Jilly Ballistic, 2012 (see her flickr for complete photos)
New York street artist Jilly Ballistic has been quite busy for the last half-year putting up stickers that mimic the appearance of dialog boxes and menus on computers and other electronic devices.
Her interventions into advertisements in particular help to alert the viewer to the hidden manner in which advertisements function to re-structure reality. In the tradition of the Situationists, her dialog boxes function as detournements, dismantling the advertisements’ lies while also indicting the viewer for his/her previous complicity with the lie.
But most crucially, Jilly Ballistic has given her detournements a form uniquely specific to the cultural moment she critiques. Not only does the IRL appearance of the virtual unbalance the viewer’s experience of the everyday, it also points out the degree to which our concrete “real” reality has become overrun with virtuality, or, more broadly, hyperreality.
Virtual spaces like the internet greatly contribute to the hyperreal’s gradual replacement of the real. But we must remember that Baudrillard developed the notion of hyperreality before the internet existed. He used Disneyland, high fashion shows, and television coverage of the Gulf War as examples of how the mimetic chain between the verifiably real and representation/copy/illusion gets broken until entire systems continually recreate themselves out of copies of themselves, with all reference to reality lost. For a better explanation of hyperreality’s “feedback loop,” I call upon Stephen Colbert.
Internet spaces ranging from Facebook to pornography websites might be the most hyperreal spaces of all, replacing real social interaction with stranger and stranger mediations. While online advertisements only inhabit a virtual space, the printed advertisements which Ballistic attacks inhabit a concrete everyday space. Hence Ballistic’s special brilliance in these interventions is to put the virtual in dialog with the everyday, pointing out the extent to which hyperreality has already permeated the concrete everyday.
And by addressing us directly and including simulated buttons to push, Ballistic challenges us to encounter our everyday reality actively rather than passively. She points out that we are still capable of rejecting the hyperreal. She doesn’t only upend, she also empowers.