Volume 7, Number 1 (January, 2010)
What is a Tank? [From Ryan Bishop (Editor). Baudrillard Now. London: Polity (2009)].
(Department of English, National University, Singapore)
(Department of English, National University, Singapore)
1. Contemporary Abrams Tanks
The tank might be thought to function as a prosthetic extension of both human sensation and action. In this respect, it may have served the British psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion, while in the tank corps during WWI, as a disturbing catalyst for his questions concerning knowledge formation and the development of intellectual, critical thought. It also provides a vehicle for this paper’s inquiry into Baudrillard’s thoughts on simulation, death, and hyperreality, which can be seen as echoing indirectly Bion’s engagement with sensate experience as a kind of prosthesis-at-the-origin. The technical development of the tank since WWI corresponds in precise ways with the intensification of both technological and experiential mutations in the fields concerned with sensate production and manipulation (e.g., tele-visual and electro-acoustic technologies). Yet it also evokes something archaic in the experience of the world, which, at each stage, follows a pattern of defense and projection, projection and defense, in a circular logic that only in its failure to complete itself leaves open the possibility for what we could call, in the strict historical sense, an event.
Baudrillard (2005) argues that a “Great Game” has replaced the previously absolute distinction, made possible by the existence of God, between divine and empirical reality. This distinction has been eclipsed by a new one that distinguishes “the integral drive” from “the dual drive.” Baudrillard writes that:
The very idea of completion, of Integral Reality, is unbearable, but the dual form, the form that denies any final reconciliation, any definitive accomplishment, is also very difficult – and perhaps even impossible – to conceive in its radicalism. And yet it is this lucid vision of an endless revision, in this denial of any objective solution, that the intelligence of evil, if it exists, is grounded (2005:22).
The mobilization of integral reality – that is, “a Virtual Reality that rests on the deregulation of the very reality principle” (Ibid.:17) – in its most virulent global forms results in the other portion of the Great Game, the dual drive, which is a negative reaction to the other’s totalizing powers. The integral reality creates its own outside, its own resistance, in the form of evil. But “to speak evil” is only to point out the self-defeating nature of a fundamentalist, all-encompassing view of reality, and paradoxically, to reinforce its very operation. Therefore, to speak evil is not resistance at all but perpetuation of the integral reality in the mock struggle, or Great Game, between integral reality and a dual drive. Integral reality spawns its own resistance, thereby absorbing into itself any attempt to resist it or to engage it critically.
It is not difficult to see that the apparently recent emergence of this new agonism simulates in its blank parody a former antagonism between what Baudrillard once described as the first two orders of simulacra: between those that “aim for the restitution or the ideal institution of nature made in God’s image” and those that are “founded on energy, force, its materialization by the machine” (1994:121). We will try to render the implications of this analysis a little clearer.
As is well known Baudrillard opposes simulation to representation. He understands the opposition in terms of a kind of permanent struggle in which the one is hell bent on absorbing or otherwise negating the other and vice versa. Moreover he understands the struggle not in abstract or universal terms but as the mediation of historicity itself, and so it becomes manifest in historical conditions and historical struggles, not least in those that dominate today in the guise of the image, the chief vehicle of both representation and simulation.
The image, no less than the sign, has possibly always been the site of severe struggle. Baudrillard charts four of what he calls “successive phases of the image,” which describe the changing fortunes of representation and simulation. If representation begins by dominating and simulation wins in the end, this is only to the extent that the successive stages describe not a progression but a circle in whose beginning and end one finds nothing or death, a sphere that is so devoid of significant differences that it is swallowed up in some unthinkable (whether absolutely profound or totally superficial) Real. The circle begins with the theological notion of a non-sensuous signified suspicious of all signifiers that might, even with the utmost respect and diffidence, do service in its representation, and ends with a signifier that serves only the generation of further signifiers with no reference to and certainly no respect for anything beyond the signifying system that it would have otherwise served as its representation.
