[printer friendly version ]

ISSN: 1705-6411

Volume 2, Number 1 (January 2005)
 

“OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR”: The Virtual Reality of Jurassic Park and Jean Baudrillard1

Dr. Alan Cholodenko
(Honorary Associate, Department of Art History and Theory, University of Sydney, Australia)

 

Cinema is fascinated by itself as a lost object just as it (and we) are fascinated by the real as a referential in perdition.2


The revolution of our time is the uncertainty revolution.3

            In the beginning to discover you’ve been preceded by another – the end – would be an unwelcome event, an uncanny, fatal turn of events themselves rendered “no more” (nor “less”) than special effects. Such a seductive turn is for me never not in play and makes any embrace of the notion of a safe harbour – an artificial paradise – utopian. Such a “No Parking” sign I see posted in the architecture, or, if you will allow, the “parkitecture”, of play, of the game, of the theatre, of the simulacrum – in a word (German) the spiel – that is always a way of ent-bergung, of releasing from shelter, of unsecuring, even as it sets up that which it will at the same time upset. Again, if you will allow such “liberties”, the Spielberg – the play mountain – at play in the theme parks Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park. But my story is already getting ahead of me...

            Let me render an account – the account of the account – of what in the necessary accounting of can never be accounted for, can never add up, can never, in a word, compute, is always irreconcilable: Seduction, Illusion, the Principle of Evil of Baudrillard; the animatic; and Chaos, as in Jurassic Park Chaotician Ian Malcolm’s/Jeff Goldblum’s/Seth Brundlefly-in-the-Amber’s pivotal words, “Life will not be contained. Life breaks free, crosses all barriers, expands to new territories, dangerously, perhaps even painfully, but life finds a way”. For me, that final line also scans as “life we’ll find away”, “aweigh”, “anchors – anchorage – aweigh”!, departed from the harbour, departed from the shelter! Life is always already posted: envoi, or rather, renvoi.

            Such would be for me the uncontainable, uncontrollable, uncanny, fatal hyperlogic integral to all systems – including the genetic and computer codes of DNA and digitality – as predicted by Chaos Theory and operating obedient to Baudrillard’s Principle of Evil, and given singularly compelling demonstration in Jurassic Park. From the opening sequence’s display of the insufficiency of apparently sophisticated human systems to control the barely glimpsed deadly nonhuman creature in the case – what will turn out to be the first “appearance/disappearance” of the quick seizer – the Velociraptor; to the parodic “dinosaur and egg” aporia – which came first?;4 to the bugging and overriding of the computer system controlling, and therefore all electronic systems operating in, the park, unleashing the deadly T-Rex on the children and adults, devouring the lawyer Gennaro alive and fracturing Malcolm’s leg; to the “end: with the returned T-Rex triumphant over the returned for the second time but only for the first time seen Velociraptors and their “decentering” of the fossil display that is the centrepiece of the Visitors Centre, ironizing thereby the slogan of that display – “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth”; to the crepuscular flight of the humans toward a horizon which perhaps they are already on the other side of, with all the apparently unpredictable, haphazard, anomalous, accidental, coincidental, chance turns of events happening at the largest and most minute levels en route that prove fatal to the human mastery of the park added to the account, Universal Chaos might be thought to always already rule Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park.

            Such a “rule” is already announced in the “beginning” of the film, what might even be thought of as the film before the film, in the virtually apparent Julia Set astrally encrypted in the upper left quadrant of the image of the Universal Studios logo with the name of the corporation itself moving as a satellite around the Earth – the Universal in orbit.

            And superior even to Chaos Theory’s unpredictability of predictability and predictability of unpredictability is the fatal necessity of Baudrillard’s Principle of Evil. Jurassic Park is a ferocious example of that Principle, exemplifying, as Baudrillard quotes Hegel, that we are amid “the life, moving of itself, of that which is dead”,5 which would be “a vital principle of unbinding (déliaison)”,6 the virulent vitality of the virus of the virtual. It is for Baudrillard “a principle of instability and vertigo, a principle of complexity and foreignness, a principle of seduction, a principle of incompatibility, antagonism and irreducibility”.7 Its hyperlogic: what is “realized” – be it representation, simulation, the system and its oppositions – will turn out to have been seduced by that which has “realized” it – Seduction, Illusion, Evil – as that which has “realized” it will “itself” have been seduced. The fatal must be fatal to itself, or it is not fatal.

            And let me also say that all I will say about Jurassic Park – perhaps no more than what I have already just now said – is for me encapsulated and fractualized in the uncanny, dreadful, vertiginous, delirious, turbulent, fascinating, aporetic “image” but one shot long whose all too familiar caution forms the title of this paper: “OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR”, the “image” in and of the side show side view mirror of the Jeep of the T-Rex – its jaws wide open and forming an all-absorbing void/black hole as they double the frame of the mirror and of the film – accelerating at an incredible pace coming closer and closer to the Jeep’s occupants, a “vanishing point of view” shot of the driver-hunter Muldoon hunted/haunted by the terrifying, implacable, uncanny revenant: the return/reanimation with a vengeance of the living dead cryptically incorporated in the anamorphic, parallactic, necrospectival, virtual mirror-image-object of film. What would be the revenge of the crystal of film instantiated in the most intense, eruptive, explosive and implosive animation in the film, the most “realistic” animation, the computer-generated animation: the shock, the bite, the grab that arrest us in its virtual death sentence, as in the Dead Point, Blind Spot, Strange Attractor of that virtual mirror.8

            In my Introduction to and essay in The Illusion of Life: Essays on Animation, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit, or The Framing of Animation”, as in the paper I presented at the 1991 Society for Animation Studies Conference, “Speculations on the Animatic Automaton”, I develop the concept of the animatic (and its) apparatus – an uncanny, disseminative, seductive, turbulent apparatus of lifedeath which indistinguishes not only cartoon animation and live action film, animation theory and film theory but film and “the rest of the world”, thereby giving “film” and the “world” no rest, as it likewise gives all other binary oppositions no final reconciliation.9

            In this essay I propose to focus on Jurassic Park, addressing the relation of computer animation and live action film, including consideration of computer animation and special effects. Among the many points to be raised, I will suggest that Jurassic Park is a hyperrealist film that “takes a place” in the tradition as old as the animated film itself – that of the hybrid cartoon animation/live action film (the “lightning sketch”) – uncannily returning to one of its first examples – Winsor McCay’s Gertie – to push it and that tradition beyond their limit, ecstacizing and indistinguishing cartoon animation and live action, animation and film – fatal even to itself as to that tradition – even as it pushes beyond the horizon of the human to the “history” of the world before the advent of the human – a “Close Encounter” with the pre-historic, primeval world of the dinosaur – embodying in that return not only the contemporary systematic reversal and annihilation of history (even and especially in the utopian efforts to rehabilitate, cleanse, purify, preserve and rejuvenate it as authentic, what might be called “Hammond’s ‘Last Crusade’”) but also the fatal destiny of the world: virtual reality.10

            Jurassic Park pushes the modern, the historical, the constitutive human subject, meaning, truth, reality, etc., beyond their horizon, beyond their vanishing point, beyond Elias Canetti’s Dead Point,11 beyond André Bazin’s point of integral realism, into the virtual reality of the postmodern, the hyperreal, the posthistorical, the evacuation of the constitutive subject, the catastrophic explosion and implosion of the polarities heretofore sustaining meaning in and through the mass media – the medium of film, but especially television and the computer as media: the realm of special effect where all is ex-orbitant, in orbit, satellized, on and in the short-circuit of the (dé)tour. In that very hypertelic, ecstatic, maximalizing process, the hypercinematic telematic tourism of the theme parks Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park marks the spiralling, ironical and paradoxical “turn” of the posthistorical into the prehistorical, marking the uncanny post-mortem return, the raising up, reanimating and ostensible rehabilitating of the dead – the extinct nonhuman (the dinosaur) – to thereby render dead, extinct, the living – the human – as well as the sciences and technologies of the human, including the science of palaeontology (as the Tasaday did to the science of anthropology).12 Jurassic Park’s live action characters interact with a live action world, or rather livedead action world, of simulation dinosaurs that the “reanimators” in the film and the “reanimators” of the film have (re)engineered in part through the most sophisticated techniques of computer generated simulation and processes of (Jurassic Park) or analogous to (Jurassic Park) biogenetic molecular DNA techniques, grafting in the former the DNA of the “dead” dinosaur with that of frog DNA and in the latter “grafting” the live action human with the animated nonhuman, producing in both cases an indistinguishability of one species from another, in the latter case an indistinguishability at the level of the reality of the illusion of life. As ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Denis Muren declares, “...these dinosaurs are absolutely unlike anything you’ve ever seen before...”.13 Unlike Gertie, whose hybrid character is perceptible in the difference between live action human and classically drawn and stop motion animated nonhuman dinosaur, Jurassic Park confuses, trans-figures, ecstacizes and ex-terminates the hybrid form.

