simulacra + simulacrum


simulacra + simulacrum
  ---- by William Pawlett
  The notion of the simulacrum - meaning image, semblance or appearance - is explored throughout Baudrillard's oeuvre, from his work on the sign form (CPS) and the 'orders of simulacra' (SED), to his theorisations of seduction (S), impossible exchange (IEx) and the annihilation of simulacra in the virtual and integral reality (LP). The term simulacrum derives from the Latin simulare meaning to 'make like' or simulate (OED, 1989, plural form: simulacra) and is usually understood as constituting a problem for thought because it raises the issues of falsity and untruth. However, Baudrillard entirely rejects this (Platonic) understanding of simulacra. Influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche and Pierre Klossowski, he understands simulacra not as false images, nor as obscuring truth behind a facade, but as that which 'hides the truth's non-existence' (S, 35). In this sense the simulacrum is 'true'.
  Baudrillard's early studies (CPS, MP) sought to understand the repudiation of symbolic exchange through the erection of the laws of value. The signifier, considered as form rather than content, produces the effect of the real or referent as mirage, 'alibi' or simulation. The 'real' for Baudrillard is 'only the simulacrum of the symbolic, its form reduced and intercepted by the sign' (CPS, 162). In Symbolic Exchange and Death (1993a [1976]) Baudrillard turns to a speculative classification of the orders of simulacra. The first order dominates from the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution, is based on the natural law of value and is characterised by the counterfeit. The second order of simulacra dominates through the industrial era, is based on the market law of value and is characterised by production. The third order dominates consumer society; it is governed by the 'structural law of value' and is characterised by simulation. The orders of simulacra are devices of social control, power structures which produce specific social relations based on binary disjunction. The first order severs or bars cycles of symbolic exchange and establishes the notion of the 'real'. The second order is distinctive in that it abolishes the notion of originality through the 'infinite series' of industrial production. With the third order goods, meanings and objects are not merely produced but are 'conceived according to their very reproducibility' (SED, 56). Meaning or value is generated exclusively through affiliation to a model such that 'reality is immediately contaminated by its simulacrum' (SED, 74). This is the moment of implosion into hyper-reality, the loss of the 'sovereign difference' which created the illusion called 'reality'.
  Baudrillard discusses simulacra in relation to sexuality in Seduction (1990a [1979]), arguing that pornography functions to maintain the simulacrum of sex, the illusion of an autonomous 'sexual' realm based on the physical satisfaction of desire. The notion of sexual liberation not only retroactively installs a principle of repression in order to function, it also props up the idea of sex as reality and truth. However, as truth has no foundation beyond the play of simulacra - the play of words and ideas - all 'truths' are at the mercy of seduction, the sudden diverting of signs into a play of appearance and disappearance. Linguistic signs are simulacra: they can play at signification or be seduced into nonsense, poetry or anagrammatic rituals. There is no hinterworld to ground a system of metaphysics: the world is a simulacrum.
  In Simulacra and Simulation (1994a [1981]), Baudrillard sketches four successive phases of simulacra. Firstly, he argues, the image is taken as 'the reflection of a profound reality'. Then the image 'masks and denatures a profound reality'. The first phase Baudrillard associates with Platonism and the second with Marxism. Thirdly, following Nietzsche, Baudrillard contends that the image also 'masks the absence of a profound reality', and finally, with simulation, 'has no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum' (SS, 6). These phases are not intended as historical stages but tendencieswithintheimage.Baudrillardcontendsthatthepresentmediaage is dominated by the 'pure simulacrum', giving a number of examples such as the media's love of political scandals and Disneyland which 'exists in order to hide that it is the "real" country, all of "real" America that is Disneyland . . . it is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology) but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real' (SS, 12-13). In other words, America, like Disneyland, is perceived and understood through simulacra: news and documentary images, tourist images, cinema and TV images, and the consumption of these images often precedes any 'real' experience of living in or visiting America. The simulacrum becomes the 'real'; there is no real that is more 'real' than simulacra, yet such simulacra are politically crucial because they obscure this fundamental absence of the real.
  Baudrillard approaches the issue of simulacra from a different angle in Impossible Exchange (2001a [1999b]). Drawing upon Klossowski's notion of 'living currency', Baudrillard explores the curvature or spiralling together of the system (of simulation) with its 'absolute polar opposite' (IEx, 122) of singularities, such as impulses and emotions, creativity and death, which lack equivalents and are consequently impossible to exchange. The latter cannot be expressed directly, yet if they acquire a simulacrum or image they can be 'traded' or symbolically exchanged. That which is irreducible to the laws of value, in rare moments 'transfuses through the abstraction which denies it' (IEx, 122-3). In such moments, which cannot acquire duration or permanence, sign and thing are reversible; each is made volatile and cannot accumulate into abstracted or coded meaning. However, such moments become increasingly rare in the age of digital and virtual technologies. For Baudrillard computer-generated images are not simulacra because sign and thing, impulse and simulacra, are abolished by a total abstraction: the virtual. Digital technology becomes a fetish, a substitute for the world and for the sign which entered into relations with the world, sometimes designating the world, sometimes seducing it. Simulacra, reality and even human beings are now disappearing from the virtual world, Baudrillard speculates, yet this disappearance is not our death, it is our passion, our fascination and our art of disappearance.
  Passwords
   § America
   § code
   § disappearance
   § Gulf War
   § hyper-reality
   § image
   § model
   § simulation
   § the end
   § virtual

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

Look at other dictionaries:

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