Baudrillard, Jean · Simulacra and Simulations

Simulacra is the hyperreal. In simulacra’s final state there are no discernible origins. At its beginnings it can be a copy of a copy or an inadequate imitation of reality, but in its final state it becomes reality itself.

Baudrillard gives the example of Disneyland and the closest pop culture reference that comes to my mind is the TV show ‘Westworld’. In Westworld, the artificial robots and narratives acted out for the pleasure of humans becomes reality itself. Westworld’s simulation is irrational, evolving so quickly that it no longer has anything of origin to compare itself to, just like Disneyland. It is a continuous hyperreal state not about imitation, replication, or parody. Disneyland is a place of signifiers without signifieds. It just is.

The Fountain (1917) by Duchamp is simulacra in a nutshell. I’ve seen this work so many times that I no longer see a urinal. It doesn’t resemble its origin anymore, it isn’t about replication or imitation, and is so much more than parody. It just is.

Super Mario Clouds (2002) by Cory Arcangel is a more contemporary approach to simulacra. Like with Duchamp, it barely resembles its origin, it isn’t about replication or imitation, and isn’t about garnering cheap laughs. Watching the video of clouds passing by, I’m not thinking of Super Mario. I’m thinking of clouds.

The instagram account of Miquela chronicles a virtual person who hangs out with real people, makes jokes, is involved in social justice, and interacts with her over one million followers. Miquela is no longer a robot or a person behind the curtain, she is reality itself. Is this more than performance art?

Cao Fei is an artist who works within the virtual world of Second Life, merging identities and realities. Avatars mimic human interactions in an eerie way as boundaries are blurred. What’s real does not matter anymore as it is now the hyperreal.

Skawennati is an artist who uses Second Life, amongst other virtual platforms, to illustrate how First Nations peoples are not just relics of the past but exist in digital, future contemporary spaces. CyberPowWow (1996) was before its time, where people went to a gathering places in order to log onto computers for a CyberPowWow chatroom.

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