            By means of computer animation techniques operating not at the old “mechanical” level of the exotechnical but at the level of the esotechnical, Jurassic Park ecstacizes the process which it declares to be at work in “cinema” “itself”, pushing the special effect to its limit, its fulfillment and annihilation.14 Jurassic Park, the “film” that shows that film is everywhere except in film, puts the special effect everywhere except in the special effect. “Pushing the envelope”15 of the state of the “art” of animation – past the thrills of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the morphing astonishments of Terminator 2 – Jurassic Park is the vertiginous, delirious ecstacy of special effect “as such”, as it is “specifically” for the genre of which it is likewise the latest example and of which Gertie would be the first: the dinosaur film, Gertie acknowledged as such in the sighting first of the brachiasaur (tellingly, a brachiasaur indifferent to the humans, unlike the playful Gertie).16 ILM Visual Effects Co-Supervisor Mark Dippe states:

Dinosaur films have always been the classic effects films. A lot of effects techniques have been developed through the years in dinosaur movies – stop motion, Claymation, men in rubber suits, cable-driven puppets, radio control puppets, go-motion... and now, full-motion computer animation. With Jurassic Park, we’ve created something that is in a direct line of the evolution of creature work.17

 

            The history of special effects, of which the dinosaur genre has been a privileged testing ground, is the history of animation as the mechanism for the incorporation of the special effect in the cinema. Jurassic Park turns the cinema inside out, making it more special effect than special effect, more animation than animation, as it simultaneously makes animation more cinema than cinema, more live action than live action, in the process rendering traditional animation extinct. So too it turns inside out – short-circuits, telescopes, makes reversible and uncertain – the pro-filmic and filmic, the diegesis and the film, (the) film and reality – each contaminating and incorporating the other (as the presence of the book The Making of Jurassic Park by Don Shay and Jody Duncan on a shelf of merchandise “in the film” amply declares: the introversion of the exterior and the extroversion of the interior), all such implosions begging the question: which is which?18

            Like the Velociraptor, which rips the insides of its victims out, devouring them while they are still alive, and like the T-Rex, which rules the park and returns to Rule the World, Jurassic Park is a deinos19an uncanny fearful, terrifying – saurus (lizard), a deinos-saur, an evil demon, a terminator – a T-Rexterminator – which exterminates the term and determination, replacing them with indetermination and the impossibility of measure, impossibility of the rule. Uncannily, Jurassic Park terminates film and reality, making both “special effects” – viral, vital virtualities – like “itself”. Such a catastrophe would ostensibly mark a mutation from the aesthetics of attraction of cinema’s “beginnings” to the anaesthetics of distraction of cinema’s hyperreal “end” in its redoubled retroversion to its (and the world’s) “beginning” – Hammond’s “future attractions” from the lost world of Gertie (and the impossibly remote past).20

            Such a process raises up, revives, reanimates cartoon animation and live action film, animation and film, film and reality, nonhuman and human as lost referentials, the dead reanimated as the living dead that will never have to die again because death is itself surpassed – in a word death is dead. What is thus “raised up” – living simulations – would be immortal, not the immortality that comes from the inescapably physically defeating but spiritually victorious heroic challenge to death but the automatic immortality that is micro-genetically engineered, not a fatally uncanny immortality of the human but a banally uncanny immortality of the nonhuman – that of the clonal body, which resembles nothing so much as the originary protozoa that Freud postulated as the uncanny end to which the Death Drive would return the human – clonal bodies that reappear to disappear but can never reappear nor disappear as such only once and thus for forever.21 No, condemned to eternal asexual celibate reproduction and reiteration of the identical – the hell of the same – this would be the endlessness of the end: the transfinite. The dinosaur that will die no more, that will not die because it already has. I take it that Muren’s declaration gestures toward such a hypertelic metastatic modelling: cold clonal immortality.

            Of this catastrophe, one could say after Baudrillard, “The Year 2000 Will Not Take Place”,22 because it already has and does so repeatedly, interminably. In computer animation terms we could call such living dead clonal creatures, such zombies, vactors23: virtual (reality) actors, actors of the vacuum of the void, or fractors – fractal actors. As we could call what is regenerated “cinema” or the animatic telecinematic: digital film. We watch this epidemic animatic telecinematic exterminate the sciences applied in Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park as well as the sciences of film theory and animation theory insofar as they all futilely seek to rehabilitate themselves by reversing and undoing their own extinction by seeking to describe, interpret, account for, reconcile and thereby control, contain, encrypt and/or render extinct once again what they themselves have systematically unleashed, decrypted, from within themselves.24

            In this process one has passed from the double that guaranteed one’s immortality to the double that guaranteed one’s mortality – the doubles of the cinematic image, doubles now lost – to the clonal “double” that cannot be lost so that one can die or in dying transcend to life eternal but rather that “lives on”,25 guaranteeing at once “one’s” immortal mortality and mortal immortality – the lost “double” of a “cinema” lost. A “double” everywhere except in the double for a “cinema” everywhere save in cinema. The symbolic experience of the horror film – the wish at once to die and to not die but outlive our deaths as immortals – is in Jurassic Park ecstacized in its contemporary catastrophic mutated viral form/genre – terror – a predator (pre-dator) to which the viewer is held hostage (and vice versa, for which is which?). This would be the terrorism of a project – André Bazin’s – that seeks to make cinema coincident with the real, the achievement of which could only ever be simulacral, virtual, hyperreal, the simultaneous fulfillment, death and reanimation of cinema as “cinema” – the ironizing of Bazin’s notion of film’s goal of integral realism, the myth of total cinema.26 The necromancer Spielberg may declare, “I’m going for total realism as opposed to anything that hypes the wonder”;27 but any attempt at total realism cannot escape the hype of the hyperreal.

            Baudrillard writes: “Our Apocalypse is not real, it is virtual. And it is not in the future, it is taking place here and now”.28 “After the Orgy”, once freed of its substance and resurrected, regenerated, be it by film and/or computer, the animatic is all the more virulent and vital for having been freed of its essence and liberated into its contemporary simulacral hyperreal form: the virtual form of the viral, the fractal, the clone.29 The Special Effect. Not only does Jurassic Park play out for the “cinema” in all its registers all the rituals and modes of transparency that Baudrillard has articulated: the terrorist and the hostage, the obese, the obscene (what would be the too great proximity – closeness – of the world), the artificial paradise, Telematic Man, hi-fi, etc.30 It represents and “is” “itself” a metastatic viral epidemic of cinema at once hyperproliferating and satellized around itself, more and more only deliriously resembling, absorbed and disappearing in itself – more Andromeda Strain than Andromeda Strain, more Westworld than Westworld, more Jaws than Jaws, more Close Encounters of the Third Kind than Close Encounters of the Third Kind (as well as more King Kong than King Kong, more Citizen Kane than Citizen Kane,31 more The Birds than The Birds,32 more Dr Strangelove than Dr Strangelove,33 more Dr Doolittle than Dr Doolittle,34 more Family Plot than Family Plot, more Apocalypse Now than Apocalypse Now, more The China Syndrome than The China Syndrome,35 more Blade Runner than Blade Runner, more more!, etc., which is simultaneously more less) – as it simultaneously more and more infects and in-distinguishes “itself” from “reality”, “reality” “itself” already and increasingly “cinematized” – more artificial paradise than artificial paradise, more Disneyland, Disneyworld than Disneyland, Disneyworld, more Biosphere 2 than Biosphere 2, more Universal Studios Park than Universal Studios Park, etc.36    Jurassic Park, the “film” that shows that film is everywhere save in film – and everything else is everywhere except in “itself” and is therefore incorporated in film – is a viral epidemic where relations of contagion, confusion, contamination, proliferation, dispersal, extenuation, total substitutability, stasis and digitality operate (yet surprisingly there are no digital watches to be seen in Jurassic Park!).37 Jurassic Park is an example of at once exponential instability and exponential stability, at once acceleration and inertia.38 Jurassic Park puts the special effect everywhere save in the special effect, itself transparent, nowhere to be seen (except perhaps in the bad special effect: the “human”, whose woodenness recalls the last resource of the eighteenth century magician who, fabricating a perfect automaton, had himself to perform mechanically to preserve the game of illusion39).

            In such artificial paradises as Jurassic Park, the always already dead are regenerated in the metastatic form, “torn from the dead in order to be cryogenized in perpetuity”,40 by means of cloning to exist eternally in a state of suspended animation: Disney’s cryogenic orbitalization in an artificial paradise awaiting the Second Coming.41 The state of Special Effect. Akin to Seth Brundleflymachine, Jurassic Park, a “virtual machine”, is an ecstatic example of recombinant cinema, the film itself a form and event demonstrating and performing what the film narrativizes: artificially generative film techniques analogous to those of recombinant DNA in combination with the technology of the computer – the cutting and splicing and grafting and sequencing of cine-gene fragments with each other and with computer-gene fragments – in both cases introducing the viral into cinema as into the artificial paradise of Hammond’s more Disney than Disney Jurassic Park, not only in the form of the dinosaur but in that of Virtual Telematic Telecomputer Man – the obese Dennis Nedry – the computer virus who holds the park and its human inhabitants hostage as he is in turn held hostage to it and its nonhuman inhabitants.42 Jurassic Park as virtual, viral, vital, obese, obscene, livedead “body”. Like Charles Foster Kane’s fractal imaging to infinity in the doubling mirrors of Xanadu – from in vivo to in vitro – in Citizen Kane, one is dealing in Jurassic Park with an apocalypse of the virtual, with Coppola’s/Coppelius’s archaeopterics of the uncanny,43 with cinema as cryogenic cryptic incorporator and incorporation. Clonal Galli-mimesis without end.

