disappearance


disappearance
  ---- by Mike Gane
  To appear and to disappear might appear at first glance to be simple everyday processes. This is not so for Baudrillard who takes these terms and subjects them to the most subtle examination. The key discussion of the issues involved here concerns the way death is confronted in different cultures. Our culture treats death as a biological reality, but this way of dealing with death is relatively recent. With the eclipse of the symbolic by the semiotic (and the ontologies of the 'real' that underpin it), biological death becomes the first, the dominant criterion for the end of life, and then at a subsequent stage with cloning technology, death 'ceases to be an event' yet returns as a 'singularity that assumes its full force as a symbolic stake' (LP, 197). In any case the issues associated with the 'soul' become highly problematic and remain so. For Baudrillard all the issues of appearance and disappearance belong to the symbolic and thus to an order that cannot be reduced to physical processes. However, this is difficult in contemporary cultures because mastery in the symbolic order, mastery over disappearances - that is passing 'from one form to another is a means of disappearing, not of dying' (EC, 47) - has been lost. Contemporary cultures have lost the ability to see things as they 'inscribe themselves in advance in their disappearance' (FS, 194). Baudrillard draws on anthropology for these ideas, especially the work of Marcel Mauss, to suggest that 'symbolic exchange is halted neither by the living nor by the dead . . . this is an absolute law: obligation and reciprocity are insurmountable.' For 'death is nothing other than this: [being] taken hostage by the cycle of symbolic exchanges' (SED, 134).
  The general theory that Baudrillard develops here locates disappearance in the process of metamorphosis. This is not the order of meaning, metaphor, psychology, but rather the order of the generation of the symbolic in relation to metamorphosis - 'forms which slip directly from one to the other' - thus 'it is only when this transfiguration of forms from one into the other comes to a halt that a symbolic order appears' (EC, 46 and 47). The modern notion of the primacy of the body in its material existence is, he suggests, a reduction, a 'materialist precipitation' capable of being the reduced object of verification on the condition of it having become 'the scene of a single scenario' (EC, 48). This reduction is accomplished by the elimination of the whole range of rituals that previously dominated the symbolic sphere. The culture of myths and practices that dealt with birth and death and linked the human with other species and the stars where 'the sign of the apparition of things is also the sign of their disappearance' (FS, 193) - is also displaced and abandoned. Baudrillard does not romanticise here. This primordial symbolic was rigorous but also cruel and in this there is a certain ironic easing of the human condition - this primordial 'subjectivity has dissolved (and we joyously accept it) because it has been absorbed into the automatism of events' (FS, 197). Yet the symbolic order of fate and destiny haunts the universe of chance and the random that has replaced it.
  Clearly Baudrillard's conception of disappearance has long been associated with processes of life and death. But his use of this term has been far more general and used to examine a range of phenomena. A key one of these is modern art, since becoming indifferent to the world merges with it and lives on as a prolonged process of the disappearance of art as art. Another is photography. Even his series Cool Memories (CM, CM2, CM3, CM4, CM5), fragmentary entries of a journal kept over the years from 1980, he said, was to let 'phenomena appear . . . grasp them as they appear, hardly giving them time to make sense, then steer them immediately into the director of their disappearance' (BL, 179).
  Baudrillard's last paper was 'On Disappearance' (in Clarke et al., 2009). Here he outlines situations in which the real disappears behind the appearance of the concept and the way the concept can disappear into the real. But these examples are given only to set the scene for a discussion of what he sees as the dramatic disappearance of the human itself - for humanity may even have produced an 'art of disappearance' of itself (PC, 39). Hypothesised is the idea that this disappearance of the human might be a fatal strategy, one that pushes technology to the limit so that death itself is overcome (disappears), becomes post-human (disappearing in cloning or genetic modification). Here the apparent aim of technology might be 'to create an autonomous, a fully achieved world, from which we could at last withdraw' (PC, 39). But no less problematic is the disappearance of the inhuman within the domain of the human - for example the humanisation of animals by genetic modification (VI). Perhaps Baudrillard suggests there is a secret strategy here: 'if I can see the world after the point of my disappearance, that means I am immortal' (PC, 38). Technology becomes the art of producing a new artificial post-humanity in which each can 'expel himself from himself into an artificial orbit in which he will circle forever' (PC, 39).
  In the writings of the later Baudrillard further surprising hypotheses on these themes are developed. One of these is the possible existence of two parallel universes for each individual: one is the actual lifeline and the other is the order of potentiality. Birth is then the appearance of the order of the ego into one of the existential lines, but 'all the possibilities set aside at birth continue to run parallel to the ego' and these unrealised potentialities 'from time to time make a foray' into to the lived lifeline. Any individual life is thus never reducible to biology or to the lived experience, since there are 'two parallel dimensions of any existence' (LP, 198).
  Passwords
   § art
   § cool memories
   § destiny
   § fatal
   § photography
   § singularity

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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