The struggle between representation and simulation takes several shapes, of course, but Baudrillard identifies amongst his initial examples the religious distrust of images: “the stakes,” he says, “will always have been the murderous power of images, murderers of the real, murderers of their own model, as the Byzantine icons could be those of divine identity” (1994:5). Nevertheless, as western history particularly informs us, several kinds of negating and mediating dialectic are available to rescue the Real and its notions from the threat inherent in the necessity of representation. “Western faith and good faith,” he argues, “became engaged in this wager on representation: that a sign could be exchanged for meaning and that something could guarantee this exchange – God, of course” (1994:5). It is important, then, to grasp that simulation as such is not a new phenomenon, just arrived on the scorched earth in the wake of virtual reality, the digital image and The Matrix. Representation depends on the possibility of simulation yet must always keep it under control, in the domestic service of various conceptions of truth and interpretation.
A historical analysis would show, however, that the declining fortunes of representation and its values really begin to take effect during the nineteenth century in two powerful yet mutually antagonistic forms (as will always have been the pattern) of critical production: those of science – in fierce repudiation of metaphysical notions, whether ideal or romantic, that still cling to the nineteenth century imagination – and those of iconoclastic or eschatological styled philosophy – in the guise of Nietzsche’s will to power, for instance, or Freud’s unconscious, conceptions that dislodge the very concept itself to replace it with forces and plays of force. Nietzsche and Freud, of course, do not inaugurate the age of simulacra and the Hyperreal, with their alternately joyful or mournful affirmations of substitution and the loss of the real, any more than do the efforts of an increasingly dominant empirical or formalist scientific outlook whose dream is a complete theoretical, encyclopedic knowledge. Nevertheless the process has begun, and the image no longer serves as the representation of a profound and/or divine real. It now serves in the struggle between a science of the real and its critical discontents. It is this struggle, rather precisely, that is performed, according to Baudrillard, as the Great Game.
The phases of the image can be refined in terms of what Baudrillard calls the “three orders of simulacra,” if we accept that the first order is itself “founded on the image” (1994:121). The Nietzschean overturning of the image thus shares with its supposed antagonist in science an inevitable drive towards “continuous expansion” (Ibid.) but this is still only as the “second order” of simulacra. Baudrillard’s account of the great game is an account of what happens when the antagonism, the mutual incompatibility, of the two orders (the order that serves truth and the order that serves production and expansion) is simulated, when the two sides are no more than actors in a simulation of the struggle itself.
If this eclipse of the first order of simulacra, Baudrillard argues in his 2005 book, leaves us “up against reality,” then the eclipse of the second leaves us up against an apparently barely speakable danger. To speak the danger is to participate in the Great Game itself, an intensified third order of simulacra, “the simulacra of simulation,” or the “cybernetic game” (1994:121). What is at stake in the earlier work is the gap or distance that is always threatened with abolition or reabsorption in the passage between orders (so that the simulacra of the first naturalist order tend to be reabsorbed in the Promethean second). This gap or distance between orders always under threat of reabsorption “on behalf of the model” (or cybernetic hyperreality) is what leaves room for “an ideal or critical projection” (1994:122). The possibility of such a projection – the space or distance between orders – has in fact itself been reabsorbed in the endless simulacra of the great game, where the totalization project includes its opposite or evil as a function of its own logic.
Baudrillard perhaps then evokes the apparition of an intellectual space that would, if it existed, engage the so called Great Game without participating in it. The only mode of defense would thus be non-participation. The Intelligence of Evil may offer a defensive move of this kind, against the Great Game, by attempting to think and operate outside of it, or at least to think that possibility without even putting it into words as such. In Baudrillard’s terms, then, this possibility must remain in doubt, a closely guarded secret or rumor that must nonetheless somehow “get out.” This mode of defense would need to reserve the space or the gap of critical projection without operating it – without using it up – thus keeping it back from its otherwise inevitable re-absorption. The defensive move thus attempts to hold back the realization of integral reality, to reserve without utilizing a critical power resistant to the drive for completion and its negative evil.