            A Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind, that is, with the contemporary viral form of simulacra, Jurassic Park would be a “cinema” whose organic metabolism would make of it today a vast historiosynthetic machine of special effects lacking but one thing: the particular hallucination that makes cinema cinema.44 This would be, like “reality”, “cinema” both more cinema than cinema and less cinema than cinema at the same time: simultaneous acceleration, inertia and absorption in “its” “own” void. This would be, as my Baudrillard epigraph declares, a “cinema...fascinated by itself as a lost object just as it (and we) are fascinated by the real as a referential in perdition”. This would be the fascination with “cinema” and “reality” as special effects. The Evil Demon of Images concludes:

Today, there is an inverse negative relation between the cinema and reality: it results from the loss of specificity which both have suffered. Cold collage, cool promiscuity, asexual engagement of two cold media [film and reality now both media!] which evolve in asymptotic line towards one another: cinema attempting to abolish itself in the absolute of reality, the real already long absorbed in cinematographic (or televised) hyperreality.45

 

           Coiling at once around themselves and around each other in their asexual engagement, these two cold spiralling media of cinema and reality for me cannot but mime the double helix of DNA as cloned by Hammond, who would be the whiter than white ADN (Adonai) of Jurassic Park while at the same time dedicated to the AND of indefinite seriality.46

            Indeterminate and generating viral indeterminacy in epidemic proportions, hypercinema – the livedead “cinema” – resembles for me nothing so much as the organic metabolism of the Thing from John Carpenter’s The Thing From Another World or the inorganic metabolism of the T-1000 of Terminator 2, hypersaturated, indifferent, formless forms which can simulate, absorb and short-circuit all forms, “themselves” never given nor givable as such, instead “remaining” virtual. These dreaded voracious metamorphs are sublime protean plasmatic forms in their metastatic expression, protean plasmaticness that which Sergei Eisenstein declares to be the essence of Disney animation, an essence to which Eisenstein’s own work aspires, an “essence” whose “ultimate” form would be DNA itself, its double helix like two strips/strands of film winding about each other.47 But in their metastatic form, they enwrap Disney’s enchanting, seducing metamorphosing forms in a disenchanting, disenchanted, simulacral shroud, the “winding sheet” of “cinema”.48

            Such films offer us the necrotic fascination for a “cinema” whose special effect is that it lives beyond its own vanishing point, beyond its own finality, which in so doing means that in ending, it can never end: the impossibility at once of arrival at or departure from the crypt of Jurassic Park: stazione ex-terminale. No resolution of life nor death, rather the viral processes of the eclectic, of retro-“aesthetics”, the necrospective, where the films of the past are “raised”, revived, reanimated, as lost referentials in the reiterative, wildly hyperbolic replay of “endless variations on all earlier forms”.49 In the face of this irreconcilability, any palaeontology, archaeology (including Indiana Jones’(!)) or genealogy of cinema must confront the evil genie of cinema, the evil demon of cinema, setting us forever on the tour, the track, of the cinema looped as the Moebius Strip: in the wake of its turbulence, its eddy, its spiralling whirlpool.50 No Raider could ever redeem cinema’s Lost Archive.51

            Computer animation and special effects set one upon the case of the CASE (Computer Animation and Special Effects), set one in the virtuality of the chez, the case, casa, casino, cassette, casket of the case, which is an uncanny haunted place – the house of the living dead, the revenant – the ghost, the zombie, and now the clone.52 It is to be where the movement of media “in themselves” and “as they move together” in formation, in packs like Velociraptors (VRs, VCRs, Video Cassette Recorders!) – hyper-telic film, tele-vision, the computer – uncannily bring farness (the tele-, marked in the abbreviation “tellie”53), strangeness, the unfamiliar, the wild, the exotic, closer and closer, making them more and more familiar while at the same time drawing the close, the familiar, the home(y), the domestic, further and further away, making them more and more unfamiliar in exponential maximalizing modes of simultaneous acceleration and inertia: from telos to the more telos than telos – the hypertelos, the hyper-telic – of the tele- – the virtual brought ever closer.54 An evil demon tempts me to describe this state of things as the “film-iliar”. In this case Jurassic Park shows us that “...the modern media have a viral force of their own, and their virulence is contagious”.55

            Jurassic Park turns us around on this tour that would be of the order of the Principle of the Good, what would be a squeaky clean new Eden, the Peaceable Kingdom, populated with genuine dinosaurs, in a detour that returns us to rediscover that which we thought we were discovering only for the first time: the uncanny return of the dead as living dead – a devil’s tour56 of hell, perdition, Pandaemonium, a detour of the virtual, of the simulacral dinosaur, on which tour we move forwards backwards, or is it backwards forwards? – who could tell? – Moonwalking around Nedryland (Neverland?), arriving before we left and leaving before we arrive. In Jurassic Park it is the Strange Attractor, or rather the Principle of Evil, that rules.

            Through this process of tele-scoping, short-circuiting, exterminating and cryptically incorporating, Jurassic Park shows that any attempt to track backwards through history, even and especially to history’s own pre-history, to rewrite and rehabilitate a good (pre)history cleansed of evil so that one can enter the millennium reconciled falls prey to the fact that what is resurrected and rehabilitated is always already hyperreal, simulated, virtual, as it demonstrates the inevitable unleashing of that in/excorporated element resident “within” and integral to any system – any artificial paradise – which will destroy the system.

            Crucially, once posited, once assumed, the Dead Point and its crossing means that all that existed before the crossing into the hyperreal, the postcinematic, is by that crossing forever contaminated by it so that one could just as well suppose that all before that crossing accorded with all coming after it.57 In “taking a place” in the tradition as old as the animated film itself, uncannily returning to one of its first examples – Gertie – to push it and that tradition beyond their limit, Jurassic Park turns us seductively, fatally, from the showmen Hammond and Spielberg and the end of cinema’s finalities to the showman Winsor McCay and cinema’s beginnings to rediscover at cinema’s origins its originary diversion, death and reanimation as lifedeath: the essence of film is always already its nonessence.58 Film’s “end” is always already in its “beginning”! The “event” of the “death” of cinema always already doubles the “event” of the “birth” of cinema.

            Such would be cinema’s asymptotic “development” – the form of the spiral, the loop, the Moebius Strip, of “film” – pushing cinema beyond Canetti’s Dead Point and Bazin’s point of integral realism to return to cinema’s “beginning”, in that very turn/tour/detour exterminating the idealist Euclidean model of the linear with the asymptotic line as curve that describes a spiralling return to what in leaving one always already started to return to, which would be the death of the linear modelling of cinema as it would be of “cinema” as such from its “very” “beginning”, what might be called, ironizing Bazin, “The Oncology of the (Filmic) Image”!59 Cinema’s “end” and “beginning” reverse, moving forwards backwards and backwards forwards at the same time. They spiral, leading to inevitable indetermination as to which comes before which. The spiral makes any point at once a beginning and an end. The spiral makes what follows precede and what precedes follow.

            Jurassic Park, itself dead and resurrected in advance, a film-clone, film virus, film-fractal, tells us that all cinema is dead and resurrected in advance. It tells us that science and technology, even and most crucially their micro-arena in which everything, including “identity”, is played out today – the genetic and computer codes of DNA and digitality – have themselves never not aimed at uncertainty, with “presenting us with a definitively unreal world, beyond all criteria of truth and reality”.60 The virtual/viral/vital is never not integral to the system, including that of the codes. The vertiginous hyperlogic of the code: “it” executes, i.e. performs, “itself” even in executing, i.e. “undoing”, “itself”, as the “spontaneous” transformation of females to males in Jurassic Park attests, marking the impossibility of total command and control over the human genome and its processes. “It’s a hell of a system”, says Arnold of the computer command control centre of Jurassic Park – a hell of a system for a hell of a place.61

            If cinema (and film theory) have sought to escape animation, ostensibly Jurassic Park returns cinema (and film theory) to animation (and animation theory) as it returns animation (and animation theory) to cinema (and film theory) presuming cinema can control animation, as Hammond regenerates the dinosaur DNA presuming he can control it; but animation returns with a vengeance to seduce and outbid cinema, uncannily turning into cinema the better to perfect and annihilate it: the animatic is internal and integral to stable systems. This is the fatality of the system.62 Jurassic Park tells us, as I suggest in the Introduction to The Illusion of Life, that film was never not simulation. Never not a virtual body. Never not lifedeath. Never not an uncanny, dynamic, turbulent form. Film would never not live beyond its own end, as it never not lives before its own beginning. Film is always “before the beginning, Mr Thompson” (to quote Bernstein from Citizen Kane) – “its” “own” beginning – and “after the end” – “its” “own” end – at the same time. Film is not reconciled, not reconcilable. Film is animatic.63

            In all these senses, the film, like the dinosaurs it regenerates, is a catastrophic, apocalyptic, superconductive event, an “event” passing beyond the horizon of film (as it tells us that film is “itself” always already beyond the event horizon), passing beyond by means of its asexual engagement with the computer (another celibate reanimatic machine), digital film the offspring of their contiguous “coupling”. To pose the question of whether, like the relation of the mass and the medium, the computer has seduced film, as the dinosaur has seduced the human, making it enter a field of metamorphosis despite itself, or film has seduced the computer, playing the illusion-preserving game of the magician, would be impossible to calculate, to compute. Any answer that would “reconcile”, including simply opposing, them would exclude that which enabled such a “reconciliation”: the virtual radical excluded Other – Seduction, Illusion, the Principle of Evil.64 Film and computer – at once isomorphic and radically incompatible – enter into viral relations with each other, contaminate, confuse and indetermine each other, as they infect every sphere, generating uncertainty, itself infectious.65

            In the wake of Jurassic Park, “OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR”, or as it uncannily appears in the epigraph to “Vanishing Point”, the opening essay of Baudrillard’s book America: “Caution: Objects in this mirror may be closer than they appear!”. “May be” – more uncertain yet! The animatic would be the vital virtuality at once not only at work within but coming between film and computer, enabling them to “coil” around each other, bind to and mime each other, hyperconform and hyperproliferate, as it at the same time forms the milieu for their unlinking, unbanding, their “déliaison” in a (dis)integrated and (dis)integrating circuit.

