Jean Baudrillard cultivated the idea of simulacra – basically, another word for ‘simulation’. It’s derived from the latin word simulacrum, which means ‘similar’. To some extent, a simulation is something that is a representation of the real – moreover, something designed to make you think that it’s real (almost like virtual reality).
Here’s A Famous One – Michaelangelo’s ‘Statue Of David’. What people really looked like in those days, or just a representation of how people wanted to look / be remembered? How much can the realism of the representation be trusted?
Simulacra is a simple simulation, but when applied to social theory, it becomes that all-dominating idea that the government has us trapped in a dream land, where our needs are acknowledged and catered for by the government through the media, and that we are surrounded by the ‘nanny state’ so much so, we do not even notice. A simple notion to prove this theory is money – what is money? Currency? If it is what it is, then the reality is that is metal and paper designed in a certain way as to have meaning of value. But that is not what most people deem as reality – realistically, it promises a surplus of power if you collect a lot of it (and hence, the ‘Will To Power’ is thus catered for).
Baudrillard argued that everything in western society was superficial, but also any society with a government also fell by a similar code of conduct. Any masses being controlled by the media were being subjected to constructs of morality – told to live in a certain way, and do certain things. Although this was once a necessity to allow us to advance as a species, now it is simply a means to stop humanity advancing, and simply to keep some in power, and some strictly without – usually tied to the aforementioned ‘capital’.
Baudrillard argued that actual reality doesn’t exist anymore – I’m not sure I agree so much, going up north onto ice flats and seeing the Northern Lights is about as real as it gets. No governments up there, just the planet we (and our ancestors) were born on. However, I understand what he’s saying about society – reality only exists if you take society out of the picture.
We are so used to the ‘normal’ and the social norms that we adapt to it – normality is reality. But when you think that normality is just constructed upon what has gone before – namely, the development of capitalism – than you realise just how much of your humanity has been taken away. ‘Ignorance is bliss’ – staying in the dream world might just work for you, although may also leave you with a rather bitter taste in your mouth come the dying of the light (a wry notion I picked upon in my poem Two Minutes). Conformity can get you through life, but it will rarely bring happiness, and only leave you with the same confused feeling as everyone else – what has it all been for?
Free Your Mind – This movie really brings it all together. If you still see nothing more than a sci-fi film about robots in this scene, then you need to do some revision. What was dressed as a Hollywood blockbuster not only broke the standard for visual effects, but also smartly dressed a very political film into a big-budget movie accessible to the masses. All I know is, I’ll never look at it the same way again!
Now I, for one, do not consider myself normal. A lot of people don’t – a lot of people tell me they hate labels, even when they clearly fit into one. A lot of people tell me they are unique, even though they wear what’s in fashion and listen to chart music. A lot of people try to conform whilst retaining an identity, whilst at the same time declaring that they ‘are not a number’. But it’s totally by the by – the lecturer in the session a few weeks back told us that we were all conforming to the system one way or another. Well then, let’s try this out for size:
I was largely raised by my mum, so Freud’s psycho-sexuality predicts that I’m pretty much stuffed from the word go in terms of adhering to social norms (I have no male role model, and thus cannot psychologically reinforce my masculine needs and traits). As a result, I have no friends at school, as I’m too feminine to hang out with the boys, but being a man, unable to truly hang out with the girls also. Subsequently, I find myself with a lot of time on my hands, but clearly not adhering to social norms, decide to do what any kid of my age could only do in those circumstances – create an imaginary world and grow up in there.
Time passes, people grow up. People learn a reality that is reinforced to them. Essentially, I don’t. Then we hit puberty – the last chance to get some normality in before the mind is set forever. Puberty only allows me to acknowledge one thing – I do not fit in with school crowds. But going to college I suddenly have certain freedoms, and thus explore the reasons for this strange life that I lead (doing A-Level Psychology had nothing to do with this… honest!). Self-exploration and social experimentation leads me to start hanging out with all manner of odd people and a variety of cultures. I discover rock and roll, and heavy metal, but also dub-step, urban and dance. I watch all sorts of world cinema films, and open myself up to almost every sub-culture going in an attempt to ‘find myself’.
17 to 19 – Making this just before going to university, I encapsulate my discovery of rock as I turn seventeen, my exploration of the ’emo’ scene, growing my hair long and turning eighteen, and then at nineteen, dropping the eyeliner for the shades. Four different stages of a very experimental time for me. Oddly, university has been – so far – a much quieter time.
I explore with personal passions – there’s an odd female counterpart here and there. I invent the ‘casual goth coat’ – the first in Nottingham to wear a goth coat with jeans and trainers as far as I’m aware. However, I cannot commit to relationships – I later realise this is due to a career-driven existence, reinforced by the fact that not only have I grown up in isolation, but that I have also almost come to depend upon my isolation to operate to my full capacity, as it is now the state of ‘normality’ that I have come to learn.