The tank by 1918 had improved over bulky and barely mobile arms carriers with limited fields of vision. It had a powerful purpose-built engine, as well as its own steering mechanism. It was increasingly reliable, mobile and easy to control, although crews had to be adapted with special training for developing technological requirements. The latest tank (in the first decade of the twenty first century) might be equipped with a CITV (Commander’s Independent Thermal Viewer), which provides the commander with independent stabilized day and night vision, a 360 degree view, automatic sector scanning, automatic target cueing of the gunner’s sight, and back-up fire control. The viewing capacities of the typical tank can be as much as ten times narrow field of view and three times wide field of view. And the thermal image would be displayed in the eyepiece of the gunner’s sight. Yet, the tank’s earliest avatar is a clumsily constructed iron vehicle mounted with various sizes of cannon that whole teams would find almost impossible to maneuver. In spite of its design and purpose, the earliest tank becomes a target and death-trap, its triumph greater in image and for propaganda than in effect. In several ways its presence announces not the current state but the future of technological warfare.
2. World War I Tank
The first tank provided the immediate solution to a fundamental problem of trench warfare – getting the troops out of the trenches without having them mown down straight away – but did so only by making the trench mobile. The tank largely replicated the problem of trench warfare by taking the trench above ground, making it kinetic and, in the process transforming it into a mobile target for enemy fire. The earliest tank blindly trundled across “no man’s land” only to be moored on the enemy’s trenches (if it made it that far without being blown up or set aflame). The defensive move provided by the tank led to a whole set of new problems in need of refinement. The history of the tank provides a constant shifting between its manifestations as cobbled-together behemoth and as efficient battle machine, for once the offensive function is achieved, it immediately generates scores of new technological weaponry to neutralize its power. As such, the tank embodies unwittingly the inevitable failure in the drive toward completeness of battlefield technological supremacy.
The projection of the soldier and the military onto the battlefield in the form of mobile armor and mobilized firepower inevitably draws more and improved enemy firepower rendering its offensive capacities irrelevant, forcing it to become a defensive machine again. The drive of military technology for the past two hundred years has been an ever-increasing visual control of the battlefield for the combatant and erasing it for the enemy and, in this manner, replicates the drives of integral reality. The tank carries these drives into the battlefield, prosthetically outfitted to see up to ten times more than the naked eye can observe. But the unfolding of the battlefield is always and evidently manipulated from a distance with the tank and those within it linked to an extraordinary set of IT and satellite links. The tank team works away surveying and controlling the terrain yet is controlled by the battery of tele-technologies and prosthetic extensions that allow for sensate action at a distance. The tank team carries into the battlefield a robust set of tele-technological systems designed to fulfill the dream of complete terrain control, the integral reality of combat scenes, and in so doing, materializes the circular logic of projection and defense through the senses.
An example of the combined drive for ever-increasing visual control of the battlefield environment, as well as the circular logic of projection and defense operative in tank design, can be found in the following description of the MIA2 Abrams tank improved sighting system. The second generation of the Forward Looking Infrared sighting system, according to the manufacturer and industry analysts, indicates a significant improvement over the first generation, in an attempt to secure complete visual domination of the terrain and represents one of the most significant upgrades in the Abrams top class tank, the MIA2.
The 2nd Gen FLIR is a fully integrated engagement-sighting system designed to provide the gunner and tank commander with significantly improved day and night target acquisition and engagement capability. This system allows 70% better acquisition, 45% quicker firing and greater accuracy. In addition, a gain of 30% greater range for target acquisition and identification will increase lethality and lessen fratricide. The Commander’s Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV) provides a hunter killer capability. The 2nd GEN FLIR is a variable power sighting system ranging from 3 or 6 power (wide field of view) for target acquisition and 13, 25 or 50 power (narrow field of view) for engaging targets at appropriate range (www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/m1a2.htm).
