Monthly Marvel: Simulacrum

On the first Saturday of each month for at least the next little while I intend to share here one of the Weekly Wonders from that previous project. This month I’m sharing the simulacrum, a difficult concept perhaps best simplified as a reproduction which does not have an original, or a fake thing that produces its own reality, though neither simplification is not quite complete.


SIMULACRUM

This week’s idea is the simulacrum.

Fireworks behind Cinderella's palace at Disney World

Source: Darrell Taylor at flic.kr/p/svXUh

In a dictionary-definition sense, a simulacrum is a representation or imitation of something; it has a connotation of inferiority compared to the original. But it also has a fairly well-known philosophical sense, explored by Jean Baudrillard, the French postmodernist philosopher, in Simulacra and Simulation. He outlines the successive phases of the image: 1. An image is a reflection of reality; 2. An image masks and perverts reality; 3. An image masks the absence of a basic reality; 4. An image bears no relation to some other reality, but is its own hyperreality, a simulation. In the first phase, an image is good, of “the order of sacrament.” In the second phase, an image is evil, of “the order of malefice.” In the third phase, an image plays at being an appearance, of “the order of sorcery.” In the fourth phase, an image is “of the order of simulation.” In this sense, a simulacrum is a copy with no original or a copy that gained an existence independent of its original; in Umberto Eco’s phrase, it is an “authentic fake.”

Think of pre-distressed jeans, or reality TV; Pinocchio and the gingerbread man are fakes that came to life and gained their own reality; The Matrix is a fake world that is real to its inhabitants, while The Mandarin in Iron Man 3 isn’t a “real” person but commits acts of terrorism anyway. Imagine a painting which was a famous 19th century forgery of a lost work of Da Vinci; however, it was later discovered that the part about the lost work of Da Vinci was made up and there was no such work, despite the fact that many people now believe it existed: the forgery created an original. Or imagine a fandom for a television show that doesn’t exist. See also the excellent television program Orphan Black, where all of the clones are simply clones of each other, presumably with no original. Disneyland was Baudrillard’s great example, but most theme parks would work.

Source: LaBetenoir at flic.kr/p/4882Vo. This isn’t Orphan Black, but it’s the same idea. Note the non-commercial license. Of course, insofar as the subjects are copies of an original photographer-model, they are not simulacra, but within the world which the image depicts, they are copies of each other, without an original, and thus simulacra.

Source: LaBetenoir at flic.kr/p/4882Vo. This isn’t Orphan Black, but it’s the same idea. Note the non-commercial license. Of course, insofar as the subjects are copies of an original photographer-model, they are not simulacra, but within the world which the image depicts, they are copies of each other, without an original, and thus simulacra.

Posted by Christian H.

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