i consider the universe to be a clever fake with streets and houses and shops and cars and people all standing in the center of a stage surrounded by props by furniture to sit on kitchens to cook in cars to drive food to fix and then behind the props the flat painted scenery painted houses set farther back painted people painted streets everything not real only a series of tapes been played for us
Philip K. Dick
Archive for the ‘reality’ Category
“The only method I used was to obey no method at all”.
[Deconstruction:] Gifted with a strange ability to deconstruct the unseen, the “non-event”, the “on-going” banality of a daily life, [Exposure:] and to expose those tiny particles which make life so miserable, [Boom:] and then to throw in an extra element, a routine-breaker, that blows it all up, leaving behind a mutilated reality, incapable of restoring its previously false state – is Simenon.
Baudrillard must have deplored the stories of this great author, who tirelessly (365 stories, one for each day of the year, organized in 25 volumes) tore the illusion which is reality, leaving us in a void.
Given the mass of evidence, there is no plausible hypothesis but reality. Baudrillard, The Perfect Crime
The following is a story about the change in the role of the Body in forming Identity, providing Privacy and knowing the Truth, from the Spanish Inquisition to Minority Report – two time-symbols of body-reference. This is also the story of a rare footnote – one that stands apart in a book that owns it: footnote#3, p. 170, in Paul Virilio’s Speed and Politics.
“In the Middle Ages, the question is put to a body under torture, one that “knows the truth” and must let it escape in spite of himself”.
The truth [of a person] is embedded in the body.
“In the 19th century, torture is abolished but not out of humanitarianism, but because they realized that any act (every human movement) leaves external traces, an involuntary stamp. From then on, they scientifically make proofs talk“.
The truth [of a person] is manifested in the body‘s deeds, an involuntary stamp.
“From identical sets of material proofs they could draw different coherent discourses, each canceling the other out, by simply changing the order of elements”.
You stay quiet, Mister, while these two gentlemen, the prosecutor and the defender, tell your story. We’ll see which version of the truth will win. Anyway, your story is no longer relevant.
“We could imagine that the gaps and hazards inherent in the ordering of materials should disappear, since with computers they could make the accusing discourse perfectly coherent”.
… and by that, removing any competing versions of Truth. With the amount of parallel, simultaneous reports about any given event, syndicated and correlated from a mass of individuals, Reality becomes a statistically unified version of truth, Reality, as told by the machine, or as Baudrillard [probably] calls it: the Automatic Writing of Reality.
“At that point, they could do totally without the confession of the accused, who would be less informed about his own crime than the computer, and who, no longer being the one who knows “the truth”, would have nothing left to confess”.
Once Reality is told by the machine (as it is the case in Minority Report), another step forward is taken: Truth is no longer built out of the Past, but is rather an illusion projected into the Future. The computer is using statistics to build patterns of possible behavior out of a single, and somehow correlated event. When that happens, it will suffice to think Murder to be immediately arrested by the Reality Police.
Given the mass of evidence to the contrary, there is no solution but illusion. Baudrillard, The Perfect Crime
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living
Some banal questions before some even more banal ones:
Is it a shark or a work-of-art? It’s both, no? it’s “a shark placed inside a work”, and it’s “a work placed inside a museum” that makes this shark in a work in a museum a work-of-art. Like Duchamp’s fountain.
Major changes to the object’s native territory provoke shifts in meaning; it’s the re-territorialization into a different topology that reincarnates the object as a different semantic object.
But what about minor changes within the same territory – so minor we can hardly notice?
When, in a given bedroom, you change the position of the bed, can you say you are changing rooms, or else what? (cf. topological analysis)
Georges Perec, Species of Spaces
Barton Fink’s room perpetual metamorphosis
Or in the case of Hirst’ Shark – The Shark began to disintegrate (poor preservation) and so Hirst was hired to replace it with a brand new shark, making sure this time the materials used in the preservation process will beat Time for a little longer.
A philosophical question was acknowledged by Hirst, as to whether the replacement shark meant that the result could still be considered the same artwork. He observed:
“It’s a big dilemma. Artists and conservators have different opinions about what’s important: the original artwork or the original intention. I come from a conceptual art background, so I think it should be the intention. It’s the same piece. But the jury will be out for a long time to come.”
