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RIP Jean BaudrillardAuthor: Simon Sellars • Mar 7th, 2007 •
According to French Education Minister Gilles de Robien: “We lose a great creator. Jean Baudrillard was one of the great figures of French sociological thought.”
In the wake of Baudrillard’s death at age 77, with homeostatic news sources struggling to redefine hyperreality while churning out great steaming wads of the stuff, return to Baudrillard’s glistening, seductive appraisal of Crash — more a short story taking place in the same fictional universe as Ballard than a work of criticism.
Until now, we have always had large reserves of the imaginary, because the coefficient of reality is proportional to the imaginary, which provides the former with its specific gravity. This is also true of geographical and space exploration: when there is no more virgin ground left to the imagination, when the map covers all the territory, something like the reality principle disappears. The conquest of space constitutes, in this sense, an irreversible threshold which effects the loss of terrestrial coordinates and referentiality. Reality, as an internally coherent and limited universe, begins to hemorrhage when its limits are stretched to infinity. The conquest of space, following the conquest of the planet, promotes either the de-realizing of human space, or the reversion of it into a simulated hyperreality. Witness, for example, this two-room apartment with kitchen and bath launched into orbit with the last Moon capsule (raised to the power of space, one might say); the perceived ordinariness of a terrestrial habitat then assumes the values of the cosmic and its hypostasis in Space, the satellization of the real in the transcendence of Space—it is the end of metaphysics, the end of fantasy, the end of SF. The era of hyperreality has begun.
In Crash, there is neither fiction nor reality—a kind of hyperreality has abolished both… After Borges, but in a totally different register, Crash is the first great novel of the universe of simulation, the world that we will be dealing with from now on: a non-symbolic universe but one which, by a kind of reversal of its mass-mediated substance (neon, concrete, cars, mechanical eroticism), seems truly saturated with an intense initiatory power.”
Jean Baudrillard. Two Essays: 1) Simulacra and Science Fiction.
2) Ballard’s Crash (1991).
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