            So too the animatic as vital virtuality of déliaison would be not only at work within but coming between Baudrillard’s work and its subjects/objects, as it must likewise be not only at work within but coming between this essay and its subjects/objects, making it analogously a piece of theory-fiction, a special effect, that comes to pass between the theory-fictions, the special effects, that are Jurassic Park and the work of Baudrillard, uncannily turning the relations among all of them likewise into relations of analogy, virality and virtuality “closer than they appear”.66 In La Transparence du mal, Baudrillard writes:

Once certain limits have been passed there is no longer a relationship from cause to effect, there is only viral relationships from one effect to another, and the whole system is driven entirely by inertia. The film of this increase in strength, of this velocity and ferocity of the dead, is the modern story of the accursed share. It is not a question of explaining it; it is necessary to be its mirror in real time. It is necessary to exceed the speed of events, which have themselves for a long time exceeded the speed of liberation. And it is necessary to speak of incoherence, anomaly and catastrophe, it is necessary to speak of the vitality of all these extreme phenomena which play with extermination and simultaneously with certain mysterious rules.67

 

            Would Jurassic Park not be that film? (And in being that film would it not be all film?) And in all that I have said of Jurassic Park, have I never not been prescribing/describing Baudrillard’s work as all this, and more? Would it not be that “mirror” of the film “in real time”, an uncanny, fatal mirror in which “Objects...may be closer than they appear!”?

            But at the same time does Baudrillard’s work not tell us that (that) film is, as “Jurassic Park’” “itself” declares, such a mirror and that mirror work of his already “such” a film? As his epigraph to “Vanishing Point” might be thought to declare, the ironical logic of the world, the metamorphic, anamorphic reversibility of everything and anything under the sign of Seduction, is not only at work in Jurassic Park. The evil demon (of images) is at work within Baudrillard’s own work, begging the question of the nature and relation of that work to cinema, as it must be at work within this essay, likewise begging the question of the nature and relation of this work to cinema, including to Jurassic Park, as it does of the nature and relation of this work to Baudrillard’s work.

            Certainly, Baudrillard has explicitly addressed cinema in his writings from his earliest texts on (Godard’s Le Mépris in Le Système des objets, The Student of Prague and Playtime in La Société de consommation); but with The Evil Demon of Images, presented in 1984 as the Inaugural Mari Kuttna Lecture on Film, and its final paragraph quoted earlier, and then with America, published in 1986, film becomes a favoured figure of hyperreality.68 Already in the 1982 interview “I Like The Cinema”, in response to the question, “In everyday life, do you sometimes have the impression of being in a film?”, Baudrillard declares:

 

Yes, particularly in America, to a quite painful degree. If you drive round Los Angeles in a car, or go out into the desert, you are left with an impression that is totally cinematographic, hallucinatory. You are in a film: you are steeped in a substance which is that of the real, of the hyper-real, of the cinema.69

 

Four years later these ideas would be given explicit instanciation in his book America. Taking America as the exemplification of the hyperreal, Baudrillard took America to be cinematized, to be a film, as his experience in traveling within and across it he characterized as a traveling shot.

            But, once past The Evil Demon of Images and America, we can just as well suppose that Baudrillard has not only never not been writing about the cinema, about film, but that his own work has never not itself been cinematized, never not itself been a film. America, for example, would be a book-film, a book traveling shot. For if, as Baudrillard claims in The Evil Demon of Images, there is an increasingly de-finitive indetermining of the relation of film and world, an increasing commingling of film and world such that one cannot be disentangled from the other, not only are Baudrillard’s writings on the world at the same time on film, and vice versa, necessitating quotation marks around the words “world” and “film”, but moreover, Baudrillard’s own writings commingle with their subjects such that it is impossible to know where the author and the authored, the animator and the animated, the subject and the object, etc., “begin” and “end”.70

            Like the dinosaur and egg aporia of Jurassic Park, like the mass and the media, like the mirror in which “Objects...may be closer than they appear!”, and like the ironical, fatal Object, the Object as Strange Attractor, and more, itself the mirror – all of which reverse upon and hyperconform to each other and to “themselves” as they at the same time form the turn, the pivot, the Dead Point of what they strangely attract, image and “reflect”, themselves never given nor givable “as such”, always excluded to enable one pole of an opposition to be equivalent to another while at the same time in their inclusion disenabling such an equivalence, begging the question of whether it is because the poles oppose and are equivalent to each other that the third would be excluded or whether it is because the third is excluded that these poles could oppose and be equivalent to each other – here too, in the relation of film and world, Baudrillard’s own writings and what he writes of, including the cinema, and this essay and what it addresses, the questions are begged: which is which? which came before which? which is cause and which is effect? And the answer in each case is tendered: the only answer is that there is no answer. The question and answer of the viral, vital virtuality of theory-fiction, of special effect, of Seduction, of Illusion, of the mirror as Strange Attractor, and more, the mirror as Object, the mirror as Crystal.71

            Like all these strange mirrors, Baudrillard’s uncanny work is at once compliant with and fatal to the metastatic processes and systems his work provokes, describes and ironizes – in a word, ecstacizes – as it is itself ecstacized in the process.72 In “Game with Vestiges” Baudrillard declares, “I don’t have any doctrines to defend. I have one strategy, that’s all”.73 That one strategy is ecstacizing, hypertelia, the logic of “pushing a system or a concept or an argument to the extreme points where one pushes them over, where they tumble over their own logic. Yes, it’s all a type of artifice using irony and humour”.74

            This means that Baudrillard’s recent texts, The Transparency of Evil and L’illusion de la fin, are not only themselves viral, vital, virtual metastatic forms, they would be more. In the essay “Instabilité and stabilité exponentielles” Baudrillard makes a crucial distinction: “Destiny is an ecstatic figure of necessity, Chaos is only a metastatic figure of Chance”.75 For Baudrillard Chaos is but a parody, a simulation, of all metaphysics of destiny. Baudrillard’s work remains a defence of the principle of Seduction, a defense of Illusion, a defense of the ecstatic necessity of destiny, as sovereign principles, against the Chaos of the increasingly cold, statistical, aleatory world of simulacra. Ten years ago, this might have been formulated as: the sole thing that is at stake is Seduction (warm, enchanted simulation) against simulation (cold, disenchanted Seduction), with Seduction the superior – while simulation simulates Seduction, Seduction seduces simulation.

            More recently, it might be articulated as: Illusion (unconditional simulacra) against simulation (conditional, disillusioned simulacra). For Baudrillard the catastrophic, hypermediatized, uncertain, post-orgy state of today is characterized by the fatally flawed, panic-stricken effort to “realize” the world – be it through art, the humanities, science and/or technology – in simulacra against the total radical illusion of the world, its great game of putting into play, its artifice, its irony, its humour.76 Illusion, as sovereign, renders any such project of “realization” at once a simulation of utopia and a utopian simulation – lost in advance. Such as the attempt of Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park at total realism, that is, total simulation, an attempt whose “magic” resides only in the technological wizardry it displays, as it takes the display of such virtuosity to be cinema’s sole rationale: the demonstration and performance of what cinema can do, such a rationale itself testifying to the post-cinema state of “cinema” today.77

            Baudrillard may write in L’illusion de la fin, “Our Apocalypse is not real, it is virtual. And it is not in the future, it is taking place here and now”,78 but I believe that he would see the necessary reversibility of his statement in Symbolic Exchange and Death, “Today reality is itself hyperrealist”,79 into “hyperreality is today’s reality”, which for me suggests that hyperreality is not merely virtual but also a reality, a reality of a particular sort, that would be, if I may reverse his definition in “The Precession of Simulacra”, without origin or a real,80 that would be a “real unreal”, an actual virtual and virtual actual at the same time, like, in a word, cinema.81

            Like Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park, the necromancer Baudrillard’s America and America and his corpus in general are mirrors in which “Objects...may be closer than they appear!”, at once conjuring a world into “virtual existence” and out again, with the qualification that what is brought close in such “realizing” is a doubled virtual reality: of simulation and of Seduction, of Illusion. Baudrillard himself “realizes” a world as virtual and at the same time shows it to be a conditional simulacrum doubled by a superior virtuality, that of radical Illusion and its play in virtualizing reality as simulacrum, a reality of Illusion in which Illusion is always at once included and excluded. Actuality would thus come to be that virtuality (Illusion) at once included and excluded in any virtual reality.