Let alone, our language.
Nothomb‘s novel Acide Sulfurique is trying hard to be as close as possible to abstraction, leaving almost any concrete description of events behind the curtain. The reader’s imagination is not supposed to complete the missing parts, for the abstraction is the essence here, a skeleton to be perceived and experienced in its bear form.
The story is, therefore, deliberately simple: a reality show named “Concentration”, representing a Nazi concentration camp. The Kapos are elected in an American Idol style of filtering, while the prisoners are randomly abducted from the streets. From this point on it’s a chain of almost pure concepts: animals’ wagons stuffed with people of all ages; numbers tattooed on the prisoners’ hands; dehumanization; starvation; rape; death. Added to these concepts are omni-present cameras that capture every possible audio-visual signals. Materials are edited, and then there’s the daily night show. In the society of the spectacle the rating is great, but when it starts to stagnate “interactivity” is introduced into the show, the audience being asked to participate in the daily “death selections” (performed so far by the Kapos) by means of sending SMSes with the prisoners’ alpha-numeric IDs whose life are to be taken. Remind you – anything in this camp, on this show, is real.
And although intuition warns that this kind of book is about to fall into the banality trap, the opposite happens. Because no description – but the evocation of the above concepts – is provided, banality is avoided. Moreover, the fact that the book is mainly structure, allows Nothomb to introduce a surprisingly powerful technique – an effectively shocking one – which turns you, the reader, into as hideous collaborator as those disgusting-yet-all-human audience of the concentration show.
Our lady of the tombs gives you, reader, a choice: you can restore your human simulacra by closing the book and not reading it further, the equivalent of shutting down the TV set. Or you could keep on reading and see yourself turning, in real-time, into a disgusting voyeur of a hideous reality. And as she’s aware of the weakness of the human nature, she gives not one but two chances for redemption.
Personally, I obeyed the 2nd call, closed the book and intended to not reading it further. Personally, I failed, the cheap curiosity taking over my previous act of honor. Just like anyone else in Nothomb’s book, I couldn’t resist watching.
Rest some of the questions raised by the form:
Can this really happen? (Of course it can – it already did!)
Yes, but can it really happen today? Well, ask yourself the following questions:
1. If such a show exist, how many people will watch it? [“unfortunately many will“]
2. In our “participation age”, with all its technological mediums of mass collaboration and of induced transparency – how many will actively participate in the executions by sending SMSes, or by Twittering their candidates for the daily death selections? [Many will. Some others will think about it, but will refrain from actively pushing the voting buttons]
But wait! There’s no need to actively push the buttons any longer! They no longer need your vote; they can do with your twittered thought! All you need is to think the alpha-numeric IDs of your candidates and your thought will be automatically encoded then transmitted into the show’s Twitter channel.
That’s a great solution, for after all even God blames no one for just thinking!
Acide sulfurique (Sulphuric Acid) by Amélie Nothomb
This post is about eating Knowledge and the creation of the first System. It discusses the moment in history in which man created the first, provisory sign, and that other moment which came right after.
“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed”, Genesis, 2, 25.
[6 verses later]
“she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
One minute before, one minute after, and in between – the moment of revelation, produced through a method that even Hume couldn’t have but approved – and here they are, Adam & Eve, digesting the naked, shameful truth – the body.
Their eyes wide open, Adam and Eve realize that this truth is too painful to watch, maybe too banal, for sure too concrete. And so they create, on the spot, in the same verse, in the same time capsule – the first sign.
and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
This first sign, however, was too fragile. The fig leaves were sensible to the blowing winds, to brusque movements, and so most of the time they were failing to hide the flesh, to cover up on the naked truth. The sign was too unstable, the referent being visible here and there.
Borrowing from Lyotard (The Postmodern Explained: Correspondence, 1982-1985), this instability of the sign evoked fear and trembling: the exposure of the referent and the failure to fixate the referencing sign, which is the other, creates a problem of identity. If the other’s identity is not fixed, neither is mine. It is the ability to rapidly identify and decipher the meaning of the sign – not its referent, which should be hidden for good – but the meaning arising from its contextual, structural entourage – that assists in the creation of self-consciousness, and of identity. The more rapid and stable this process of exchanging and recognizing signs is, the more stable are the effects of realism, the more solid is the Fantasy of the Real.
