It’s official, truth is dead. The end is nigh. Over the weekend, dark cartoon lord David OReilly’s blog of banal photographs masquerading as #HyperRealCG officially suckered Laughing Squid, Gizmodo and The Huffington Post into mildy hysterical clickbait headlines like “I can’t believe these hyper real pictures are completely CG and not real,” and “CGI Faces Are Officially As Real As Actual Human Faces”. Looking at these images of twee gardens, public sculpture, glossy interiors and bland ephemera, it’s impossible to tell which images are ‘real’ and which are fake.
This is more than just an in-joke for CG artists. It’s not simply another “blue and black or white and gold?” optical illusion: Hyper Real CG marks a shift - a death, almost. If the public believes that CG artists can and do spend weeks of their lives faking boring and impossibly detailed images (like the fire hydrant above) then it makes conspiracy theorists of us all: everything and therefore nothing is true. It’s a sad state of affairs, but the blog isn’t to blame: it simply expresses a latent shift towards a parity between the photograph and the CG image.
In that sense, Hyper Real CG was inevitable, but it’s also a cynical and tragic landmark of visual culture. CGI and reality are now, to all intents and purposes, interchangeable. Despite their difference being legion, those differences officially do not compute in the public domain. When something can be both true and false - like Schrodinger’s cat is both alive and dead - we cease to care: the cat is just a theory, and now the image is all in your mind. Every shade of grey is gone and the joke is on you.
It doesn’t matter that some of these images really might be CGI and some are clearly not. That isn’t the point. The point is that the public believes that anything can - and will - be faked.