            In such a scenario any “reflection”, including Baudrillard’s, including mine, must repeat in fractal abyssal form the fatal paradox of losing Illusion in any effort to speak of it, for it is never given as such. Illusion must be fatal to itself, or it is not. Illusion is not reconciled, nor reconcilable, not even to “itself”. Any “reflection” faces the inevitable turn of the mirror, which turns (on) everything, even itself – the “mirror” that mirrors nothing. If it is only Baudrillard’s work that makes its object possible, after such invention it is only the object that makes such a work possible, even as the object and the work become reversible and their relationship indeterminate in and through this doubling process. In such a process, the “work”, to quote Baudrillard from “The Year 2000”, “loses all objective validity, but perhaps gains in coherence, that is to say in real affinity with the system that surrounds us”.82

            That “real affinity” would be the virulent vitality of the virtual, that “fly in the ointment”, that animatic “mirror” in “real” time, not only what is immanent in its opposite, doubling and (un)doing it, but what doubles and (un)does “itself” – vertiginously. And if this is (un)done “with artifice, using irony and humour”, with wit and poetry, then it would be (un)done with a Seductive surcharge.

            Crucially, although today we speak of hyperreality, of virtual reality, instead of reality, once past Canetti’s Dead Point, all reality is and has never not been virtual. In provocatively declaring, “I live in the virtual”83 – a declaration as impossible of proof as it is irrefutable, which is likewise true of theory-fiction, special effect, simulation, Seduction, Illusion, the uncanny, the animatic et. al. – all of which are in a certain sense “nothing” at all – Baudrillard for me implicitly suggests that he has never not lived there, that virtual reality has never not been the case. In accord with this, I would declare: virtual reality is the only reality I’ve ever “known”.

            “Welcome to Jurassic Park”. Or rather – to paraphrase another ex-Terminator in the case of the future anterior – “welcome back”, for it will have always already been back... in the beginning as in the end.


Alan Cholodenko:  Is an Honorary Associate, Department of Art History and Theory at The University of Sydney, in Australia. His most recent paper is: "The Crypt, The Haunted House, of Cinema" in Cultural Studies Review. Volume 10, Number 2 (September 2004). He is editor of The Illusion of Life 2: More Essays on Animation. Sydney: Power Publications, forthcoming in 2005. He is an Editor of IJBS.

 


Endnotes

1 The Editors of IJBS are grateful to Sage Publications Ltd. and Alan Cholodenko for permission to reprint this article which first appeared in: Nicholas Zurbrugg (Editor). Jean Baudrillard: Art and Artefact. London: Sage Publications, 1997:64-90. www.sagepub.co.uk

2 Jean Baudrillard. The Evil Demon of Images. Translated by Paul Patton and Paul Foss. Sydney: Power Institute Publications, 1987: 33.

3 Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil . Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso, 1993:43.

4 The book, intriguingly, cultivates no such aporia insofar as the egg is declared to be synthetic. See Michael Crichton. Jurassic Park. London: Arrow, 1991.

5 Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil . Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso, 1993:108.

6 Jean Baudrillard. La Transparence du mal. Paris: Editions Galilée, 1990:112. (Tranlsation mine).

7 Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil . Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso, 1993:107.

8 After conceptualizing this essay around the figure of this uncanny mirror, I encountered Tom Shone’s essay, “Raider of His Lost Art” in The Modern Review, Volume 1, Number 10 (August-September 1993:3), in which Shone proposes that the sticker at the bottom of this mirror, reading ‘“Objects may be closer than they appear” (sic)...could be his [Spielberg’s] motto, that Spielberg has “devoted most of his career to perfecting a state-of-the-art way of yelling ‘He’s behind you!’” – his “monster-in-the-rear-view-mirror joke”. I would suggest that what appears in that mirror and its death sentence is what Slavoj Zizek, after Lacan’s treatment of Holbein’s The Ambassadors in terms of the emergence of and in the anamorphic image of the death’s head as the making visible of the subject as annihilated, takes up as the phallic anamorphotic uncanny eruption of the Real. Or what, after Samuel Weber, I would describe as the parallactic coming-to-pass and passing-to-come of film. See Slavoj Zizek. Looking Awry. Cambridge, Mass.:  MIT Press, 1991:88-91; and Samuel Weber, “The Parallax View” in Assemblage 20 (April 1993), where Weber argues that it is television that installs the parallax view. Parenthetically, it is surprising that Zizek takes up this eruption – of the “signifier without signified” – in terms of the films of Alfred Hitchcock without citing that film that for me (but not myself alone) more than any other makes of this figure the greatest conundrum in the history of cinema: Citizen Kane, and its irresolvable Rosebud. Here, Bernstein’s Woman In White weds to Baudelaire’s passante as a figure of such an eruption. On Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin and Baudelaire’s passante in relation to the mass media, see Weber, “Mass Mediauras, or: Art, Aura and Media in the Work of Walter Benjamin” in Alan Cholodenko (Editor). Mass Mediauras: Essays on Form, Technics and Media. Sydney: Power Publications.

9 See Alan Cholodenko (Editor). The Illusion of Life: Essays on Animation. Sydney: Power Publications, 1991. “Speculations on the Animatic Automaton”, subsequently presented in long form to the graduate students of Sydney College of the Arts, the Sydney Society for Literature and Aesthetics, the Power Institute Public Education Program and the Critical Studies Program at UCLA, is as yet unpublished.

10 On Baudrillard’s notion of the retrospective whitewashing of history, see, for example, “Operational Whitewash” and “Necrospective” in The Transparency of Evil and “La décongélation de l’Es”’, L’illusion de la fin, Editions Galilée, Paris, 1992.

11 Canetti defines the Dead Point as follows: “A tormenting thought: as of a certain point, history was no longer real. Without noticing it, all mankind suddenly left reality; everything happening since then was supposedly not true; but we supposedly didn’t notice. Our task would now be to find that point, and as long as we didn’t have it, we would be forced to abide in our present destruction”. The Human Province, translated by Joachim Neugroschel, Andre Deutsch, London, 1985:69.

12 On the Tasaday, see Baudrillard, “The Precession of Simulacra”. Translated by Paul Foss and Paul Patton, in Jean Baudrillard. Simulations. New York: Semiotext(e), 1983:13-23.

13 Quoted in Don Shay and Jody Duncan. The Making of Jurassic Park. London: Boxtree, 1993:139.

14 On Baudrillard’s principle of hypertelia – the pushing of things to their limits – see Fatal Strategies. Edited by Jim Fleming and translated by Philip Beitchman and W.G.J. Niesluchowski. New York: Semiotext(e), 1990.

15 In terms of this notion of “pushing the envelope” see Michael Crichton. Jurassic Park. London: Arrow, 1991:51.

16 In terms of delirium, see Baudrillard’s English language epigraph to La Transparence du mal: “Since the world drives to a delirious state of things, we must drive to a delirious point of view”. James Benedict, translator of The Transparency of Evil, for me inexplicably alters this epigraph to: “Since the world is on a delusional course, we must adopt a delusional standpoint towards the world”.

17 Quoted in Don Shay and Jody Duncan. The Making of Jurassic Park. London: Boxtree, 1993:139.

18 On the process of the increasing indetermination of film and world, see Baudrillard, The Evil Demon of Images. Translated by Paul Patton and Paul Foss. Sydney: Power Institute Publications, 1987.

19 On the deinos, see Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, “Typography” in Typography. Christopher Fynsk (Editor), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1989:93, n79, where he remarks that Socrates is fond of speaking of the artifice of the “living statue”, the animated statue, and that, as for Plato, “what unsettles him, in the plastic realm or in ‘fiction’ (whatever form it might take), is, as P. M. Schuhl has suggested, simultaneously that the inanimate being should give itself as something alive and that this (falsely or illusorily) living thing should never be sufficiently alive, that is, should always let death show through too much (in other words, ‘brute’ death, the bad death that the sensible world holds – and not that death that marks the ‘separation of the soul and the body’ as the beginning of the true ‘life of the spirit’). The deinon, the Unheimliche (as the ex-patriation or exile of the soul, as well) is this unassignable, this ‘neither dead nor alive’, that disturbs, or always risks disturbing, the fundamental ontological opposition (between the present and the non-present). This is mimesis, the ‘disquieting strangeness’ of fiction: undecidability ‘itself”’. On this uncanny figure of the living statue – the automaton – as it relates to animation and film, see my “Speculations on the Animatic Automaton”’.