Surprisingly, this floating point of identity bothered God and made him react by providing Adam & Eve with some practical knowledge, that is – how to design and fabricate stable signs.
“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them”.
No, God didn’t provide us humans with light, or fire; nor did he provide us with arrows or scrolls. The only practical thing God has provided us with was the Fashion System, Le Système de la mode, an empire of signs: a fantasy to hide our flesh.
Franco Moschino, Stop the fashion system, february, 1990
I don’t think we want to live in a never ending carnival – that place where we all put masks on our faces and play the carnival’s roles; that place where the distinction between real and fantasy disappears; that place where reflection and auto-reflection are irrelevant; where the eye of the beholder is cut out; that place having its own, peculiar Time span; that place where we become signs.
Maybe Baudrillard thought that we have entered into a carnival and that then a lock-down has occurred, leaving us trapped inside, our masks on, for good.
Distribute in space, order in time – that’s the rule by which Control operates, and this operation, explains Lyotard in the Postmodern Condition, uses time as a parchment, continually engraving the memory of the things and their whereabouts on time. Control needs time, for time is the paper on top of which Control memorizes its territory, its subordinates.
There are, though, endless places where Control is helpless, where its engraving operation on time is blocked. Actually, I should rephrase and say that there’s only one place where Control operates and that is the everyday’s world – that which is the subject matter of science. But there are endless worlds in which Control malfunctions, in which it has no foot in the door. These are the worlds of the stories; the world of the carnival.
These worlds, written on invisible parchments, are architected to be forgotten. Memory cannot nail them down, says Lyotard, for they are having a unique distribution in space – a compact, condensed distribution that leaves no spaces between the things of those worlds. And memory needs space in time – a space for writing down orientation instructions, location coordinates, inventory lists and so forth. Yet, the space in the story’s world is fully occupied. One cannot order things in time, for there’s no time left in the story’s world.
Hurry up, than, for there’s no time. Go to the carnival – lose control; read a book – lose control; hear a podcast – lose control.
No matter which story the carnival tells – the story is always anchored in the present. The past and the future – these are scientific concerns; stories don’t bother with time. They are hosted inside a time capsule – a time machine.
If you want jumps in hyper-space; if you want to move along parallel worlds – all you need to do is to skip from one book to another. Place each book exactly near the other book, leaving no space between the two, thus making sure Control is incapable of writing on time.
[But I don’t like losing control; I don’t want to stay in the carnival. I’ll have to give up than.]
For more on Time and books see Trading Time in InterZone
When Barthes learned about the death of his friend’s loved one, he spontaneously set down to write some words of compassion. Going through his memories, his feelings, he tried to figure out which words could be helpful in the current context. Finally, he realized that whatever he felt, whatever he thought, could be and should be said in one, simple word: Condolences.
Only that writing this single word was practically impossible: his friend would certainly think him for a cold heart man, seeing his deed as an act of obligation. He might even get offended. No, “Condolences” was out of question.
Many other words appeared then, each fighting for a place on that white paper. It was then that Barthes realized his second problem: those easy coming words were too obvious, too banal, too used; a bourgeois schmaltz.
And so he kept wandering further away from that simple, single and accurate word that had it all, in a search for some rarities – words jamais portés, at least not in this specific context consisting of Barthes, his friend and the deceased.
That, says Barthes, is the essence of Literature. Unlike what is commonly perceived, Literature does not reveal, disclose or illuminate the ineffable, that substance which no words can describe. Literature hides, erases, masks, distracts and deviates from what originally could have been said in a simple, single word.
And see also The Worst of Authors.
“I give myself up to language, anon, in a gift economy”, ecko4inc
Erasure Heads, part#2
(Click to enlarge)
Language, a reversed panopticon. In the heart of the desert one stands circled with guardian Words. Their gaze. All it needs to see them is to take one step outside yourself; the whole path lasts no longer than one step.
