The Eternal Simulation Project

Interior rendering of off-axis perspective

by William Smith (MArch II ’20)

The Eternal Simulation Project is a model: a model of a table that is a model of a room that is a model of a building that is a model of a region. Proposed as a recursive public engagement tool for the United States Bureau of Reclamation, this model simulates the multiple scales of space and time the Bureau functions across to allocate water rights to subjects drawing from the Colorado River Basin. Within the simulation, subjects negotiate water rights by positioning unique, community-specific objects in relation to local hydrological conditions as a representation of the larger region.

At one level the simulation functions as a forced perspective, with subjects entering along its axis to negotiate. On-axis, the subject is provided a flattened view of the simulation with all objects and landforms reduced to a single scale. Off-axis, the image warps apart as scale is revealed and the wandering subject becomes objectified under the gaze of other subjects. At a second level the project functions as a simulation of its own failure; its earthen floor undulating and redepositing soil due to local hydrological conditions and thereby undermining the measurement of spatial and temporal processes required by the Bureau. At a third and final level the project functions to conflate simulation with reality altogether, producing a body of subjects who recognize their simultaneous position within multiple scales of space and time and demand the simulation they produced within the model to be matched by the Bureau of Reclamation at large.