20 In this regard Tom Gunning’s essay “An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and The (In)credulous Spectator” in Art & Text 34, Spring 1989, links the advent of the cinema to the aesthetic of attraction, which, though narrative will come to overlay it, never ceases to run its course through the history of cinema. Of course, for me a film like Jurassic Park ecstacizes the attraction and, as well, all the more suggests that Gunning’s strong piece would benefit from the qualifications that an acknowledgement of his own use of the terms “canny” and “uncanny” would call for. That is, for me the advent of the cinema is an uncanny advent, one which necessitates a complex analysis that would avoid simply inverting and replacing the classic passive slave, “dupe” model of the early film spectator with an active master, “all-knowing”, urban sophisticate model (a reduction Gunning does not always avoid, though it appears he would wish to), one that would acknowledge that all that Gunning says of the character of this advent is already in Freud’s “logics” of the uncanny; that the attraction, film and a fortiori animation are of the order of the uncanny (what I characterize as the animatic); that when Gunning says that the shock – the simultaneous attraction and repulsion, fascination and dread – at seeing what was still “come to life” founds the cinema and persists as an undercurrent in narrative cinema, he is saying that the uncanny, the animatic, “founds” cinema – the inanimate become animate, and vice versa; and that any thinking of cinema cannot delimit itself to the thinking of the subject and its desires and the cinema as only a mode of production and appearance but must at the same time consider what American film theorists have typically ignored, that is, the object and its games, games superior to the subject – the non-organic, artificial life of objects of the cinematic, or rather animatic, apparatus and its modes of seduction, play, dissemination and disappearance. The non-organic life of objects – for me what we mean by “magic” – is a ‘life’ coimplicated with the notion of the Death Drive, for which all uncanny returns are stand-ins, that is, it is death which returns, and more, as it is a life coimplicated with not only a system of explosion but simultaneously one of implosion. And, of course, such a complex analysis would acknowledge the implications of such a model for the very analysis under way, acknowledge the limitations set up thereby to the theorist’s ability to account for what he/she seeks to render an account of, so that the theorist would not, like Gunning, on the one hand attempt to forge a sophisticated “both/and, neither/nor” model for describing the cinema and its spectator while on the other hand buying into an either/or binary, assuming the position of master demystifying showman-theorist who could simply stand outside the logics of the system being described (in this case the cinematization of the world), who, like his spectator, could find, upon leaving the movie theatre, the world outside the cinema untainted by the world within. For me the radical coimplication of film and world offered by Baudrillard’s The Evil Demon of Images would call any assumption of such a simple “leaving”, including Barthes’, into question (as Barthes’ own appeal in his essay, “Upon Leaving the Movie Theater”, to a “cinematic condition” of “crepuscular reverie” outside the cinema arguably disturbs his maintenance otherwise in that piece of an opposition of inside versus outside the movie theatre), as it would call for a more complex thinking of the “suspension of disbelief”, one that acknowledges that the cinematization of the world would of necessity incorporate the spectator and theorist, even the theorist as master demystifier, within it and that the cinematic apparatus is, despite all the 1970s discourse and project of the revelation of its mode of production, never givable, producible, as such. Indeed, that the cinema issues a challenge to the either/orism of the master/slave, active/passive model, as it does to all productivist efforts to unveil its/the mode of production. Such banal efforts of demystification are no match for the fatal strategies of the cinema and their seduction of film theory, turning it into a special effect.

21 See ‘L’immortalité, L’illusion de la fin. On Freud’s protozoa as the destiny of the “human”, see “The Hell of the Same” in The Transparency of Evil and ‘L’immortalité’, L’illusion de la fin. Paris: Editions Galilée, 1992.

22 Jean Baudrillard. “The Year 2000 Will Not Take Place”, in FUTUR◊FALL: Excursions into Post-Modernity. E. A. Grosz et al. (Editors). Sydney: Power Institute Publications, 1986.

23 On vactors, see Peter Britton, “’Vactors’ Grab Starring Roles in Dawn of Film-Making’s Digital Age” in The Australian, October 19, 1993:42-43. 

24 On such a cryptic incorporation, one might also consult Jacques Derrida. “Fors”, in Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok. The Wolf Man’s Magic Word: A Cryptonymy. Translated by Nicholas Rand. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986.

25 See Jean Baudrillard. “The Hell of the Same” in The Transparency of Evil. Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso, 1993 and “L’immortalit” in  L’illusion de la fin. Paris: Editions Galilée, 1992.

26 Andre Bazin. “The Myth of Total Cinema” in What is Cinema? Translated by Hugh Gray. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967; Jean Baudrillard. The Evil Demon of Images, Translated by Paul Patton and Paul Foss. Sydney: Power Institute Publications, 1987:31; and “After the Orgy” in The Transparency of Evil. Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso, 1993:4.

27 Quoted in Rufus Sears: “It’s Big!”, Empire. August 1993:78.

28Hystérésie du Millenium” in L’illusion de la fin. Paris: Editions Galilée, 1992:166. [My translation].

29 To Baudrillard’s three orders of simulacra (see “The Orders of Simulacra” Tranlated by Philip Beitchman, in Jean Baudrillard.  Simulations. New York: Semiotext(e), 1983); and Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil. Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso, 1993 where he adds this fourth.

30 See Jean Baudrillard Fatal Strategies and The Transparency of Evil. Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso, 1993.

31 Citizen Kane, a watershed moment for the history, or rather destiny, of cinema, in terms of the hypertelic processes it dramatizes and partakes of, is another film about a potentate who has set up a zoo in his exotic and fenced-in preserve, in this regard (and others) articulating, like Jurassic Park, with King Kong (See endnote 8 above). It is worthy of note that Citizen Kane also represents a watershed moment in cinema for Gilles Deleuze, who characterizes it as “the first great film of a cinema of time”. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989:99.

32 Peter Wollen. “Theme Park and Variations” in Sight and Sound, Volume 3, Number 7 (July 1993: 7-9). Ostensibly self-declaredly operating as “cine-palaeontologist tracing the evolutionary history of film”, Wollen sees Jurassic Park not only as “a rather obvious hybrid of Jaws and writer Michael Crichton’s earlier theme-park fantasy Westworld” (and through Jaws to “the successful line of monster movies that runs from The Lost World, on through King Kong, and down to Jaws”) but also as having as its closest ancestor Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which film represents for Wollen a merger of the fantastic monster film with the slasher genre.

33 Spielberg is quoted as saying “Jurassic Park had a lot of forefathers, and I’m sure Dr Strangelove was among them”, in Eric Lefcovitz, “How Dr Strangelove inspired Spielberg”, The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday February 5, 1994:12A. For Baudrillard’s discussion of Stanley Kubrick and his Barry Lyndon in terms of the filmmaker as purely operational chessplayer, see The Evil Demon of Images. Translated by Paul Patton and Paul Foss. Sydney: Power Institute Publications, 1987:30-32.

34 Like the “appropriateness” of the casting of Jeff Goldblum from David Cronenberg’s The Fly as Ian Malcolm, the “appropriateness” of Sir Richard Attenborough as Hammond is “secured” by his earlier role as Blossom in Dr Doolittle.

35 On Apocalypse Now and The China Syndrome, see Jean Baudrillard, The Evil Demon of Images. Translated by Paul Patton and Paul Foss. Sydney: Power Institute Publications, 1987.

36 On the artificial paradise of Biosphere 2, see Jean Baudrillard, ‘L’écologie maléfique’ in L’illusion de la fin. Paris: Editions Galilée, 1992. In this regard, the malefic curvature of events – the arrival immanent in the departure at the same time as the departure is immanent in the arrival, indetermining which is which – might be thought to be “in play” in Peter Wollen’s piece on the theme park, “Theme Park and Variations”, wherein he claims, after Michael Sorkin, as “Ur-form” of the theme park – of which Jurassic Park would be an example, like Disneyland and Disney World before it – the Great Exhibition of the World’s Fair of 1851 held at the Crystal Palace in London, “bringing together the wealth of nations into an enclosed palace for tourists, which [Wollen here quotes Sorkin from his book Variations on a Theme Park] ‘depicted paradise. Not only was it laid out like a great cathedral, with nave and transept, but it was also the largest greenhouse ever built, its interior filled with greenery as well as goods, a climate-controlled reconciliation of Arcadia and industry, a garden for machines”’ (pp. 8-9). Wollen notes that Richard Owen, the great palaeontologist who coined the term “dinosaur”, designed an exhibition of dinosaurs – the first such exhibition – on an artificial island in the Exhibition Park when the Crystal Palace moved to Sydenham. Here I would make several points. First, the Crystal Palace is fascinating as a proto-architectural form of the movie theatre in general and the motion picture palace in particular insofar as, like the arcade, it is a form of double invagination, at once the introversion of the exterior and extroversion of the interior, and it is an artificial paradise in which de-natured nature is complemented by naturalized machines. And in terms of both it and Owen’s prototype of Jurassic Park, I would claim, against the “Ur-form” of Wollen and Sorkin, that a prior ancestry for the theme park can be argued: those gardens and grottos of machines – hydraulically driven automata theatres – adjacent to the palaces of the nobility of the 16th and 17th centuries, which take up a place in a history of automata spectacles whose lineage is well over two thousand years old. See my “Speculations on the Animatic Automaton”.

