Thursday, November 12, 2009

John Baudrillard 'The Precession of Simulacra'

This text wasn't initially an easy read, but once I got my head round Baudrillard's simulation theories and the very dated reference points he used (for some of his theories), it was very insightful and helped shaped my understanding of simulacra in a social context.
Baudrillard has an incredibly negative opinion when it comes to simulacra, his theory is that in the Precession he discusses the simulation will finally result in the demise of that which it simulates. This is the process of 'Pure Simulacrum'

"-It is a reflection of a basic reality
-It masks and perverts a basic reality
-It masks the absence of a basic reality
-It bears no relation to any reality."

In reference to software I've explored so far Corel Painter would perhaps - unlike other pieces of creative software I had used - sit in an earlier stage of the 'Precession' Baudrillard describes. What I mean is that it reflects basic reality more so than anything else I have come across so far, Corel Painter was a more rational mutation of the real artists studio. In the instance of Illustrator or much of the Open Source software I've used, they've transcended the need to appear 'real' as Baudrillard puts it..
"It no longer has to be rational, since it is no longer measure against some ideal or negative instance."
It is not expected of these virtual environments, they're capabilites transcend the need to do to have an obvious reference to any basic reality.
In terms of the aforementioned negativity towards the simulation, Baudrillard sights more cultural referents. He touches on some interesting points, the idea of a simulated acceptance of a culture - such as Native Americans - Baudrillard mentions the colonisers, the 'modern' American immigrants, use this acceptance as "proof of superiority of civilisation". The simulated acceptance of a culture ultimately destroys that culture
"Demographic 'mutation', therefore is just one more step towards symbolic extermination."
Its interesting in a design context, to look at Baudrillards theory of Operational Negativity
"..a hormonal treatment of negativity and crisis. It is always a question of proving the real by the imaginary, proving the law by transgression, proving work by strike, proving the system by crisis.."
If we consider in a less extreme context the emergence of 'simulated' computer-based artwork as the crisis, more traditional 'real' methods are the treatment. I think digital environments are unavoidable in the design world - a lot of designers will use methods such as screen printing, monotype, dry point and hand drawn work as a reaction (conscious or unconscious) to the emergence of the of computer based art. 'Real' art is only 'real' because it is measured against that which comes from the 'unreal'. Through the operational negativity of digitally produced art it proves its reality through the "dispossesion of its object" that is computer art. these traditional methods need computers as a reference point in order to be traditional, sought after methods, without computers, surely this kind of art would be the 'unreal' considering in itself most artistic creation is traditionally a reflection of basic reality in the first place and is in fact a simulation.
So what does that make computer based art? A simulation of a simulation of a simulation of a...?
I think it is important not to take Baudrillards work out of context as he refers mainly to cultural simulations in 'The Precession..'. That aside reading this text has been very inspiring in the development of my critical and artistic theory.

All quotes: Baudrillard; Jean, 1983. Simulations: The Precession of Simulacra. trans. P Foss, P Patton. Semiotext[e], New York.

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