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ISSN: 1705-6411

Volume 4, Number 3 (October, 2007).

Special Issue: Remembering Baudrillard

Burying A Ghost: On Baudrillard – Not An Obituary1


The Last Vehicle Website

            In the days after Baudrillard's death, the world was treated to a number of obituaries that mined the moment for opportunities to play up/with his work, most notably Steven Poole's obituary in The Guardian which bore the opening sentence "Baudrillard’s death did not happen". This is perhaps the inescapable result of wanting to pay tribute to someone's work using a medium and a tradition with which he would no doubt be uncomfortable. My own discomfort sprang from the constant references to The Matrix and his role in inspiring that film. I thought it was sad that all his great work was being reduced to its relationship to a film which he said misread him. But that initial sadness – mitigated only by the recognition of the journalistic need to translate his contributions into pop – made way eventually for a suspicion that mourning for Baudrillard by invoking the memory of The Matrix was, in certain ways, appropriate.
            The entire exercise gestures towards his broader argument, for indeed it points to his (and our) disappearance into an economy of signs, into tele-centrism and self-referential media. It seems to say that tele-technologies and their infinite availability come at the price of a full, corpuscular immersion (one that transcends distinctions between life and death), that Baudrillard was doomed by "the curse of the screen" and that he has, not despite but precisely because of his critiques, finally and completely entered "the fluid substance of the image." Such irony I think is worth more than a collective chuckle, for it goes beyond even the collapsing of such persistent splits like spectator/image and reader/text; it also reminds us that the critic is plugged into the object of critique. This is complicity in its most obvious form.
            Yet, I still do not know if obituaries make sense in this case, especially with the inescapable specter of The Matrix. I know that the intention is to preserve his legacy, (ala time capsule, that tool we use to bury the signs of the present in the future, here perhaps for archival research), but it still feels like we are dressing him, wrapping him up, masking his disappearance. Baudrillard once said that behind each image something has disappeared and that behind each news item an event has disappeared. But I keep wondering what it is that we are dis-appearing here. It's an unanswerable question, since all we had was the sign (the image, the news item); we are, in other words, burying a ghost – a task that is really as ridiculous as it sounds.

© thelastvehicle.blogspot.com


1 A longer version of this article appeared on the website of The Last Vehicle on March 15, 2007: http://thelastvehicle.blogspot.com/2007/03/on-baudrillard-not-obituary.html


© International Journal of Baudrillard Studies (2007)

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