Cassie Robbertze

Artist Catalogue

Virtual Exhibition

A Digital Construct of Physical Consequence

I was about one year old when Google first came into existence. I have never known a time when the virtual world was not present. I am not unique in this experience although people born today would consider the year of my birth just as archaic as I would view the years of my parents’ births. Technology is ever-changing to satisfy our needs, real or imaginary, and we are changing with it, giving it new desires to satisfy or maybe, as technology becomes more and more complex, it is the one, creating these new desires. This is where my body of work situates itself. The new reality we find ourselves in is an amalgamation of virtual and real situations and experiences with a skewed hierarchy towards the digital world. True reality, devoid of the virtual world entirely, lives on only in nostalgia.

My body of work draws from the text titled “Simulacra and Simulation” by Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard rendered the world into different signs and symbols. Signs that represent real-world objects and concepts. Gradually those signs have gone on to reflect other signs rather than the reality they were originally based on. This is the simulacrum. The creation of signs with no original meaning that go on to create a new reality is the realm of the hyperreal. Baudrillard described this process as taking place in stages. First the faithful copy, the reflection of a profound reality. The second stage is a perversion of reality while the third is a masking of the fact there is no reality. The fourth and final stage is when the simulacrum has no relationship to reality at all and is no longer a representation but rather its own creation. In the online world with no tangibility and presence, everything is reduced to signs and symbols, consumer identity is informed by social media and pop culture. One’s identity is moulded by situations and people who have never existed. People draw comparisons between themselves and movies characters or reality TV and real life. Thus, the simulacrum is created when the lines between reality and fantasy become blurred to the point where they are indistinguishable.

During the COVID-19 Lockdown most people were forced to interact with an online platform in order to work and socialise. Post lockdown we are now in a world where a lack of access to social media means it is far more difficult to interact with people as more of these interactions take place within the digital realm. People can be whoever they want online, they can create their own personal simulacrum that presents themselves to the world with no bases on the real. People become valued for their contribution to the simulation through the online content they create.

Smartphones have become personalised portals into this digital world. The phone object itself has become as important as a limb; one feels disorientated without it. One could think of a phone as a brain prosthetic, it acts as an extra storage of memory, logical processing unit and a means through which to gain knowledge.  Often, phones are the first thing people look at or interact with when they wake up and the last thing they interact with before they go to sleep. In any other scenario, this kind of devotion would be analogous to a kind of religious fanaticism. Phones have become a device worthy of entering into a relationship with their user.