The Image Fulgurator, developed by Berlin art student Julius von Bismarck, has sent ripples across the blogosphere. It's a device that projects patterns when triggered by a camera flash, so that von Bismarck's chosen image appears in the hapless snapper's picture. Critics fear invisible adverts, but does a similar thing in a much more monetisable form and that hasn't brought down civilisation as we know it yet.
The Fulgurator is more of a guerilla device, for arterrorist 'interventions' flashing subversive messages across "sacred or popular locations, or those having a political connotation". It's a form of real world détournement, adding radical new meaning to an existing text -- and all with the tantalising frisson of a possible pißartisten at work.
Very few tourist attractions could get away with defacing their visitors' photographs, because these days photos are memories -- what von Bismarck calls the "fabric of media memory". I know I frequently have to force myself to stop looking through viewfinders or LCD screens and just... look.
It's interesting that von Bismarck chose Checkpoint Charlie as an early intervention. It's a place loaded with political and cultural significance, but as many of the tourists pausing to crack a smile might be to be surprised to discover, it's not 'real'. The wooden shed is a copy, just like Shakespeare's Globe or Liverpool's Cavern Club.
In a world of simulacra, nothing's real, and not in the pseudo-intellectual Matrix Revolutions way. Photos from these places are representations of something that is itself a copy. Even when we do open our eyes and look for ourselves, what we see is still a physiologically mediated copy, our brain deciphering impulses that record a moment already lost; our memories merely fast-degrading electrical shadows of what we think we saw.
Oh, except for CNET.co.uk. We always keep it real.