my opinion hyperreality refers simply to an image that is more real than the thing it’s supposed to represent or a replica of something that never actually existed. In the 1940’s Postmodernism was considered to be impossible to define, simply suggesting that it was a modern movement of architecture.
Since the theory of Postmodernism was founded it became considerably poplar within the academic system, besides solely being interlinked with literary criticism and architecture It now finds itself overloaded with meaning and connected with social theory, cultural and media studies, visual arts, philosophy and history.
A great example of hyperreality that I particularly like is Bicester Village, which indeed is situated in Bicester, a small town within Oxfordshire.
I feel that you can really get a substantial understanding of hyperreality when studying this purpose built shopping environment. Bicester Village, a postmodernism leisure environment built directly in the heart of Bicester offers everything a traditional high street would but is in fact situated in an English market town as an outlet centre offering several high-end brands including Ralph Lauren, Juicy Couture, Superdry, Jack Wills, Gucci, Diesel, UGG and many more as well as offering a small number of restaurants and cafes.
All stores stock end-of-line products that are roughly reduced from up to 60% off the original price, which is one of the reasons it is so popular. Annually the village is visited by more than 3 million customers from all over the world, branding it the leading outlet shopping destination in Europe and a major International tourist attraction. These facts above in particular really don’t surprise me; in my opinion the reason the village is so popular could be due to the fact of how you get lost in translation and forget that the setting is just that, a setting of hyperreality.
The customers find themselves participating in the fantasy because of his own authenticity as a consumer (Eco, 1990:41). You really do feel completely different from when shopping in your local town centre, the atmosphere is completely different, but how can that be when surrounded partly by the same shops. A powerful impact of today’s architecture. I now want to investigate Disneyland and Disneyworld, two great mammoth examples of hyperreality.
Like all postmodern theorists stress ‘Disneyland (California and Paris) and Disneyworld (Florida) are obviously the chief examples. ’ (Eco, 1990:40). The scale of both parks is somewhat amazing. Disneyworld opened in 1971, covering 30,500 acres packed with fantasy. It offers four theme parks and two water parks which include Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Blizzard Beach, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and more than 20 hotels on the property.
Not to mention a few other great contenders in the surrounding area, Universal studios, Bush Gardens and of course Sea World, but I will speak more on these later on. Disneyland California opened in 1955 becoming the first ever Disney park of is kind, it is a lot less smaller on scale to Disneyworld but still offers three main attraction parks just like Disneyland Paris, which is the newest to the bunch offering two parks, which has been recently updated with their New Generation of shows, attractions and new characters.
All three resorts do there very best to offer a ‘play of illusions and phantasms. ’ (Baudrillard, 1994:12) to entice children who are amazed by what awaits them, the largest attractions in the world. Not to mention the adults who are also lured in, only to become part of the fantasy along with their imagination, grasped by hyperreality. When studying all three parks it becomes apparent that they are all ever growing, ‘Disneyland also has no transitional spaces; there is always something to see, the great voids of modern architecture and city planning are unknown here. (Eco, 1990:48) ensuring the Disney experience continues to be ‘absolutely realistic and absolutely fantastic’ (Eco, 1990:43). Just like any other attraction its not just a fantasyland that you can enjoy for free with no charge, Eco explains ‘their interior is always a disguised supermarket, where you buy obsessively, believing that you are still playing,’ (Eco, 1999:43) This isn’t such a flaw for the children that visit Disneyland and Disneyworld but indeed for the parents, that somehow cannot dive fully into the fantasy as a result of consumer exploitation.
Some might say that Walt Disney is the creator of hyperrealty, the way in which he wanted Disneyland to look like nothing else in the world, to leave reality and enter fantasy, Baudrillard explains that ‘Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real’ (Baudrillard, 1994:12) suggesting that ‘the America that surrounds it is no longer real, but belong to the hyperreal order and to the order of simulation. (Baudrillard, 1994:12)
Baudrillard suggests that hyperreality is where the world we live in has been replaced by a copy world, where we seek simulated stimuli and nothing more. I find myself wondering could these Disney parks be just that, a copy world of unreality. Disneyland may still be considered the mind controlling dreamland of the 21st century, in the end; it’s this postmodern tendency in our culture that continues to compel us to the gates of the happiest place on earth. Las Vegas, a land of themed casinos, The Entertainment City of the World is another big example of hyperreality.
Once dubbed ‘not a city like the others, which communicate in order to function, but rather a city that functions in order to communicate. ’ (Eco, 1990:40). Situated in the middle of the dessert and a million miles away from reality the term ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ really is true. Many of the largest hotels and casinos in the world are located on the world famous Las Vegas Strip, approximately 3. 8-miles of pure adult fantasyland.
The use of dramatic architecture and modernization has to be the main reason that Las Vegas is uch a popular destinations for tourists and the fact that it combines recreations of monuments that you wouldn’t actually see exist in the same place. Throughout Las Vegas you will come across casino after casino trying to all compete against each other, even going to lengths of recreating places around the world such as Paris, New York, Ancient Rome, Egypt and Venice, all into casinos. Its as if Las Vegas aspires to be a simulation of the entire world. Paris Las Vegas is a hotel and casino situated on the strip, as its name suggests the theme is the city of Paris in France.
