Reality in the Digital Age: Natalie Maximova's Haunting
Journey through Simulated World
Natalie Maximova
Natalie Maximova is an interdisciplinary artist and photographer from Russia, currently based inSwitzerland. Her artistic journey began as a documentary photographer, with a particular focuson capturing the stories that tend to go unnoticed or even avoided. Whether it be exploring the versatility of gender, the elusiveness of identity and memory, or the troubled and melancholic lands of the Russian North, where she revealed new connections between landscape, mythology, and philosophy. Her recent video works and installations focus mainly on landscape representation in computer-generated environments, including video games, and our shifting perceptions of reality in the digital age.
The inquiry into the true nature of reality is one that has challenged many philosophers, artists and writers throughout time. Since reality is a construct, let's assume that our perception of it could be inaccurate and its true nature concealed from us. In September 1977, legendary science fiction author Philip K. Dick delivered a speech titled, “If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others,” in which the author declares that the world in which we live is a computer simulation. This speech inspired the themes of the science-fiction movie The Matrix (1999) directed by the Wachowskis and foreseen the creation of simulation theory (2003) by philosopher Nick Bostrom.

In her recent video installation called "There is no spoon", Natalie Maximova joins this esteemed group of artists and philosophers in exploring reality in the digital age. The title of the artwork is not a coincidence, but a direct quote from the iconic Matrix movie, and a popular catchphrase used to question the nature of reality and challenge conventional thinking. She invites viewers on a journey through cold, ambiguous, and inhuman environments. During this walk, the viewer is confronted with various architectural styles, from mysterious brutalism associated with dystopian films and science fiction, to glimpses of gothic architecture beloved by the horror film genre. This passage borrows the aesthetics used by gamers to stream subjective explorations of simulated worlds. The result is a haunting and meditative work that lingers in the mind long after the screen fades to black.

Maximova highlights the growing importance of the video game medium as a powerful tool for artistic expression, as well as the possibility of repurposing and re-contextualizing digital media. She shares this passion with American post-conceptual artists, such as Cory Arcangel, for instance. Cory has created artworks that reimagine classic video games. One of his most well-known pieces is "Super Mario Clouds," which involves him altering a Super Mario Bros. cartridge to remove all the graphics except for the clouds, calling into question the relationship between reality and its representation in the digital realm.

In a world where the lines between reality and simulation are increasingly blurred, these artists and such art works take on a new and poignant significance. It is an invitation to contemplate the limits of our understanding of reality and the implications of living in a world where technology plays an increasingly significant role.

James Miller
11 January 2023