Monday, September 19, 2005

Baudrillard - Simulacra and Simulation (1981/1994)

Baudrillard begins by suggesting the impossibility of Borges's exhaustive map, a precise cartography of the empire.  According to Baudrillard, such a map is no longer possible; the farcical project is rendered impossible because of "the precession of simulacra," which we might take as an onslaught of images without immediate reference or "copies without originals."  If images are referential, simulacra shroud the reference, resulting in what Baudrillard calls the hyperreal as well as conditions giving rise to "the era of simulation [which] is inaugurated by a liquidation of all referentials" (2).  Hereafter, maps precede territory (1); this applies to the medicalization of the body and anticipations of war-action as the trainings for each are staged through elaborate and artificial simulations.  Also, Baudrillard works this theory on Disneyland, Watergate and God.

In the first chapter, "The Precession of Simulacra," Baudrillard sets up a theoretical imbroglio (17); subsequent chapters function as applications and cases for trying our and further complicating and extrapolating these concepts.  Early on, Baudrillard works through challenging (often surprising) engagements with religion (5), ethnology (7), museumification of "our entire linear and accumulative culture" (10).  He argues that "demuseumification" is just as artificial as the ethnologist's "pure form" project: "Repatriating it is nothing but a supplementary subterfuge, acting as if nothing had happened and indulging in retrospective hallucination" (11).  Baudrillard is clear that we have moved outlived the society of the spectacle, outlasting "the specific kinds of alienation and repression that [the spectacle] implied" (30).  Spectacle, as I read it through Debord, acknowledges an excess of representation, of hypercirculating image-objects, much of which is apprehendable; comparably, simulacra are somehow sly or non-obvious, advancing quietly and without exhibitive splendor paraded in the spectacle.

On images, Baudrillard writes of four "successive phases":

it is the reflection of a profound reality;
it masks and denatures a profound reality;
it masks the absence of a profound reality;
it has no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum. (6)

Baudrillard is like a hop on a boogie-board: so much to try out (as much as you're up for).  But I'll note just a couple of things, then let the vague referents below serve as cues for a later date (these notes have got to be readable in perpetuity...er, next year, anyhow).  First, with simulacra and simulation, Baudrillard suggests a turn from persuasion to deterrence (29) (this, in the section called "End of the panoptic system.") I need to think through this turnabout a bit more--think about what this might mean for rhetoric, what B. calls the "end of perspectival and panoptic space" (30).  One more: in "Clone Story," B. mentions scissiparity (96) (dict.com: reproduction by fission). Just interesting, scissiparity.

Two quotations: "The only weapon of power, its only strategy against this defection, is to reinject the real and the referential everywhere, to persuade us of the reality of the social, of the gravity of the economies and the finalities of production" (22).
"What is essential today is to evaluate this double challenge--the challenge of the masses to meaning and their silence (which is not at all passive resistance)--the challenge to meaning that comes from the media and its fascination" (84).

Simvitees: Eisenstein (33), Loud family (27), McLuhan (30, 82) Rel. Benjamin and aura (99), Neo

Returns: museum (8), repatriation (11), proof in antis (19); network of artificial signs (20), mapping and confinement (29), satellitization (33, 35), information and the destruction of the social (81), soft technologies (101).

With this installment of notes, I'm shifting phases...moving from what we've termed new media/visualization groundwork to what's next: Imagologies (Taylor and Saarinen), Picture Theory (Mitchell), and Visual Display... (Tufte).

Barthes - The Photographic Message (1961)
Barthes - Rhetoric of the Image (1964)
Barthes - The Third Meaning (1970)
Benjamin - The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936)
Debord - Society of the Spectacle (1967/1983)

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