Vincent M. Franco
Visitors leave the comfort of their familiar realities and leap into a world of hyper, perceived and simulated realism when entering the latest exhibition at Cal Poly Pomona’s Huntley Gallery, “Treasures of Fauxtopia, Artifacts, Memorabilia and Souvenirs from the Most Believable Place on Earth.”
Created by Professor of Visual Communication Design Raymond Kampf, “Fauxtopia” is a caricature of theme parks in America, playing on the romantic notions they put forth.
Containing Disney-esque posters of rides, shows and restaurants – and even a fake mascot called “blank,” which is simply a white sheet of paper with arms and legs – this exhibition acts as a wake up call to the lies and misinformation that only spreads faster as time goes on.
In this small gallery located on the fourth floor of the college’s library, Kampf was able to create an illusion of a theme park that feels frighteningly familiar with the help of friends and even old Cal Poly Pomona students.
“At first I was struggling to know if this world that he’s creating was real or not. So just that whole thought process I had going through his exhibition, I think he did this successfully,” Emily Ta, senior architecture major at Cal Poly, said.
At the entrance of the gallery there is a detailed map of “Fauxtopia” popping full of color, showing where to find Port Distortion and the BrainWasher ride, or if guests are hungry, the Making Scents Bistro.
Kampf, who previously worked in the theme park industry, took his love for the attractions and his background in graphic design communications to come up with this entirely fictitious theme park with the hopes to leave visitors questioning every bit of media thrown at them in the real world.
“It’s the idea that theme parks actually are a really good teaching tool, and that they are a collection of visual semiotic messaging,” Kampf said. “That actually translates very easily into the real world.”
With one of the major themes being propaganda, Kampf makes a point to show that this act of misleading information has always been prominent in American culture.
“Propaganda is one of those wonderful words that we always associated with, like the bad guys, but you know, propaganda is something that we all use,” Kampf said.
The idea of faux realities has been around for a while, but Kampf said he first became aware of it around 2004. With the effects of the 2000 election and 9/11 still looming over America, Kampf could not have discovered this ideology at a better time. Around this time he was also working as a teacher at the Disney Institute which is where he was able to make the connection.
“I was able to explain to people, look, a lot of this information that you’re getting from media is not unlike the same information that you’re getting from going to a theme park and putting it into that context,” Kampf said.
Jesus Saldivar, a former student of Kampf’s and a graduate at Cal Poly Pomona, helped out with graphics on some of the videos on display at the gallery. The videos play on a constant loop, working as mockumentaries of Fauxtopia and adding to the facade of the fake theme park.
“When I got there and actually saw everything, it really was kind of like I was being transported into Fauxtopia, especially with the decorations of the floor, the ceiling,” Saldivar said.
The exhibit is so immersive that, according to Kampf, he was told by students attending the opening reception that they think their parents had gone and visited Fauxtopia before.
“Treasures of Fauxtopia, the Most Believable Place on Earth ” runs through Sept. 11. The exhibit is free and open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday. The gallery is closed Wednesday through Friday.
Vincent M. Franco can be reached at email@example.com.
Vincent Matthew Franco is a senior journalism major with a concentration in print and online journalism. He has been involved in journalism and print media in high school, community college and is now at the arts editor of the Campus Times.