Whilst people around me fight with heartbreak, drug experimentation and alcohol abuse, suddenly I reach my latent teenage years and young adult years at University. Here, I accept that I am not the social norm of a man. Rather, I am quite proud of it – I am a person who has never really escaped a genuine ‘dream world’, but ironically never seemed to have fallen into the capitalist dream world everyone else is in. I’m almost like the ‘Omega Man’ – am I really less of a human because I don’t adhere to social norms, or am I simply an older version? Given that most of my masculinity came from the media, I should theoretically be the perfect male – quiet, mysterious, brave, courageous, adventurous, tough, emotionally controlled, driven, honest, intelligent, firm, and able to demonstrate extreme confidence in ability should the need arise. It doesn’t work in practice, perhaps because most people believe that ‘perfect men’ do not exist. Unfortunately, that’s the only version of ‘masculinity’ that I understand, and have always striven to meet all of the above traits within my own character.
Thus, my iPod is littered with classical composers. I know latin quotes. I write poetry. I have an in-depth knowledge of movies and albums alike. I am at both times very popular and very unpopular. People know that I’m friendly, trustworthy, and value every friendship that I have. People also know that, despite these traits, I am unpredictable, hard to read, emotionally detached, and rather lost in terms of wanting social interaction. I can adhere to social norms, but for me it is a conscious choice. This is the only thing that stops me from failing – namely, the intelligence to know how to play the perception of ‘normality’ in my favour. I cannot change who I am, and I cannot change the way people perceive me. All I can do is strive to meet the above traits. If I succeed, then my consciousness is always clear, and in that I find peace of mind. Sure, I conform to some social norms (like ethical morality), but then again there’s certainly a lot that I don’t. And what does a youth of this style bring to the table? Ideas for films of course, and an ability to make more on demand. Never has there been more of a need for originality in the media than there is at present.
Mini life story over, I can see most people do conform to social norms sooner or later. You need to have been ‘blessed’ with a particularly lucky childhood to be like me (don’t worry, there are plenty of people out there pretending to be like me). It makes me wonder just how close you actually came in your childhood to becoming a full-blown ‘crazy person’, and you just have to thank your lucky stars that that didn’t happen. This all sounds narcissistic, but actually it’s me being brutally honest (as is the trend of my media productions of late). It’s not really a life I chose, it’s just the cards life dealt me, and I play them as best I can (as opposed to complaining). At this point, here are two well-known quotes I have often cited throughout my academic career:
“To be normal is the ideal aim of the unsuccessful.” – Carl Gustav Jung
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein
I cannot manipulate the world around me to make people see the world through my eyes, or my perspective of reality (after all, that’s what creating my short films is about!). However, some conceptual artists certainly caught my eye in their attempts to break through the social norms of the world around them, and make people think a little more for themselves. Having had conformity programmed into them since childbirth, it is highly unlikely that these artists will ever be able to spark a revolution or inspire these people to change a country. It makes me wonder then why they do it – for art or self expression? For a statement, perhaps? Or maybe they do it for another reason – perhaps they are, just like me, alienated from the world around them. Perhaps, just for a little while, they want to show their true colours and be themselves for once. Filming it creates a spectacle, as nobody else in their right minds would be able to create the situations they do. Gillian Wearing was one artist highlighted to us in a seminar, but dancing in public has been a concept done frequently for a while now. Here are just some immediate examples that come to mind:
If you fancy taking the idea of creating a spectacle a little further, you can always try this!
Situationists were also a movement dedicated to waking people up from the dream world all around them – as Guy Debord would put it, ‘the society of the spectacle’. This group believed in identifying a spectacle, committing a ‘derive’ which alerted the audience to the true nature of the spectacle they were seeing, and then doing the ‘detournement’, where they reconstructed the spectacle in a different way – sometimes in their favour. The situationists were more political artists, with their ideologies rooted in Marxism. However, they made changes to Marx’s theory of ‘direct action into Socialism’, in so much that they believed that waking people from the dream world would be enough to overthrow the government, rather than taking direct action against the government itself (i.e. the quest was more to liberate the minds of the masses to bring down the elite, rather than destroying the elite to liberate the masses). Debord explains (very academically) below:
The implications of this for the modern-day revolutionaries are that protesting in the form of general strike action would be seen as favorable over protest marches or destroying buildings. Indeed, this has been taken into consideration, as a general strike is planned for November 30th across the UK. Personally, I believe all theories have a point to them, and they are all in their own way correct – namely, to make the most impact, you would need to do all variety of protests in a short period of time, taking into account all the evolutionary theorists in order to make the most impact (leaving no stone unturned, as it were).
As a final word, it seems that I am put at a rather strange point in my life. My childhood ambition was always to use my creative ‘spark’ to assist the media industry in any way I could, yet my instinct tells me that if I have grown outside of the system, surely to pursue a career down that path would be met with difficulties. These difficulties I am most certainly willing to meet, but nonetheless, one cannot hope but be curious about what fate has in store for us – particularly during our last year of university. Where will life take us all next?