In the savvy 21st century, we view commercial material culture as inauthentic, phony, and less than legitimate. Or at least, that’s what we say we think. As Real As It Gets puts a different idea on offer by gathering fictional products, imaginary brands, hypothetical advertising and speculative objects, devised by artists, designers, writers, musicians, companies and in one case, a government entity.
Here’s the pitch: The ambiguity in the relationship between our selves and our brand-soaked world is exactly what’s worth taking seriously, not waving away. When the consideration is filtered through an open and unpredictable mind, anything seems possible, if not exactly plausible: ersatz brands get defictionalized into buyable existence and non-products get shop-dropped onto retail shelves. Imaginary brands and fictional products can become a means of expressing joy, fear, humor, unease, ambivalence — the real stuff, in other words.
The medium is the marketplace. Come browse for yourself. No purchase required.
Rob Walker is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine and Design Observer, and the author of Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are and Letters From New Orleans. He co-edited, with Joshua Glenn, Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things (Fantagraphics: 2012), and co-founded, with Ellen Susan and G.K. Darby, The Hypothetical Development Organization, which was included in the official U.S. exhibition at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale.
Featuring work by: Kelli Anderson, Conrad Bakker, Beach Packaging Design, Matt Brown Steven M. Johnson, Last Exit To Nowhere, MakerBot Industries, The Marianas (Michael Arcega and Stephanie Syjuco), Angie Moramarco Oliver Munday, Omni Consumer Products, Staple Design, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Ryan Watkins-Hughes, Marc Weidenbaum/Disquiet Junto, Shawn Wolfe, and Dana Wyse