37 See Jean Baudrillard. “After the Orgy” in The Transparency of Evil. New York: Verso, 1993. Of Stephen Jay Gould’s essay on Jurassic Park, “Dinomania” in The New York Review of Books, August 12, 1993, it could be said that Gould still (and nostalgically) takes as a given what the work of Baudrillard, films like Jurassic Park and this essay would suggest are lost referentials: palaeontology, origin, presence, essence, purity, authenticity, the zone of the real and the museum as the sacred site for the real dinosaurs – in the form of fossils. Gould writes: “...theme parks are, in many ways, the antithesis of museums. If each institution respects the other’s essence and place, the opposition poses no problem. But theme parks belong to the realm of commerce, museums to the world of education...” (pp. 55-56). But I would argue that the theme park has no essence and no place; its “essence” would be no essence, its “place” no place. Which suggests that Gould’s either/or modelling is naive, displaying insufficient understanding of the logics of the good and bad copy and an unsupportable belief in the candour of the simulacrum and the possibility of it – here in the form of the virtual reality of the theme park – being put outside and kept outside the original, nor does he link the “reality” of Jurassic Park with the virtual reality he attributes to the theme park. The virality of Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park wars against Gould’s modelling, even as it wars against Hammond’s design.

38 See Baudrillard’s articulation of the simultaneous processes of acceleration and inertia in the posthistorical in "The Year 2000 will Not Take Place." In E. Grosz, T, Threadgold, D. Kelly, A. Cholodenko, and E. Colles, eds., FUTUR◊FALL: Excursions into Post-Modernity. Sidney: Power Institute of Fine Arts Press, 1986:18-28.

39 Jean Baudrillard. Fatal Strategies, (c 1983). Translated by Philip Beitchman and W.G.J. Niesluchowski. New York: Semiotext(e), 1990: 51, 173. One is reminded of the joke that did the rounds, that the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are better actors than the humans.

40 Jean Baudrillard. ‘La danse des fossiles’ in L’illusion de la fin. Paris: Editions Galilée, 1992:109.

41 On Baudrillard on Disney and/or Disneyland, see, for example: “The Precession of Simulacra”; America, Translated by Chris Turner. London: Verso, 1988; and ‘L’écologie maléfique’ and ‘Hystérésie du Millenium’ in L’illusion de la fin. . Paris: Editions Galilée, 1992. See also my Introduction to The Illusion of Life. Sydney: Power Publications, 1991.

42 On Telematic Man (what Benedict translates as Telecomputer Man), otherwise called by Baudrillard Virtual Man, see Jean Baudrillard, “Xerox and Infinity” in The Transparency of Evil. The words virtual and virus contain the Latin vir, meaning man, as well as harkening toward the word virtue. The computer bug Nedry represents the fall of both man and virtue, though the articulation called for would be a complex one.

43 On the uncanny, see Freud’s “The ‘Uncanny’”, Standard Edition, Volume 17. London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1955. The uncanny coupling by Nathanael of the lawyer Coppelius and the optician Coppola in the ETA Hoffmann story, “The Sand Man”, is a copulation already marked in their names, a copulation that cannot but perpetuate itself – uncannily – in their coupling with the name already there of the film director Francis Ford Coppola, whose Apocalypse Now Baudrillard characterizes as an example of “cinema become a vast machine of special effects”, the perpetuation of the Vietnam war by other means, a film become war, as Vietnam is a war become film (The Evil Demon of Images:17). In terms of my understanding of film as uncanny, see my Introduction to The Illusion of Life (Sydney: Power Publications, 1991) and “Speculations on the Animatic Automaton”. As well, see Thierry Kuntzel’s point in “A Note Upon The Filmic Apparatus”, Quarterly Review of Film Studies. Volume 1, Number 3, (August 1976), that in nominating The Mystic Writing Pad as metaphor of the psyche, Freud missed a better model: the cinema. Here Derrida’s essays “Freud and the Scene of Writing” in Writing and Difference and “To Speculate – on ‘Freud’” in The Post Card prove most instructive. On the archaeopterics of the uncanny, see Derrida, “Fors”, in The Wolf Man’s Magic Word: xxvii.

44 Jean Baudrillard. The Evil Demon of Images, Translated by Paul Patton and Paul Foss. Sydney: Power Institute Publications, 1987:31.

45 Ibid.:33-34.

46 See Jean Baudrillard, “The Orders of Simulacra”, in Simulations. New York: Semiotext(e), 1983:109.

47 On Eisenstein’s notion of plasmaticness, see Sergei Eisenstein, Eisenstein on Disney, Jay Leyda (Editor), Translated by Alan Upchurch. London: Methuen, 1988. As well, consult Keith Clancy: “The T(r)opology of Pyromania”, and Keith Broadfoot and Rex Butler, “The Illusion of Illusion”, in Alan Cholodenko. The Illusion of Life. Sydney: Power Publications, 1991. As well, my “Speculations on the Animatic Automaton” takes up this notion.

48 Such viral indeterminacy takes as one of its preeminent forms the facticity of fact generated by the mass media, otherwise known as simulation. See Baudrillard’s America : 85, and La guerre du golfe n’a pas eu lieu. Paris: Editions Galilée, 1991.

49 Jean Baudrillard. “Transaesthetics” in The Transparency of Evil. Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso, 1993:15.

50 In terms of Chaos Theory, the Lorenz attractor is here recalled.

51 Jean Baudrillard. “Superconductive Events” The Transparency of Evil. Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso, 1993:43.

52 On the multiplicitous meanings – all relevant – of chez, see Weber, “Reading and Writing – chez Derrida”, Institution and Interpretation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. The uncanny nature of the cinema, as marked in the event of its advent as described by Gunning, turns the sense of being at home that the spectator felt before the image started to turn from still photograph to mobile cinematograph – the experience of being in a legitimate theatre or at an all too familiar spectacle – into a sense of being homeless – unheimlich – with its movement, its turning, its “coming to life”, its coming-to-pass – its animation. (Here, the expression “coming to life” needs qualification, a curious locution insofar as I would suggest that life can never be come to (nor death); in any case, it is the illusion of life to which for me this expression alludes.) So, too, the relation between film and world becomes homeless, uncanny, as each – film and world – invades, “inhabits” and indetermines the other. To be in the house (casa) of cinema is not to be in the domus – the home. Its refuge could never be pure refuge, any more than it could be pure nonrefuge. The movie theatre is of the order of the between. To be in it is to be in the haunted house of cinema, chez cinema. See endnotes 20 and 43 above.

53 On the tele-, see Jean Baudrillard. “Xerox and Infinity” in The Transparency of Evil. Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso, 1993:See also Weber, “Television: Set and Screen” and “Deus ex Media”, Mass Mediauras: Essays on Form, Technics and Media. Sydney: Power Publications.

54 Such a process in/and such a medium is, of course, uncanny. Freud’s term unheimlich can slide all the way into its opposite – heimlich, meaning familiar, cosy, friendly – and vice versa.

55 Jean Baudrillard. “Superconductive Events” in The Transparency of Evil. Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso, 1993:36-37.

56 Intriguingly, a tour through the meanings of the French tour discloses that it has not one but two forms: the masculine noun, whose meanings include turn, round, twining, winding, revolution, circuit, tour, trip, twist, and notably, trick, dodge, wile; and the feminine noun, meaning tower, rook, castle (Chess), taking us to the Devil’s Tower of Close Encounters. Moreover, tour turns up in tourisme; tournée (the name of the compilation of best animated films that does the rounds, the journey, through movie theatres each year); tourner, as in tourner un film (to shoot a film), recalling the winding, spooling, of the reel of film in the process not only of shooting but of projection; and as well in tourbillon, meaning whirlwind, whirlpool, eddy, vortex. On Heraclitus’ fiery whirlwind, see Keith Clancy’s essay in Alan Cholodenko. The Illusion of Life. Sydney: Power Publications, 1991.

57 As Baudrillard points out in “The Year 2000 Will Not Take Place” (in E. Grosz, T, Threadgold, D. Kelly, A. Cholodenko, and E. Colles, eds., FUTUR◊FALL: Excursions into Post-Modernity. Sidney: Power Institute of Fine Arts Press, 1986:21-23) it is, contrary to Canetti’s aspiration, a crossing itself impossible to locate, only ever assumable.

58 Here lies a point of coincidence between Baudrillard’s and Derrida’s work, one implicit in one of Baudrillard’s hypotheses in “The Year 2000 Will Not Take Place” (Ibid:23): “But we can just as well suppose that history itself is, or was, nothing but an enormous simulation model:’.