In its capacity as a multi-eyed fighting machine, the tank can alter the power of its lenses according to terrain and condition needs while at the same time making the terrain irrelevant by virtue of its being folded into the virtuality of the sighting system. Varied powers of both wide and narrow field viewing enhance the machine’s capacity to kill the enemy while saving ones comrades a similar but far more ignominious fate: increased lethality and lessened fratricide. The battlefield’s being more completely brought under tele-technological control, however, only signals the impossibility of the capacity to completely control it. The second generation signals that there will invariably a third generation and many other subsequent ones. The announcement of previous and present failure resides in the announcement of the new generation as significant improvement.
Wilfred Bion began his career as a psychoanalyst having worked as a therapist with groups of traumatized ex soldiers after WWI. Bion was fascinated by the psychological basis in sensations from early in his career (learning as much from neuroscience as from the philosophy he studied as a graduate at Oxford). In his clinical work, Bion established what we might now recognize as the essentially prosthetic nature of human sensation, on which is based experience and knowledge formation. The several sensation-distinctions that organize Bion’s treatment of psychic experience operate in ways that foreshadow Baudrillard’s discussions of the merging of bio-physio-anatomical sciences. Bion’s theoretical discussions help to complicate distinctions between classical functionalism (the notion of the machine as an extension of the natural body or psyche) and what Baudrillard calls mortal “deconstruction”: the “extension of death” that the body undergoes when its parts merge with, or are confused with, machine parts (as in his reading of J. G. Ballard’s Crash from Simulation and Simulacra). Bion does not talk of lost unity (which Baudrillard believes still remains the horizon of psychoanalysis) but rather he talks, like Baudrillard himself, of psychic experience built out of disparate sensations through kinds of projection and defense. The notion of projection central to both thinkers (Bion’s projective identification and Baudrillard’s three orders of simulacra) serves as a kind of catastrophic mediation that “middles” rather than mediates.
For Bion the environment is characterized at the earliest stages by what he calls an “ambiance” that is structured by objects or things. This ambiance also represents the world of the psychotic patient. Bion talks of “the diffusion of sensuous particles” that, in the form of words, is projected into the inside of external objects, providing them with characteristics of whatever sense has been projected into them. If sight or hearing has been projected into an object, then this object will be experienced as looking at or listening to the person. These objects represent the furniture that normally outfits dreams, but with psychotic patients they function as part of their everyday life.
Even when not identified as psychotic, this environmental ambiance might function as a continuation of the dream state into the waking state. In a seminar from 1976 he talks about this in the context of sensation. The individual’s three “long distance probes” – the senses of smell, eyesight and hearing – are very sensitive, he says. These senses put the individual in touch with objects that are beyond physical contact and, perhaps, present things one doesn’t want to see at all. “Suppose,” he says, “it becomes really penetrating,” and he provides an example:
There is a medieval drawing of a person shoving his head through a sort of adamantine shell and is then able to observe the universe that lies outside. If astronomy actually enabled the individual to penetrate into space, then there might easily be an objection to that – a violent objection against all these radio telescopes and so forth, a wish to destroy them all because they made life so uncomfortable – it is so much nicer to be blind and deaf (Bion, 2005:7) [Bion appears to be talking about the so called “Flammarion Woodcut,” an anonymous wood engraving supposedly representing the medieval world picture. Its first documented appearance is in Camille Flammarion's 1888 book L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire,and it has been widely circulated].