(This post follows Gater’s role in Body/Language: Barthes-Foucault vs. Gater’s Taboo)
“The signs exist insofar as they are recognized, i.e. insofar as they are repeated”.
Through this simple definition Barthes introduces the concept of the other (used as a technique in the philosophical discourses of the past [the Greek friend, see D&G]; used as an existential condition in Buber, Barthes and others).
We’re all signs. Think about concepts. Each concept has a never ending trail of other concepts, and behind each concept there’s a human – that human who gave life to the concept in the first place; that human who revived the concept after it has long been forgotten. With every word we pronounce, and every sign we digest, it’s the history of humanity mashed between our teeth.
We’re all signs, and hence our existence is dependent on recognition and repetition – repeated recognition by other signs.
If God is the first Word and words are signs, then God needs repeated recognition just the same. This can probably explains why we, the other signs, have been originally created, and in his own image.
Sometimes, we like to create our own recognition signs – we can then play and replay them again and again – an endlessly repeating loop of recognition.
“I like to do it with my friends; sometimes we videotape it, then we watch it…”.
This is a cry for meaning – a desperate need for recognition. For whatever reason, a new sign is created for this purpose: a videotape in which the original sign is captured. Then, the original sign plays and replays the secondary sign, the videotape, gaining through this repetition the so wanted existential recognition.
But then, something else happens. While watching the secondary sign affirming our existence, we do it again. This time, the original sign is the one affirming and recognizing the existence of the secondary sign.
This is the potlatch: one affirms our existence and we reaffirm back his/her own existence, in a looped process that can potentially persist for a while. The more this process continues, the more respectful and ‘full of life’ the two signs become.
Only, the inhuman sign not only cannot become ‘more full of life’, but it is found to have very strange effects, when used as an affirming sign: the potlatch is canceled!
Here’s an example: you’re giving your friend a present. Your friend is very happy. She then wants to repay you for making her happy and so she gives you back a present: only, it is the same present you gave her in the first place. Evidently, this will not make you happy, for by that act, your friend has canceled your act. It is a canceling exchange, because it’s an echo.
Whatever echoes, mirrors, cannot be considered as an existential affirmation and recognition. Whatever echoes cannot be used as a potlatch, for the echo cancels the potlatch. Gater’s video should be seen as a cry for a meaningful existence. But the inhuman videotape gives no salvation: it’s a static dancing.
There’s no replacement for the human gaze.
Remixed by Methods & Black Squares
Click to play:
Parler, et à plus forte raison discourir, ce n’est pas communiquer, comme on le répète trop souvent, c’est assujettir.
À ce lieu là, dès que j’ai les yeux ouverts, je ne peux plus échapper.
La langue, comme performance de tous langages, n’est ni réactionnaire ni progressiste, elle est tout simplement fasciste.
We do it every weekend,
I like to do it with my friends
Sometimes we videotape it,
Then we watch it and do it again.
Les signes n’existent que pour autant qu’ils sont reconnus, c’est-à-dire pour autant qu’ils se répètent.
Qu’ils se répètent.
Mon corps topie impitoyable.
Malheureusement le langage humain est sans extérieur, c’est un huis clos.
Some people don’t understand what we do,
They say its Saturday they go to the club,
They say it’s no fun, but we don’t care,
We sit here and we do it.
We do it every weekend,
I like to do it with my friends,
Sometimes we videotape it,
Then we watch it and do it again.
En chaque signe dort ce monstre, un stéréotype. Je ne puis jamais parler qu’en ramassant, en quelque sorte, ce qui traîne dans la langue.
En chaque signe dort ce monstre, un stéréotype.
En chaque signe dort ce monstre, un stéréotype.
Tous les matins, même présence, même blessure. Sous mes yeux se dessine une inévitable image qu’impose le miroir, visage maigre, épaules voûtées, regard myope, plus de cheveux, vraiment pas beau.
Some people don’t understand what we do…
Mon corps c’est le lieu sans recours auquel je suis condamné.
C’est un huis clos.
