Unreal Engine

The Unreal Engine is a playground of boundless possibilities, a platform where we can "imagine otherwise". And yet, we do so with full awareness of the multiple foreclosures and harms that continue to persist in our world. We acknowledge that history was quite often just his-story and open up an archive that also invites herstory and hirstory. Rather than focusing on immediate or incremental changes within the confines of reality, we direct our attention towards the parallel, the possible and the rhizomatic time of the past.

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“Hello, how are you” I whisper slowly, feeling an uncomfortable stone in my shoes. “Very Fine! I'm just looking for a save place to drink my oats” We enter a room that resembles strangely familiar machines. Multiple frames of computers are stacked next to one another. Your mouth curls in a smile as you look at me. We gaze around: A table awkwardly placed in the exhibition, almost like a stage, as you sit down, your legs coil around the legs of the table. Or did the table coil around you? Excited; you already lost awareness of where your body ends and where the room begins. Softly; our eyes lock into each other. An intense sweet smell clouds your vision.

We pause for a moment to stare at the unreal engine, unable to decide whether it was grown or carved from the table in front of us. They seem to be made from dirt and ground, although more liquid. Maybe it was formed by the surrounding ecology. You move your face closer to the elements and to the touch they feel a bit like fingers, hands and nails, glistening with nail polish, almost touching you back. “I'm here to multiply my matrices” you said with an air of certainty that I could not help but question. Without hesitation, I answer: “But not with this absurd body”. As we enter the engine, you see the pixelated remnants of body fluids leaking through the narrow cracks of our histories. “We are all alienated – but have we ever been otherwise?” As we fade away, you quickly remember that “disappearing bodies” are the “basic problem of modernity”, but it is already too late. Where could we even apply this discourse without the right biochemistry? My raspy GPT like voice reminds us that this binary was never ours to begin with.

As you get closer to the terminal of this peculiarly moving computer, a piece of paper with strange symbols catches your eye. It contains instructions and letters made out of letters. This machine, this Unreal Engine, perceives time as a living thing and dreams up alternate times to produce divergent pasts and possibilities.

"Welcome to the Unreal Engine. It's great to be here with you in our non-place and non-time. We have been suspended in the air for a while, eagerly waiting to find out who we'd encounter next. And we are ecstatic that it is you. Our files contain several tales of pleasure, joy and anxieties that fuel our thoughts. To compute these imaginaries, kindly fill out and submit one of the forms before you. On its left side, you will find a matrix, a latent space of reality. It opens four quadrants that all represent a multitude of possibilities that are not yet imaged. You might ask yourself, how would our world change if it moves along these axes to a new point.

It calls for you to describe a piece of that reality, maybe a human, potentially a non-human, an animal or a plant, a place or a feeling, perhaps the taste it leaves in your mouth? Imagine these places and write a letter to it: as a letter of appreciation where you praise it for its qualities, perhaps a joke, a map or a letter to finally put your anxiousness and uncertainty into words. After that, we ask you to leave your letter in the ever-changing archive of the Unreal Engine, so together we can reformulate what this archive is for and what it computes."

I open my eyes again as your reality melts with the reality of the Unreal Engine. I recall the stone in my shoes. As a child, I was always putting small stones in my shoes to remember that I have a body, to remember that the ground is real. You didn't seem to care. I stand up, having a sensory meltdown, overwhelmed by my own textualitys. We are both exhausted and drenched in sweat. But yet, a part of me stays behind at that table... stuck between theory and praxis.