Welcome to the desert of the real…

The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth;

it is the truth which conceals that there is none.

The simulacrum is true.

Jean Baudrillard

Jean Baudrillard is one of the most influential and important figures for postmodern theorists and artists. In our current postmodern condition, Baudrillard argues that we have lost contact with the “real” in various ways, that we have nothing left but a continuing fascination with its disappearance. In Baudrillard’s version of postmodernity, there is hardly any space for opposition or resistance because of the supreme hegemony of the controlling system. The uncomfortable truth! When I was reading the ‘Simulacra and Simulations’ -quite a tough and thoughtful article that I need to reread several times to digest-, I realized how my own reality has been abstracted, even abolished with the hyperreality of communication and meaning. More real than real (Douglas Kellner), that is how the real is abolished…

Baudrillard’s concepts, simulacra and simulation, explains how our models for the real have taken over the place of the real in postmodern society. What has happened in postmodern culture is that our society has become so reliant on models and maps that we have lost all contact with the real world that preceded the map. Reality itself has begun merely to imitate the model, which now precedes and determines the real world: ‘The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory—precession of simulacra—that engenders the territory’. According to Baudrillard, when it comes to postmodern simulation and simulacra: ‘It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real’.

Baudrillard is not merely suggesting that postmodern culture is artificial, because the concept of artificiality still requires some sense of reality against which to recognize the artifice. His point, rather, is that we have lost all ability to make sense of the distinction between nature and artifice. To clarify his point, he argues that there are three “orders of simulacra”: 1) in the first order of simulacra, which he associates with the pre-modern period, the image is a clear counterfeit of the real; the image is recognized as just an illusion, a place marker for the real; 2) in the second order of simulacra, which Baudrillard associates with the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, the distinctions between the image and the representation begin to break down because of mass production and the proliferation of copies. Such production misrepresents and masks an underlying reality by imitating it so well, thus threatening to replace it (e.g. in photography or ideology); however, there is still a belief that, through critique or effective political action, one can still access the hidden fact of the real; 3) in the third order of simulacra, which is associated with the postmodern age, we are confronted with a precession of simulacra; that is, the representation precedes and determines the real. There is no longer any distinction between reality and its representation; there is only the simulacrum.

Here is a video on the philosophy lying behind the Matrix movie by Wachowski brothers, a movie that was inspired by all these issues (although numerous sources report Baudrillard saying that the movie ‘stemmed mostly from misunderstandings’ of his work).

I just added the part about Baudrillard, but highly recommend you to watch the whole series..

4 Responses to “Welcome to the desert of the real…”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cynthia Bateman, Khephra Maley. Khephra Maley said: Baudrillard: Welcome to the desert of the real… – http://j.mp/aBDyaA [ #philosophy #criticaltheory #Pomo ] […]

  2. Caroline Rea Says:

    There is obviously a lot to know about this.
    Keep working ,great job!

  3. Interesting! If you are in to this subject, you really should read the scifi-novel ‘Simulacron-3’ written by Daniel F. Galouye (in 1964). (also published as ‘Counterfeit World’.) It made it to a movie (again!) as ‘The Thirteenth Floor’ in the same year as the Matrix! Check wiki if you want more info…
    – Also published in the same year is ‘ExistenZ’, by David Cronenberg. Instead of the rude link between flesh and metal as seen in the Matrix, here we see that there is an actual link in an bio-organic way. There are no metal plugs or wires that pound into an human being, instead, we see womb-organ-like pods, made out of some sort of flesh – As if they were the intestines we’ve lost, to become ‘one’ again – They are the keys to open up our shutted doors and to look and see our world clearly and with all its facets.)
    Other writers who wrote stories from that point of view are F. Pohl: ‘The Tunnel Under the World’ and Phillip K. Dicks’ ‘Time out of Joint’. Also Stanislaw Lem wrote a short story:, all in the late fifties and beginning of the sixties. Also the movie ‘Videodrome’ would pop up in mind. There are plenty of stories written about this interesting subject. (And well, as The Matrix is more written in words of our time, if we compare the main philosophy, it resembles the Allegory of the Cave, from Plato. — And if we manage to get out of the cave and stare in the bright light, we’ll know there is nothing new under the sun! We tell the same stories over and over again!) I would wear a pair of dark sunglasses…Cheers!

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