[And see The Gaze of the Sign – a follow up on Gater’s role in this remix]
Writing under erasure, Painting under erasure, Being under erasure – this is not a humble take on life. Rather, this is what some consider to be the only way to fight back, from within, from under the skin. Fooling the system; but also, fooling around with the system. “Tricher la langue; tricher avec la langue”, Barthes.
“Today, the voice you speak with may not be your own”, DJ Spooky
I thought this sentence was clear. But then, after thinking about it for a while, I concluded that it eludes me. I have several possible meanings with much more unanswered questions about its potential semantics.
It can refer to the pessimistic Baudrillardian Integral Reality theory, in which anything is a simulacrum, a fake, including our “self”, our voice.
It can be understood as an optimistic, web2.0 share-all style, in which the right to remix and to appropriate others’ voices goes mainstream.
– What is “My” voice? What guarantees the authenticity of a certain “Voice”?
– Remix: Given that the human history of ideas, progress, art, etc. is the history of Remix, i.e. the unexpected association of different, seemingly unrelated memes, should “remix” be classified as an authentic voice or an unauthentic one?
– What is different “Today”? Until Today, what kind of voice have we used – our own or others’?
– What is “Today” – where does it point to?
The sequel to this post is The Death of the Author; the Birth of the Voice.
DJ Spooky’s Rhythm Science has this track where the voice of William S. Burroughs is remixed. Obviously, the choice of text is significant. Here’s it:
To achieve independence from alien domination and to consolidate revolutionary gains, five steps are necessary:
Space 1: Proclaim a new era and set up a new calendar
Space 2: Replace alien language
Space 3: Destroy or neutralize alien gods
Space 4: Destroy alien machinery of government and control
Space 5: Take land and wealth from individual aliens.
Reminder: State’s control is space-oriented.
So now we got Foucault, linked to Bey, who’s linked to Laswell and also to Burroughs, who’s linked to DJ Spooky, who’s remixing Laswell as well as Burroughs, and not any text of Burroughs, but rather a next-step-text, an how-to text that goes with the spirit of them all.
Emma: We can break into this man’s synapses. Imagine the wonder of it all. And if we wear our VR helmets we will live for hours at a time in the real past, the authentic past – and and – (Her voice, her expression change; a small shadow falls) and perhaps escape.
Fyodor (Quietly): Escape from what, Emma?
Dennis Potter, Cold Lazarus
Cold Lazarus is the second part of Karaoke/Cold Lazarus, both being the last TV drama done by the late and formidable Dennis Potter (The singing detective and many other masterpieces).
I find Karaoke & Cold Lazarus to be Potter’s best achievement.
Karaoke is the story of an author, who is writing his last script; last – because at the end of Karaoke, he’ll be dead, just like Potter. While walking around in the city, the author encounters, or thinks he encounters, the characters he invented for that last script, an impossible event that drives him crazy, in particular because he is deeply in love with his heroine.
This is a most poetic, sensitive, imaginative, adorable, and definitely one of a kind TV piece. When I saw it, some ten years ago, j’etais époustouflé.
Cold Lazarus happens in the future. Somehow, the head of this author has been frozen, and now scientists, financially supported by the biggest media mogul (or goggul) at the time, are trying to replay the memories buried in this head. The media mogul dreams about the rating of that TV show.
Personally, I think that our digitization, our turning into real-time, digital objects, especially via web2.0 technologies and concepts, bares the dangers, the potential, of becoming the head of cold Lazarus, and it will not take long before media moguls will start to exploit our virtual selves for entertainment purposes.
But of course, this is shallow. Potter takes the story further, by questioning reality itself, presenting multiple layers of possible realities: the script, the head of the author, physical reality, virtual reality etc.
In Cold Lazarus, there’s a group of rebels who’d like to destroy the lab, the head, the virtuality and go back to physical reality. They are called RON (Reality or Nothing). Of course, they are as clueless as anybody else about what reality is.
In some eras human neglected his soul; in others – his mind; nowadays – it’s the body. It is of no wonder that in an era that exalts the aesthetics of the body, the body would be the thing finally neglected and abandoned in favor of a cloned image, a virtual avatar that will look so perfect – “a real more real than the real”. We are post-modern “AND” type of creatures and we should be modern in cultivating both of our Gardens.