“Baudrillard never existed for me, only his residue”1
My first experience
with Jean Baudrillard was where most professional academics present their
personalities: on their office door. In this case, it was the door of the now
deceased Dr. Robert Solomon at the University of Texas at Austin’s Philosophy
Department. The sticker was the size of a postcard, the color of safety orange.
If I remember correctly, the art consisted of a grainy bust of an older Jerry
Lewis with the name “Baudrillard” underneath. I have never seen the sticker
since, though I have searched. This began my relationship with Jean
Baudrillard, which, given his subject matter, seems quite appropriate. I was
saddened this morning when I learned he died yesterday. I think that the brief
obituary presented by the New York Times does little justice to the man.
I was fascinated with
Baudrillard before the rise of the World Wide Web in popular culture. His
notions of simulation, reality, and truth and the perception of truth made
their impressions. His remarks on “residue” and meaning made deep impressions
on me. And I believe that I actually understood, to some paltry degree, what he
was saying. In my more dyspeptic and belligerent moments, I think I would
employ his scalpels in a late night analysis of Christendom.
I remember that I was
surprised to see how Baudrillard returned (to some degree) to the American pop
consciousness after September 11. Independently, I remember thinking of
Baudrillard when reading about how people, actually at the scene in Manhattan, described the attack as being “like a movie” as if the whole thing was
simulated. And once reality had been simulated on such a scale – or perceived
to be so – what is left other than our consumerist culture? The very moment
when reality seemed to be heightened, in shock we could not handle belief and
resorted to simulation in order to manufacture disbelief. What politico-media
spectacle resulted in the aftermath needs little commentary right now.
Baudrillard I knew in
mere simulation. I never met him. I only knew him through his media or media
about him. Baudrillard never existed for me, only his residue… much like his
analysis of the First Gulf War. It was merely a media event. Now his death
shall be as well – and only to those for whom such things matter.
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