3. L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire (Camille Flammarion, 1888:163)
Bion’s point here, confirmed when one makes reference to his clinical writings, would be that the inextricable attachment of psychic processes to sensations from the earliest stages of an individual’s life means that a certain level of pain cannot be avoided. Two concise articles especially capture Bion’s clinical position. They are both found in Bott Spillius (1988): “If you are not willing to pay the price of the inescapable fact of pain, then you get reduced to a situation in which you try to isolate yourself” (5). Physical isolation might involve shutting yourself off from the world: “draw the blinds, turn out the lights, have the telephone cut off, stop reading the newspapers and keep yourself in a situation of complete isolation” (Ibid). But mentally this is not possible by virtue of the long distance probes, the senses, open uncontrollably at all times to pressures and sensations. The reference above (and throughout) to prosthetic tele-technologies is of course significant. Tele-technologies feature often in the psychoanalysis of psychotic patients, as one might expect. Herbert Rosenfeld (1971) includes an especially harrowing account of a patient who experienced being “pulled inside the television” during the Mexican Olympics, to the extent of becoming fused with the situations depicted:
He complained that he was drawn into the hot climate of Mexico which made him feel that being there would make him well. He was also compelled to look at the athletes, or wrestlers and weightlifters and felt he was, or ought to be, one of them. He asked me questions: Why do I have to be an athlete? Why can’t I be myself? (Rosenfeld, 1971:130).
Bion speculates on the existence – acknowledged by embryologists – of the foetus’s auditory and optic pits and the nasal passage, and he wonders when these actually become functional. “I think,” he says, “that, at some point, the foetus can be so subjected to these changing pressures that long before it changes from a watery fluid to a gaseous one – the air, birth – it does its best to be rid of the whole lot” (Ibid.:6). For Bion, it is only by tolerating these pressures that a system of thinking can be developed. The impossible desire to be, as he puts it, blind and deaf, manifests not only in psychosis but also in dreams [but]:
There are very few individuals who have any respect for the continuation of those dreams when they are wide awake. They are not even likely to admit having them, because they know that the rest of us will call them hallucinations or delusions – as we all know, the authorities in some places are at pains to shut people up where they can do little harm – inside mental institutions (Ibid.:7-8).
His point is not so much to criticize the practice of incarceration but more to draw attention to several of the ways in which such “shutting in” or “shutting up” occurs, thus making thought – in certain situations – impossible. Drugs, including alcohol and other soporifics, would be one of the ways; but ideas themselves in certain conditions can have the same effect.
Bion’s thoughts on prosthetic extension correspond to Baudrillard’s identification of the body’s “mortal deconstruction ... not in the pejorative illusion of a lost unity of the subject (which is still the horizon of psychoanalysis), but in the explosive vision of a body delivered to ‘symbolic wounds,’ of a body confused with technology in its violating and violent dimension” (1994:111). Baudrillard’s own earlier speculations, especially in The System of Objects, are informed by the psychoanalytic accounts of paranoid projection, which allow the hypothesis that Man projects his sexuality into his technologies in order to control it, to tame, it or to domesticate it. This is already a developed account of what (in Symbolic Exchange and Death ( 1993) will become the second order of simulacra. Using Jacques Lacan’s revision of Freud and concept of the phallus (the “signifier” as material image represented by the male sexual organ) Baudrillard’s readings of robotic and automated technology especially illustrate this underlying hypothesis of projection. In The System of Objects (1968) he speculates that the narrative of the self-destructive robot in revolt represents the attempt by man to tame his own sexuality (the dangerous phallus); but that once projected onto the outside this is turned against him:
If we carry the Freudian view to its logical conclusion, we cannot but wonder whether this is not man’s way of using technology in its utmost demented incarnations to celebrate the future occurrence of his own death, his way of renouncing his own sexuality in order to be quit of all anxiety (1968:132).
So in the later reading of science fiction (from Simulacra and Simulation, 1994) a further development is necessary (corresponding with the third order). Tele-technologies, which already are prosthetic extensions of the body and the constituted self, have now developed so much of what the self invests in its objects that there is no functional difference between the two: no self, no object. The tank can thus be regarded as something like the symbolic extension of robotic, automated technology into the glorified, willed, death of the subject itself. Tanks are the projections, manifestations or reflections of what Derrida calls “prosthetics at the origin,” but they materialize a prosthetics destined to destroy itself. The projection of the senses into the battlefield outfits the tank as body; and a tank team is made up of the necessary parts of the functioning machine, the internal organs of the tank itself.
