Imaginary apps on view at ML

So, we opened on September 28. I think of this show as an imaginary app store where one can confront own fantasies about mobile technology, and Museum London’s Interior Gallery appeared to be a perfect space to simulate the virtual environment of an app store. Some thoughts after walking through The Imaginary App exhibition…

My friend Ben Woodard checking out the show


I like the straightforwardness of this project. I could call it “plastic,” both “exploding” and “inevitable,” and in this sense, I’d say, it translates the aesthetics of apps rather well: they are slick overwhelmingly inviting tiny pieces of software that one must have. This collection of imagined found objects is likeable in a strange way: their likability is tied to their status as objects, it is inscribed, pre-programmed in them from the beginning. It is entirely disconnected from their often poor functionality: we like them regardless. Most of apps in the app stores are “broken tools,” and yet they keep finding the way to users’ mobile devises. Perhaps, most of them can be considered imaginary. Perhaps, at some point, and not in a long while, we will be recalling these days as a strange time of our fascination with dysfunctional technology. But this brings us back to the question of fantasy, imagination and the imaginary, in Lacanian sense of the word.
The exhibition emphasizes the persisting imaginary realm of the new world that (for the most part) has switched to the symbolic regime of signal codification and digital image processing (according to Kittler). However, I must admit, many of the “fantasies” appeared to be quite predictable: many are guided by already existing marketed options, realistic or not(yet): for example, those of complete recording of one’s life (but, well, think Google Glass), helping to argue, tracking abuse, and so on. In a sense, this is the irony of these imaginary apps: they are more grounded in the existing trends of thought or expectations rather than showing an attempt of transgressing them. But also, they point out that fantasy and imagination are quite overrated, even in the case of those “impossible” apps that promise to erase themselves after they are used: is not that what we as users want the most – for all of this junk to disappear and free the memory card for new …apps?
At the same time, every now and then one encounters an imaginary app that alludes to an imaginary scenario of exhausted possibilities or irreversibility of events, disastrous “life after people” or simply the end of life, when only movement against the current of time seem to be a resolution. Is there an app for that?