59 See Andre Bazin’s “The Ontology of the Photographic Image” in What is Cinema? Yet such an uncanny return to cinema’s advent is consistent with Bazin’s idea that the myth of total cinema, the goal of integral realism, existed fully formed at cinema’s conceptual inception, hence the passage to the fulfillment by cinema of its myth must be a movement forwards backwards, or is it backwards forwards? – who could tell? This is to suggest that there are intriguing parallels between Bazin and Baudrillard to be teased out, for example, Bazin’s model of a cinema bound (albeit ontogenetically) not to man but to the universe and his definition of the job of the film director as not creating a new reality but “framing the fleeting crystallization of a reality of whose environing presence one is ceaselessly aware”. “Theater and Cinema – Part One” in What is Cinema? (p. 91), quoted in Dudley Andrew, André Bazin. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978:123. And for Bazin such a reality is inescapably ambiguous and never given as such. Here, again, it is Welles and Citizen Kane that come to the fore. As Andrew writes: “It is Welles’s name and the film Citizen Kane that continually resurface in Bazin’s ruminations about the environing presence of our spatial universe and the filmmaker’s task of crystallizing its fleeting meanings. Probably more than any other film, Citizen Kane forced Bazin to locate a metaphysics within a style of photography and narrative” (Ibid). Such would be Bazin’s metaphysics of ambiguity. Jurassic Park redoubles/recapitulates/returns (to) cinema’s advent/arrival to complete and annihilate it. The shock attendant upon the arrival of the train of cinema and its doubling of the world is here redoubled by the shock attendant upon the departure of cinema in the pure and empty form of attraction: its fulfillment, death and artificial resurrection in the void. Paralleling acceleration and inertia, exponential instability and stability, the attraction becomes at once more and less attraction than attraction, more and less distraction than distraction, more and less shock than shock, more and less dread than dread, more and less fascination than fascination.

60 Jean Baudrillard. “Superconductive Events” in The Transparency of Evil. Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso, 1993:43.

61 Michael Crichton. Jurassic Park. London: Arrow, 1991:133. Note that the word “turn” hyperproliferates in and hypersaturates the novel.

62 Jean Baudrillard. “Superconductive Events” in The Transparency of Evil. Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso, 1993:40.

63 After Lacan one might say of film: film is what it is not and is not what it is.

64 This would indeed be true of any account, including this one, this account of the account.

65 Media virulent in their capability of and complicity in not only challenging, outbidding and seducing reality and the subject but each other.

66 Keeping the tele- in mind.

67 ‘Le Théorème de la Part Maudite’ in La Transparence du Mal, (p. 113, My translation). In “The Theorem of the Accursed Share” in The Transparency of Evil, (p. 108), James Benedict translates Le film as “development”, which for me is an infelicitous development. And he translates jouent with “toy”, which, while not wrong, for me does not sufficiently capture the play of play (jouent).

68 It should be noted that a substantial amount of material in the Kuttna Lecture was drawn from a number of pieces in Baudrillard’s Simulacres et simulation. Paris: Editions Galilée, 1981.

69 “I Like the Cinema”, interview with C. Charbonnier, reproduced in Baudrillard Live. Mike Gane (Editor). London: Routledge, 1993:31. Indeed, the Hollywood cinema of the last 20 to 30 years seems the preeminent filmic exemplar of the logics of certain French “poststructuralist” and “postmodernist” thinkers.

70 Jurassic Park would suggest that Baudrillard, too, is a great animator who raises the dead to put them into eternal orbit, not merely the white-washed Hammond but the Chaotician Malcolm, and more, for both of them are implicated in the actions of others that demonstrate the limits of the principles Hammond and Malcolm embrace and the actions they undertake: the T-Rex and the Velociraptors. Are the latter not animators, too? Here one is reminded of Chuck Jones’ comment in “What’s Up, Down Under?” in The Illusion of Life:39, that “We never made films for adults, and we never made films for children... We made pictures for ourselves...”, suggesting that the Warner Bros. animators could be thought of as both children and adults at the same time and/or, more radically, as not human! It is this latter sense of – something nonhuman at work – that I would suggest is likewise in operation in the animation of Baudrillard.

71 For the Strange Attractor, see The Transparency of Evil, especially “The Object as Strange Attractor”, as well as L’illusion de la fin, especially “Instabilité et stabilité exponentielles”. In terms of the Crystal, see Baudrillard, “Revenge of the Crystal”, Fatal Strategies, itself subtitled: Crystal Revenge. The figure of the crystal – be it Bazin’s “fleeting crystallization of a reality”, Baudrillard’s Crystal, Deleuze’s crystal-image or the Crystal Palace – appears to “reside” at the “heart” of cinema, in cinema’s coming-to-pass, like Baudelaire’s passante. In the case of Deleuze, the crystal-image of cinema is formed of two sides – actual and virtual – existing in a state of reversibility, that is, where actual and virtual exchange, thereby producing indiscernibility. The crystal-image for Deleuze finds exemplification in the mirror-image; and when mirror-images proliferate, they absorb the actuality of the character reflected in the mirror, making the virtual images more and more actual in relation to the increasing virtualization of the actual character. Here again Welles surfaces. Deleuze says that ‘this situation was prefigured in Welles’s Citizen Kane, when Kane passes between two facing mirrors, but it comes to the fore in its pure state in the famous palace of mirrors in The Lady From Shanghai, where the principle of indiscernibility reaches its peak: a perfect crystal-image...’. Cinema 2: The Time-Image, (p. 70). And a few pages later Deleuze returns to Citizen Kane to address the virtual image as seed ‘which will crystallize an environment which is at present [actuellement] amorphous; but on the other hand the latter must have a structure which is virtually crystallizable, in relation to which the seed now plays the role of actual image’ (p. 74), citing the moment Kane utters the word “Rosebud” and lets slip the snow globe that shatters, that constellation of word and image posing the question of whether the virtual seed ‘Rosebud’ will be actualized in an environment, and vice versa. Obviously, I would suggest (and have in particular ways suggested) that such issues are intensely and complexly in play in Jurassic Park, as exemplified in its constellation of mirror-image and words “OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR”, and that the seed implanted by Welles and Citizen Kane (and The Lady From Shanghai) in Spielberg and Jurassic Park, and by the latter in turn, would be a bad seed, having a demonic viral character.

72 Seduction is what is at stake in all of this as fundamental principle for Baudrillard. He writes: “Seduction does not only turn around the fundamental rule – it IS the fundamental rule...”. L’autre par lui-même. Paris: Editions Galilée, 1987:59 [My translation]. Seduction is the turn. And necessarily, Baudrillard’s own work, even in its very movement, would have to be obedient to this principle, for example, one could postulate that it is (and ironically so) with his book De la séduction (1979) that his work uncannily turns from a trajectory that he took to be moving away from the subject of the object – its apparent destination – to one moving toward the subject of the Object! – its destiny. Such an ironical, spiralling movement is what Baudrillard characterizes as not the subjective irony of Adorno but Objective Irony, a movement in and of the destiny of the world. On his strategy of Objective Irony, see the interview between Baudrillard and Edward Colless, David Kelly and Alan Cholodenko in The Evil Demon of Images. Sydney: Power Publications, 1987:39-42, reproduced in Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard Live. Mike Gane (Ed.) New York: Routledge, 1993:137-139.

73 “Game with Vestiges”, interview with Salvatore Mele and Mark Titmarsh, On The Beach, no. 5, Winter 1984:19, reproduced in Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard Live. Mike Gane (Ed.) New York: Routledge, 1993:82.

74 “Game with Vestiges”, interview with Salvatore Mele and Mark Titmarsh, On The Beach, no. 5, Winter 1984:19 reproduced in Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard Live. Mike Gane (Ed.) New York: Routledge, 1993:81-82.

75 ‘Instabilité et stabilité exponentielles’, L’illusion de la fin. Editions Galilée, Paris, 1992:159. Note the shift from “The Object as Strange Attractor” in The Transparency of Evil to ‘Instabilité et stabilité exponentielles’, where Evil exceeds Chaos Theory.

76 See “This Beer Isn’t a Beer” in Baudrillard Live, p. 184. In the same way that Baudrillard describes the work of Andy Warhol in “Le Snobisme Machinal”, so would his own work be in accord with the artifice not of art and aesthetics but of Illusion. Hence, in my opinion it is wrong to entitle this conference “The Art of Theory”, insofar as if art is everywhere except in art, it is not art any more, nor is theory simply sustainable outside quotation marks, marking a fatality to theory.

77 See Jean Baudrillard. The Evil Demon of Images. Sydney: Power Publications, 1987:31-32; and “I Don’t Belong to the Club, to the Seraglio”, interview with Mike Gane and Monique Arnaud, Baudrillard Live. Mike Gane (Ed). New York: Routledge, 1993:23-24. Such technical virtuosity would link contemporary “cinema” for Baudrillard with the virtuosity of Virtual Man and his computer as celibate machines, whose “virtue resides in their transparency, their functionality, their absence of passion and artifice”. “Xerox and Infinity” in The Transparency of Evil. New York: Verso, 1993:52.

78 ‘Hystérésie du Millenium’, L’illusion de la fin. Editions Galilée, Paris, 1992:166.

79 Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange And Death. Translated by Iain Hamilton Grant. London: Sage Publications, 1976:74.

80 Baudrillard defines “hyperreal” in “The Precession of Simulacra” as “a real without origin or reality”. Simulations. New York: Semiotext(e), 1997:2.

81 As I characterize it in the Introduction to The Illusion of Life.

82 “The Year 2000 Will Not Take Place”. in FUTUR◊FALL: Excursions into Post-Modernity. E. A. Grosz et al. (Editors). Sydney: Power Institute Publications, 1986:19.

83 “This Beer Isn’t a Beer” in Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard Live. Mike Gane (Ed). New York: Routledge, 1993:188.

 


©International Journal of Baudrillard Studies (2005)

[Main Page]   [Contents]   [Editorial Board]   [Submissions]