Alan N. Shapiro, Visiting Professor in Transdisciplinary Design, Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen, Germany

Blog and project archive about transdisciplinary design, media theory and creative coding

Julian, California: The Museum of Reality

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Driving up and down the southern California coast between Los Angeles and the Mexican border, every town looked the same. Most everywhere in America it is like this too. “Reality” has been reduced to a cloned instantiation from a formula: replicated instances of the same shopping malls, supermarkets, mega-stores, and chain restaurants everywhere you go, in every town.

Store Chains: Wal-Mart Supercenters, Kmart, Walgreen, Sports Authority, The Home Depot, CVS Caremark, Dillons, SuperTarget, Safeway, Staples, Gap, Banana Republic, Office Depot, 7-Eleven, OfficeMax, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Winn-Dixie, CompUSA, DollarTree, Cumberland Farms, Toys “R” Us, Babies “R” Us, Best Buy, RadioShack, Target, Kroger, SuperValu, JCPenney, Neiman Marcus, Sears, Barnes & Noble, Borders Books and Music, Cumberland Farms, Store 24, The Body Shop, Anthropologie, Philosophy, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Victoria’s Secret.

Restaurant Chains: Jack in the Box, Arby’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Wendy’s, Hungry Jack’s, Hardee’s, Chili’s, Denny’s, Red Lobster, Domino’s Pizza, Hard Rock Cafe, IN-N-OUT Burger, Nathan’s Famous, KFC, Little Caesars, McDonald’s, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Papa John’s Pizza, Perkins, Pizza Hut, Planet Hollywood, Popeyes, Sizzler, Starbucks, Subway, Taco Bell, Applebee’s, IHOP, Long John Silver’s, Taco Bell.

After seeing one town after the next that looks the same, after seeing all of this cloned hyper-non-reality, it was good to finally arrive in Julian, California, where the local HISTORICAL SOCIETY has preserved everything just as it was exactly 117 years ago. Until you realize that the omnipresence of hyper-reality in the USA makes it henceforth impossible to return to the real. The real can only be staged or reenacted as a Museum of Reality.

Dorothy said “there’s no place like home.” But, when you really figure it out, you realize that Thomas Wolfe was right: You Can’t Go Home Again.

There is strong peer pressure in Julian to not drop cigarette butts or dog poo-poo on the sidewalks or in the streets. But there are special places where dogs are welcome to do their necessary.

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