Just as the exoskeleton of the tank returns to its prosthetic origin to reveal the origin itself as prosthesis, so too the various tele-technologies return to their sensate origins. These projections, intended as defenses to protect the vulnerable self and body, also provide extensions to death – indeed they are also literally extensions of death. The supposed division between the rational body and the irrational one – in this “mortal destruction of the body” – disappears. The semiurgy of the body appears in the metallurgy of the tank.
IV. Landscapes and Tanks
Chris Dobrowolski’s Landscape Escape is a sculpture in the form of a tank constructed of Constable landscape reproductions and bits of garden machinery all purchased from car boot sales in and around Essex. The sculpture can actually move about, and fire shoots out of its mock gun barrel. Dobrowolski’s sculpture conflates landscape, tank, and technologies of simulation, as well as the historicity of all these. If the tank is the trench made mobile, then Dobrowolski’s sculptural tank is a pastoral made mobile, an extension of the landscape turned lethal, which is, of course, how a military tank affects its landscape: the battlefield. The very prostheses that allow the tank commander to lay bare the entire landscape for the tank’s gunner, to render it as fully visible and therefore obscene, are those that attempt to contain and manufacture the entire battle process within integral reality.
The prostheses of the industrial age,” Baudrillard writes: “are still external, exotechnical. We are in the soft age of technologies – genetic and mental software. As long as these prostheses of the industrial golden age were mechanical, they still returned to the body to modify its image – conversely, they themselves were metabolized in the imaginary and this technological metabolism was also part of the image of the body (1994:100).
The shift from the second order of simulation to the third is realized in our scenario in the image of the tank as body entering the landscape through the hardware and software that makes it all visible. We shift from Bion’s energetic extension of the self in its tele-technologies to the unifying power of integral reality. The sensate experience itself is modified by the imaginary, the body recast as a mobile screen interacting with clearly articulated networks, the self a plasma afloat in a sea of endless extensions of which tank, prostheses, and landscape are but arbitrary boundaries. There is nothing but total immersion in hyperreality, in which “the routinized violence of war” has added to it “the equally routinized violence of the images.” (Baudrillard, 2005: 77) Within integral reality, the brain itself has become a screen, and all of our senses are made aesthetic “in the worst sense of the term” (Ibid.:79)
Combining the Constable reproductions in the form of a tank, or as tank skin, Dobrowolski alludes obliquely to the iconography of tanks themselves while simultaneously commenting slyly on the conversion of nature into landscape as a site of war and a target for military technology. For the technology to perform as it should, the terrain must disappear, become irrelevant and immaterial via virtualization.
Thus, the many photos of tanks in advertisements by manufacturers, books by military historians and websites by military enthusiasts show the tank in the landscape, running over it, whizzing through it, firing into it, emptying its armaments into its horizon with the frame often cropping any target, any enemy, any foe. The landscape itself seems targeted both materially (by the tank) and immaterially through its incorporation or absorption to different extents into the stages of simulation. Dobrowolski’s sculpture is, for one exhibition (in one of its poses), perched or wedged on a television.
4. Sculpture – Chris Dobrowolski. Landscape Escape
The tank becomes the bearer of realism into the battlefield, propped up by that most pervasive purveyor of hyperrealism and the immediacy of the hyperreal: the television. His tank, in this pose, seemingly combines all three levels of Baudrillard’s simulation but in slightly problematic ways. The realism practiced by Constable apparently operates in the first order of the simulacra, in the Classical tradition of mimesis, supposedly restoring through representation the ideal of nature as formed by God. But Constable’s practice more directly aligns with the second order of the simulacra, the Nietzschean one found in “the materialization by the machine” of a productive order predicated on the unleashing of energy. Constable converting his rough sketches of landscapes into the vast Realist canvases of nature exemplifies the Promethean unleashing of the forces of production to institute a regime of reproduction and simulation. By having his tank moored on a television, like a World War I tank wedged in the enemy trench, Dobrowolski emphasizes the tendency of the order of simulacra to absorb the gap found between one order and the next. The gap between them closes in the pincers of the integral reality’s relentless drive to completion. The power of the third order, which is neither classical nor Nietzschean, is its capacity of absorption.
