Diners are seemingly undesigned spaces that have maintained the same look and feel since they were first created. This not only makes them appear authentic but also intimate, pleasant, and reliable, like a home. If diners were to die out—which they are—would one ever be able to experience the specifically warm, comfortable and nostalgic feeling that a diner evokes? This project speculates about a future where this distinct combination of feelings can be felt even if diners do not exist anymore. It asks the questions: How would extinct diners be simulated, experienced, and remembered by future generations? What if you could drink the essence of the diner space in order to experience the emotions it evokes? And would this iteration of a diner become too simulated and distorted to feel the same, just like a memory?
The installation, Essence, consists of four parts. Each references one “phase of the image” as outlined by Jean Baudrillard in Simulacra and Simulation. Part one, “Reflection,” presents the essential elements of the diner space through the use of plain images and brief captions formatted into a menu. Part two, “Distortion,” resembles a napkin displaying diner imagery in a morphed and blended hyper-collage, demonstrating the processing of visual information. Part three, “Concealing Absence,” creates a placemat mood board of images that are hidden behind mockingly cheesy advertisements. It works toward separating the feeling from the visual. Part four, “Simulation,” is the final step in creating my imagined futuristic diner experience. The essence of the diner space has been extracted and is the Special of the Day! Would you like to try it?