The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Hyperreality

Contemporary postmodern culture is dominated, according to French cultural theorist, Jean Baudrillard, by simulation and hyperreality. In postmodern culture the image has become the new reality — or hyperreality — a virtual world floating above the real world in its own sealed off hermetic envelope. It is a culture that has lost touch with its referents in the real world, and one where, paradoxically, the term ‘real’ has been hi-jacked by the multi-national conglomerates. It’s the ‘real thing’, a Coca-Cola world of industrially manufactured, ‘natural’ ingredients. In a world where the imaginary becomes the ‘real’, there is no longer a place for the real. In the ‘perfect crime’ of the twentieth century reality itself has been stolen. This course in contemporary cultural theory interrogates the theme of hyperreality not only through a close reading of various theoretical texts, but also through movies. The theoretical texts consulted are by cultural theorists, such as Jean Baudrillard, Guy Debord, Umberto Eco, Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek and Fredric Jameson. The movies shown include Reyner Banham Loves LA, Minority Report and Blade Runner. The course looks at contemporary culture as a laboratory of the immediate present, an experimental breeding ground for possible realities. It also reappraises the role of fantasy as being constitutive of how we see the world, and examines the emerging field of ‘design fictions’ in architectural and design culture.