Simulacra & Hyperreality Within the Paradigm of Architecture
Up to now, assignments relating to architecture have worked within the modernist meta-narrative focusing primarily on formal issues. Previous projects have examined the subject of architecture non-linguistically. Our approach has been (ideally) modernist. We have re-presented the subject formally thus having subordinated linguistic interpolation (labels.) Presumably, meaning was derived from an intrinsic internal resonance between the sublime and form but we (necessarily) function within western aesthetic paradigms assuming their universality and thus (erroneously) accept the implication of their fundamental innateness.
We now explore the opposite extreme and using architecture as a social metaphor, examine the ideological underpinnings of postmodern society. Architecture reifies economic, political, social, religious, industrial, etc. societal elements. Contextually, it functions primarily iconically. It easily assumes the role of an egalitarian mechanism we may use initially to explore the interpolation of language between subject and perception, and then the similar interpolation of ideologies. Revelations regarding various agenda should be inescapable and should consequently help guide the creation of your project.
This project explores meaning. Our perception of reality is colored and limited by interpretation. It is interpolated by language rich with layer after layer of meaning. Our past projects have through formalism, attempted to remove interpolation but we must ultimately question if form and color are innate. The subject is therefore questioned and we are left only with language and consequently must view our concept of reality skeptically.
“If we were able to take as the finest allegory of simulation the Borges tale where the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory (but where, with the decline of the Empire this map becomes frayed and finally ruined, a few shreds still discernible in the deserts — the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction, bearing witness to an imperial pride and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, rather as an aging double ends up being confused with the real thing), this fable would then have come full circle for us, and now has nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.
Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory — precession of simulacra — it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire, but our own. The desert of the real itself.
In fact, even inverted, the fable is useless. Perhaps only the allegory of the Empire remains. For it is with the same imperialism that present-day simulators try to make the real, all the real, coincide with their simulation models.”[iii]
This project may be representational or may be conceptual. You may choose to document simulacra within an architectural genre or you may choose to create your own. You are not strictly limited to photography and may add to or modify your photographic project with other media. Be prepared to discuss your project with me. The project must be shot outside of class. Film processing must not be done during class either. Class time is reserved for printing, discussion and other aspects of production not previously listed.
You will have two weeks to complete this project.
(The following is from Wikipedia)
“The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth–it is the truth which conceals that there is none.
The simulacrum is true.”[iv]
Simulacra and Simulation is most known for its discussion of images, signs, and how they relate to the present day. Baudrillard claims that modern society has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs, and that the human experience is of a simulation of reality rather than reality itself. The simulacra that Baudrillard refers to are signs of culture and media that create the perceived reality; Baudrillard believed that society has become so reliant on simulacra that it has lost contact with the real world on which the simulacra are based.
Simulacra and Simulation identifies three types of simulacra and identifies each with an historical period:
1.First order, associated with the pre-modern period, where the image is clearly an artificial placemarker for the real item.
2.Second order, associated with the industrial Revolution, where distinctions between image and reality breaks down due to the proliferation of mass-produced copies. The items’ ability to imitate reality threatens to replace the original version.
Baudrillard theorizes the lack of distinctions between reality and simulacra originates in several phenomena:
1.Contemporary media including television, film, print and the Internet, which are responsible for blurring the line between goods that are needed and goods for which a need is created by commercial images.
2.Exchange value, in which the value of goods is based on money rather than usefulness.
3.Multinational capitalism, which separates produced goods from the plants, minerals and other original materials and the process used to create them.
5.Language and ideology, in which language is used to obscure rather than reveal reality when used by dominant, politically powerful groups.
A specific analogy that Baudrillard uses is a fable derived from On Exactitude in Science by Jorge Luis Borges. In it, a great Empire created a map that was so detailed it was as large as the Empire itself. The actual map grew and decayed as the Empire itself conquered or lost territory. When the Empire crumbled, all that was left was the map. In Baudrillard’s rendition, it is the map that people live in, the simulation of reality, and it is reality that is crumbling away from disuse.
The transition from signs which dissimulate something to signs which dissimulate that there is nothing, marks the decisive turning point. The first implies a theology of truth and secrecy (to which the notion of ideology still belongs). The second inaugurates an age of simulacra and simulation, in which there is no longer any God to recognize his own, nor any last judgement to separate truth from false, the real from its artificial resurrection, since everything is already dead and risen in advance.[vi]
Thus, Baudrillard further distinguishes three orders of simulacra associated with three historical periods: first order simulacra belong to the pre-modern era in which images were clearly copies or representations of some original; second order simulacra arise with the industrial revolution, photography and mass reproduction technologies in the nineteenth century – the image obscures (dissimulates) and threatens to displace the real; third order simulacra are part of our postmodern era; the image is said to completely precede and determine the real, such that it is no longer possible to peel away layers of representation to arrive at some original.
It is important to note that when Baudrillard refers to the “precession of simulacra” in Simulacra and Simulations, he is referring to the way simulacra have come to precede the real in the sense mentioned above, rather than to any succession of historical phases of the image. Referring to “On Exactitude in Science“, a fable written by Borges, he argued that just as for contemporary society the simulated copy had superseded the original object, so, too, the map had come to precede the geographic territory, e.g. the first Gulf War: the image of war preceded real war.
Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory – precession of simulacra – it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map.[vii]
With such reasoning, he characterised the present age as one of “hyperreality” where the real object has been effaced or superseded, by the signs of its existence. Such an assertion — the one for which he is most criticised — is typical of his “fatal strategy” of attempting to push his theories of society beyond themselves. Rather than saying, that our hysteria surrounding pedophilia is such that we no longer really understand what childhood is anymore, Baudrillard argued that “the Child no longer exists”.[viii] Similarly, rather than arguing — as did Susan Sontag in her book On Photography — that the notion of reality has been complicated by the profusion of images of it, Baudrillard asserted: “the real no longer exists“. In so saying, he characterized his philosophical challenge as no longer being the Heidiggerian/Leibnizian question of: “Why is there something, rather than nothing?”, but, instead: “Why is there nothing, rather than something?”[ix]
[i] Poster, Mark; Baudrillard, Jean (1988). Selected writings. Cambridge, UK: Polity. ISBN 0-7456-0586-9.
[ii] On Exactitude in Science . . . In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.
Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658
From Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, Translated by Andrew Hurley Copyright Penguin 1999
[iii] Jean Baudrillard. Simulacra and Simulations. Op cit.
[iv] Jean Baudrillard. Simulacra and Simulations. Op cit.
[viii] In the essay “The Dark Continent of Childhood” in the essay collection Screened Out, 2002.
[ix] In the essay “The Dark Continent of Childhood” in the essay collection Screened Out, 2002.