Baudrillard once wore a gold lamé suit with mirrored lapels while reading his poetry in a Las Vegas bar.
How cool is that? How cool is that?
I'm so fucking shallow. Simulations
is blowing my fucking mind. Jean Baudrillard is so crazy and so classy and so totally right about shit. I don't have my copy with me right now or I'd bombard you with quotes. I need to get more books by this person. I need the Futurist's Manifesto too. I need to get this stuff from Amazon for cheap because I have a really bad habit of not returning books to the library ever.
My copy of Simulations
is from a publishing company called Semiotext(e)
and it is from the "Foreign Agents" series. FOREIGN AGENTS. There's a repeating clip of an Interpol document about naturalized citizens on the front cover. It makes me think of Naked Lunch
. All agents defect sooner or later. Agents becoming their cover stories, and their "true" natures are...not true. Or were never true. Or are just as true as the "false" ones. Or the "false" ones are just as true as the true ones. ILLUSION.
ANYWAY SO THE POINT IS Baudrillard talks about three levels of simulacra, which I want to talk about now because I just figured out what he means by "precession."
LEVEL ONE: Counterfeits. This is basically simulacra for beginners, where you just need to start getting your head around the idea of "copying." A counterfeit depends upon the existence of the original for its existence. Counterfeit $20s only work because everyone knows what a real $20 looks like; realism in art only works because everyone knows what a real apple looks like, and a still life looks like an apple (with a banana and some flowers and maybe a dead bird or something). This is where you need to figure out that there are things that don't want to be things in themselves, that are deliberately trying to be like other things. It's so sad. Poor copy-things. If they were people, they would have low self-esteem. Here is an example of a counterfeit:
LEVEL TWO: Industrial simulacra. Once you've gotten your head around the concept of a copy, it's time to make things that are copies of each other
. These were invented by Henry Ford and made cool by Andy Warhol. Industrial simulacra are not copies of anything that already exists. They are only real because they are exact copies of each other--anything that deviates from the mold may be an object, but it's not a real copy, it's a deviation, a typo, an irregular. Like a Coke can that is blue and green instead of red and white. (Which may have gotten Warhol serious bank, but is less okay if it's being rejected from the factory for being overly colorized. Or if you're paying $1.25 for the privilege of drinking it and it turns out to taste like toothpaste because it doesn't follow the Coke recipe.) This is why off-brand things are sort of weird and why people get seriously
upset if their Burger King burger is square and little kids throw fits if their Halloween costumes are not officially licensed--they want real copies
. Here is an example of an industrial simulacra:
LEVEL THREE: Simulation. First, you need to have recognized that Level 2 simulacra are real because they can be replicated. Good? Good. Now, check this: Reality itself can be replicated.
This is where people get tripped up and start making references to the types of movies which think they are clever because they put their protagonists in a world which is actually just virtual reality. Yes, we know
we're living in a world which is completely created by computers. That is not the point. The point is that we believe that that world, being a level 3 simulacra, is no more real or no less real than the "real" world. That an exact replica of, say, Stonehenge or the Grand Canyon or even a person is exactly equivalent to the "real thing." Is it? Maybe. I don't know. How can you even tell? Does it really matter? Who's keeping track? What feels
more real? Which one has the brighter colors, the tastier food, the bouncier music? Here is an example of a simulation:
Simulations, being less "real", have to try harder; to this end, they overcompensate and create hyperreality, in which they become more "real" than what is actually real. (My teacher liked to use the example of watermelon-flavored bubble gum for this: It's an imitation of watermelon flavor, and it tastes nothing like real watermelon, but the fake flavor when you finally bite into a piece of real watermelon after eating nothing but watermelon-flavored bubble gum, the real thing is kind of disappointing.) And that is where we are today.
Baudrillard points out that we are essentially living in a huge simulation--this is not because we are literally living inside of a computer program, but that society alters so much and bombards us with so many signs and signifiers and copies of things that we are incapable of confronting reality as reality, of being able to discern the difference between what is real and what is a simulacra. Things like movies and video games and Disneyland, which are deliberately presented to us as unreal copies of reality, are there mainly to help us pretend that there is anything left that is
real, just as scandals like Watergate or the Lewinsky thing are presented to us as deviations from the norm so that we can pretend that there is a norm to deviate from. Which is why, as he put it, "The Matrix
is surely the kind of film about the Matrix that the Matrix would have been able to produce."