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The Creators Project

Road Trip into a VR-Triggered Wasteland in These Vivid Sci-Fi Paintings

Sci-fi painter Simon Stålenhag’s latest series ‘The Electric State’ depicts a post-apocalyptic migration to California.
All images courtesy the artist

While dystopian sci-fi painter and conceptual artist Simon Stålenhag's last two series, Tales From The Loop and Things From The Flood, are part of an alternative Sweden populated by robots, woodland creatures, and ruins, in a new series, The Electric State, Stålenhag offers up a sudden narrative shift. The robots and ruins still dominate the paintings, but Stålenhag tells The Creators Project that this story is set in an altogether different universe.


"The first two books were a nostalgic daydream of growing up in the Swedish welfare state (albeit a crumbling welfare state on the cusp of reform)," Stålenhag explains. "[Whereas] The Electric State is a horrified nightmare of western society in the digital era, almost a bit satirical in tone."

A road trip journey of sorts, The Electric State is set on the highways and streets of an alternate rural California of the late 1990s. There, Stålenhag says, a new type of virtual reality technology — spawned by a second civil war fought with drones — has ventured far off into what he calls a "creepy tangent."

The story follows a teenage girl and her toy robot as they move from the ravaged wastelands of western Nevada, through the Sierra Nevada mountains, and out towards the coast north of the Bay Area. A third figure accompanies them on their journey—a character wrapped in blankets, wearing a VR helmet. Stålenhag says that this character is either disabled or lost in a VR-induced coma.

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