A key feature that automatically makes you realize what the hotel represents is the giant Eiffel Tower situated in front; a unique architectural aspect of the Eiffel Tower is that both of the back legs have been constructed through the ceiling and into the casino floor. The Luxor Las Vegas is also a hotel and casino located on the strip, its modernized and contemporary design makes it’s a huge tourist attraction, along with the pyramid style tower architecture design. The name of the hotel is actually the name of a city, Luxor an ancient Thebes in Egypt.
As you can probably guess the designers of this hotel MGM Mirage, wanted to base it on Egypt. I particularly wanted to speak about these two hotels above, as I am so amazed at the level that these designers have gone too, to ensure how accurate they reflect the desired theme. As Eco explains ‘like Disneyland, blends the reality of trade with the play of fiction. ’ (Eco 1990:41).
Eco also brings to light that ‘Las Vegas is still a ‘Real City’ (Eco, 1990:19) and even though it is renowned for its extravagant entertainment ‘it is gradually being transformed into a residential city. (Eco, 1990:40) Sea World a marine-life based zoological park, located in Orlando Florida is another example of hyperreal entertainment attractions. A park devoted to the earth’s oceans and the array of life that inhabits them. 5. 8 million guests visit Sea World annually making it one of the top attractions in the world. Although it isn’t the most preferred attraction park, Sea World does do an extraordinary job of blurring the lines between what is real and what is the fantasy.
The thing with Sea World is that you assume all is ‘realistic’ but in fact these astonishing animals are trained to perform scenes to entertain their audience, which destroys all sense of reality. Animal Kingdom also is a great example that just expresses hyperreality. In particular there is an attraction called ‘Everest’ you basically have to travel through an Asian themed section, filled with statues of Hindi and Buddhists gods as well as passing through a museum of yeti history. Even down to the shear size of the ride itself and the build up to it, you are forever reminded of the in depth background that surrounds Everest.
You could almost imagine it all to be in a storybook and ‘furthermore the levels of illusion are numerous, and this increases the hallucination. ’ (Eco, 1990:42) There are many other top theme park attractions that express hyperreality, that all seem to force its visitors to behave like robots. Universal City Walk, Lego Land, Alton Towers, are just a few but the list is endless, but as Eco explains that it is in fact Disney where he finds the ultimate expression of hyperreality, where everything is brighter, larger and a lot more entertaining than in everyday life.
I want to now speak about other forms of hyperreality. Whilst researching, it came apparent that films are also becoming vastly involved. Films that digitally enhance their characters and settings or create them solely by CGI are of the top examples. The film 300, released in 2007 was filmed solely in front of a blue/green screen, with all the settings super-imposed. To replicate the imagery of the original comic book the film used a super-imposition chroma key technique. The film itself has many similarities to Sin City, in the way that it is an adaptation of the original comic book.
Zack Snyder, one of the films writers explains how he used the comic book of 300 as a frame-by-frame guide to create a film out of it. The film was shot over a period of 60 impressive days with a budget of $60 million and only one scene was actually shot outdoors without any enhanced effects. After filming all the scenes, around 1,500 visual effects where inserted into the blue screens to craft in the film’s otherworldly look. Another film where hyperreality is expressed is Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Just like 300 it was shot entirely on a digital backlot blending live actors with computer generated surroundings.
The entire movie was sketched out via hand-drawn storyboards and then re-created as computer generated 3D animatics, with all of the 2D background photographs digitally painted to resemble the 1939 setting. Out of all the films I have came across I particular like the ones I have spoken about above, I feel that they are great examples of hyperreality. The way in which both films are directly digitally enhanced so the settings and even the characters are filled with ‘Hyperreality Features’ and offer us a more enjoyable alternative to our own world.
Even though hyperreality dates back to years ago and is an old idea its effects are ever so relevant in today’s times, I guess the huge amount of money that is funded in these films whilst in production is just unbelievable. The extent they go to create scenes in a hyperreal context, just explains how powerful hyperreality really is now, the 21-century. I feel as if I have found some great examples that relate to hyperreality. Disney has got to be the main contender along with the other giant entertainment theme parks.
It is of course the general public that continue to fuel the desire for the rest of the world to follow in the footsteps of America and create these ‘fake cities’, even though these places seem to control all of our choices and actions even though we are forever wanting to experience the hyperreal. There is a lot of conspiracy when it comes down to hyperreality and if it is actually a good or bad thing, I guess there is a real risk at people looking at hyperreal images as role models, when in fact the images don’t even represent real people.
After researching into the vast history of hyperreality it dawned on me that when referring to these major entertainment parks, most observations come across as attacks on America and some theorist even suggest that the more hyperreal experiences that form in America, the more America itself is slowly forming into a fantasy city. So could we go as far to say that we are in under our heads and drowning in a hyperreal illusion. I honestly feel that we all live in a hyperreality society and believe that we get sucked in the illusion and all we receive through our senses and what we experience in a hyperreal situation we believe to be real.
I think that basically hyperreality can exist and continue unquestioned because people are identified with their fake reality in form of concepts, beliefs, dreams, hopes, goals and wishes. So I begin to ask my self as human beings should we be encouraging the ever so familiar changing nature of commercial space as a form of public space, as us the people that visit them in fact fuel the desire for others to experience it. Should we desire more of a hyperrealist world that we all desire and flock too at every possible chance. Should we live our lives not choosing what to experience, but to simply experience what’s put in front of us.