Photos: Artificial Grass Samples
by Beauchamp Art
In these images, I documented an arrange a selection of artificial grass samples which I acquired from various specialist online retailers for free.
In some of the test image I placed the samples amongst the weeds growing through paving slabs, as if creating a micro-environment in which the real and unreal are set against each other, and where I was “substituting signs of the real for the real itself” [Baudrillard, 1983: 4]. The living weeds of nature breaking through the regimentally carved stone of man, to be greeted by a bizarre artifice.
I took a number of photos of the samples individually and collectively, exploring the aesthetics of the material, as well as experimenting with compositionally considered arrangements, looking at both the front and rear textures of the grass; what the facade hides is a dark rubbery plastic and a mechanically repetitive weave. I also tried arranging the samples in loose sculptural objects, however, only the attempt to make a cube was anywhere near successful, and the resulting object resembled something like a grass block from the videogame, Minecraft. Although the resemblance to reality found in this material is different to that of a game, this comparison has since lead me to start investigating video game textures, though I may pursue this furthering in more depth at a later date.
As looking through vast numbers of texture modifications for games like Skyrim is incredibly tedious, but at the same time fascinating; as the amount of time certain specialised individuals put into furthering the authenticity of the real visual experience within digital game environments is quite substantial, and such an obsession with reality is found only in criticism of journalistic and documentary imagery; though they start from the position of the real and work towards the hyperreal, rather than unreal to photographic reality.
As it was the main goal of computer graphics field from the 1980s onwards, “was to create maximum ‘photorealism’ […] synthetic scenes no distinguishable from live action cinematography” [Manovich, 2013: 325] Not simply to mimic reality but the aim was to fake “not reality but photographic reality, reality as seen by the camera lens.” [Manovich, 2001: 200] In these images I present the artificial grass not as reality, but as a simulation of reality; they art explicitly artificial by being removed from the context of a grounded earth, even when in conjunction with nature they do not attain the level of uncanniness unless views passively, which is the primary intention of the material; the not be examined closely, but to look real from afar, a sculptural matte painting.
It is worth noting that the use of the artificial grass samples in conjunction with other items was a somewhat amusing affair, as they are such bizarre objects a when photographed convey a confused aesthetic of unreality, in that “when one has been visually deceived one takes pleasure in guessing” [Baudrillard, 1987: 31]. They may momentarily mislead the viewer, but their isolated shapes and inorganic linearity destroy their verisimilitude after a moment’s inspection. Similarly, I chose to contrast them to a number of rusted metal sheets which I had worked into with a plasma cutter in the first year of university, so contained vaguely human sketches amongst their crimson presence, contrasting in colour and texture, but mirroring their artificiality. It is a material designed to be overlooked, its inauthenticity disregarded as the simulation blends into reality.
They act as the “more real that the real (simulation)” [Baudrillard, 1987: 83] of common-place lawn grass, cut domestically to a practical length so as not to intrude movement or the visual field to form a synthetic backdrop to a particular stereotype of the garden; a modern Arcadia in which the grass is always green, come rain or shine… or dog.
Peculiarly, on most of the accompanying images and promotional material, the fake lawns of some hellishly idilic modern picturesque suburban gardens are almost always accompanied by a dog sat merrily, accompanied by ‘easy clean’ claims, with a group of actors playing happy middle-class white nuclear families with their perfect lawn, freed from the self-induced shame and pressure of having to mow one’s own lawn. The ideology being sold through this product is one of idilic salvation. As “it is the relationship to the consumer that matters now, not the object that engenders it” [Lanham, 2006: 2], then the ridiculousness of the object is irrelevant if it can convince the buyer they it will somehow further their domestic fantasy and complete the facile image they wish to present to their neighbours of having the time to sustain a perfect lawn all-year-round, remaining evergreen despite the horrors of seasonal change, children playing, and absentmindedness. It is like another other functionless domestic appliance that exists primarily as a means of capitalising on petty anxiety, consumerist desires and a manufactured cap in the market (like a trouser-press, electric tin-opener, or any other such gadget). The commodification of ideology.
Its use seems to me totally alien in a domestic setting, however, it is also used outside of the garden. Such as in indoor environments like shop-displays, or in play-parks as areas for children to run and fall without their parents having to face the benign terror of grass-stains and muddy marks, instead having to deal with friction burns from toddlers sliding across 2 metres of plastic after descending from a slide face-first at high speed.
These slightly whimsical concerns aside, the plastic grass came to my attention after encountering number of news stories surrounding the Canadian Women’s Football team’s protest at the plans to use astroturf in the 2015 Women’s World Cup, claiming that the substation was unfair and would never take place in the Men’s football [Guardian Associated Press, 2014]. The erroneous, on-going and over-aching sexism of the Football institution to one side; here, the issue was that the artificial substation of the pitch was a sexist act because it positioned Women’s Football as secondary to Men’s; the inferiority of the material was projected onto the sport, the players, and their genders. Fifa have since claimed that they may be considering the use of astroturf for both Men’s and Women’s football “sooner rather than later” [Guardian Press Association, 2014]. However, as the women’s sport was target first, it puts it in a position of lesser importance and therefore the use of artificial grass is no longer a question of petty domesticity but has become a political issue.
Who would have thought that the most troublesome simulacrum would not the Terminator but the artificial cultivator!
- Baudrillard, Jean. (1983) Simulations. New York. Semiotexte. MIT Press
- Baudrillard, Jean. (1987) The Ecstasy of Communication. (Foreign Agents). Semiotext(e). USA.
- Guardian Associated Press. (2014) Wambach demands equal treatment for women in 2015 World Cup turf battle. The Guardian [Online] – http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/sep/19/abby-wambach-turf-fifa-canada-world-cup-venues – Accessed 2.10.14
- Guardian Press Association (2014) Fifa admits artificial turf could be used at men’s World Cup too . The Guardian [Online] – http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/oct/29/fifa-artificial-pitch-world-cup – Accessed 25.101.14
- Lanham, Richard A. (2006) The Economics of Attention. Hardback. University of Chicago Press Ltd. London.
- Manovich, Lev (2001) The Language of the New Media. MIT Press. USA.
- Manovich, Lev. (2013) Software Takes Command. INT Edition. Bloomsbury Academic. London, UK.