If Constable’s apparent attempt to replicate created nature in realist painting actually manifests the steady release of productive energy, then he already displays the ease with which the first order and second order close, eliminating the gap between them. Dobrowolski’s sculpture marks the productivity of the gap by detailing its closure. The gap between the first and second orders has been covered up by the reproduction as tank covering, landscape as camouflage, and mobility as wrecked on a delivery system of the electronic image. If camouflage is supposed to make the tank blend into its landscape, the realist paintings covering this tank make it stand out. That which is supposed to make nature invisible as in the first order of simulation, in fact allows us to see the machine.
By wearing its landscape on its skin, this tank enters its environment as the machinery of the simulacrum itself, as well as anything that is mobilized as defense against its order. The tank manifests the closed loop of projection and defense endlessly folding back onto itself, imagining an external reality (nature) wholly consumed by internal projections (simulation). In the complex interaction between reproductions and the tank, Landscape Escape performs as if the gap between orders of simulation remained open, as if in their confusion the always potentially traitorous power of representation and the productive force of the machine remained marked by a fundamental difference, which in the third order is threatened or already absorbed. Landscape Escape dramatizes this gap between orders of simulation, a gap where there may be a space for critical thought but which is endlessly appropriated by integral reality.
The Great Game takes the form of a quandary: the means to extract oneself from the integral reality driving the Great Game can only be found in that which cannot be used. The analogy between Baudrillard’s account of Great Game and the fortunes of the tank indicates a certain inevitability of failure that is nonetheless increasingly difficult to express. If the history and development of the tank is the inevitable result of attempts repeatedly to solve the problems of the scenarios of military engagement, then it not only exhibits the key principles according to which the technological sphere develops but it also indicates the ways available to anyone who wishes to engage this Great Game – the twin action of Integral Reality and Dual Drive. One would have to act in such a way that this inevitability is reserved, withdrawn even, from the game itself or held back from it, for it remains the last space of a critical response. However, no form of action that utilizes this space, if Baudrillard is correct, can be made that would not be immediately re-appropriated to the game itself. Perhaps the maintenance of a gap or a failure, without putting it into action, remains the only task left for critical thought.
Somehow wedged between the first and second orders of simulacra, between the sorcery of forged images, false likenesses, and motorized, mass produced machines, we are as if projected into the tank wedged across a TV. We can neither move forward to control our future, nor reach back as if to return to some idealized state. Such states are anyway endlessly simulated in the hyperreal. The imperative is twofold. First the simulations of the hyperreal must be exposed as such. But, second, our desires to denounce motorized and militarized technologies might be directed by the first side of this imperative, which would involve the acknowledgment that, in our very act of denunciation, the moral law rises up again (a law that in its politicized forms would regulate or control and thus manifest the forces it disapproves of) to confirm all the more powerfully the hyperreal itself.
Ryan Bishop teaches at the National University of Singapore and has published on critical theory, military technology, avant-garde aesthetics, urbanism, architecture, literature, and international sex tourism. He co-edits with John Armitage and Doug Kellner the journal Cultural Politics (Berg). In addition to other works, he is co-author with John Phillips of Modernist Avant-Garde Aesthetics and Contemporary Military Technology: Technicities of Perception (Edinburgh University Press 2010).
John W. P. Phillips teaches in the Department of English at the National University of Singapore. He has published on philosophy, literature, critical theory, psychoanalysis, aesthetics, military technology, urbanism and Asian cities. Along with Ryan Bishop, Mike Featherstone, and Couze Venn, he is one of the editors of the New Encyclopaedia Project (Volume I: Problematizing Global Knowledge; Volume II (in preparation): Mega cities: Problematizing the Urban). He is the co-author, with Ryan Bishop, of a forthcoming book on modernist aesthetics and military technology. He has just completed a manuscript on Jacques Derrida and is currently researching a project on autoimmunity in biotechnology and political philosophy.
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