(Un)Real? illustrates the journey of Photographer, Edward Mulvihill, and Creative Director, Hugh Barton, as they enter the world of Walter Van Beirendonck. A group of travellers traversing digital hyper-myths to declare a prophecy to the universe — COSMIC OUTSIDERS UNITE. WARNING. PAY ATTENTION! DREAM BIG, BUT KEEP PROTECTING OUR HUMANITY.

As a child, we process the world with a profound naivety. Zen Buddhists refer to it as Shoshin, the beginner’s mind. A constant state of openness void of prejudice and faux pas. A lizard imagines itself into a dragon with little resistance. A horse sprouts a horn to become a unicorn. In this vacuum, there are no boundaries between right or wrong, real or unreal. No patriotic allegiance to reality. We speak in secret dialects to imaginary friends. They become accomplices to the gentle misdemeanours of youthful rebellion. A safety net concealing the what-ifs of reality. A scapegoat when the ruse is up.

In adolescence, we trade our imaginary friends for para-social confidants. Celebrities become the latest firmware update, pinging notifications at us every minute of every day. To avoid discomfort we keep our idols at finger’s length. We isolate them behind OLED screens and give their words refuge in binary’s certainty. Now, our pseudo-allies are untouchable by the trials of humanity. They are safe, and so are we.

Adulthood begins with an infrastructural boom. A cerebral Industrial Revolution dawns. We draw blueprints and go to work constructing worlds inside of worlds. A mental armour embellished with the insignia of a dial-up modem and a half-remembered dream. After all, the logical step to rationalising an increasingly fantastical reality is to reduce the bandwidth. To slow it to a crawl. In our strongholds, high on our thrones, we monitor the flow of information. We fabricate a harmonious world of rationed truth and fugazi. A Truman Show. A world where we are the stars, this is our stage, and everything is how we see it.

Today, with the advancement of artificial intelligence, we are well-equipped to push beyond the limits of our private realities. Aided by technology, we return to the looking glass, peer through it in glee and witness life with a renewed beginner’s mind. The machines we willed into existence invite us down untrodden paths towards other worlds. It’s us who turned the key on Pandora’s Box, except this time it may hold more good than bad. A self-fulfilling prophecy, heralding humans as the creator and the created.

Talents: Magnus Carlsson & Sam Claesen @magnuscc @sammeman004

Photographer: Edward Mulvihill @edward_mulvihill

Creative Direction: Hugh Barton @hughbarton_

Set Design: Victoria Punturere @victoriapunturere

Stylist assistant: Pablo Espinola @juanpabloespinolag

Words: Jerome Williams @yesyesjerome

Editor: Patrick Boyle @patrickboyl