The more I analyze his thought the more interesting it gets. Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) is super-modern or rather post-modern, he is more post-modern than post-modernity itself, he is self-contradictory, ambiguous, consistently challenging, deliberately cynical and negative… Yet he survives his own probe pushing on an intense, original and evocative thought.
His critique of art cannot be properly understood without the context of his entire work.
His deep distrust shifting towards a complete negation of contemporary art and its meaning is based on a conviction that there is no more reality of meaning (going even further he rejects reality at all: the real no longer exists). All we are left with are omnipresent (via multi-mass-media where an image/sense is being made up for particular interests, not to explain the world), autonomous but self-sabotaging appearances (famous simulacra) – imitations of the real, a copy of a copy (here Plato’s cave comes to mind but Baudrillard goes one step further…) We live among them but we lost any critically intellectual and genuinely emotional access to them, consequently – our meanings are still-born… We still chase metaphysics but if it exists at all – it functions as a caricature of itself, a clone of those appearances being continuously minced and circulating.
What is art in such a world? Well, it’s a shadow of itself… A copy of a copy – a simulation feeding and digesting itself within its own sterile world… An interacting, multi-directional but also very degenerated activity. An image and its sense it creates is like a boomerang – it encircles and returns to itself (as an example – many modern paintings repeat the same abstract, or expressionistic dribbles/blobs scheme) and remains without sufficient power (or even will) to transcend, to reach beyond this catch-22.
Baudrillard’s theory or an attempt of a definition of art appears to be especially thought-provoking in this very context. In a brief :
– It must not work so much in the real world, to transform it in political, social, therapeutic ways – it has to invent scene different than reality.
It’s a thing itself, nothing but a singularity, and as such it cannot be anything in the real world – should be incompatible with reality.
– Its power is to be a genuine metaphysical (beyond physics) adventure, a redeeming illusion and a new dimension.
(you can find a fine elaboration of this issue here)
To sum it up – it’s hardly encouraging for a person starting her adventure with art to hear an acclaimed voice that “Art is gone – every possible artistic form and every possible function of art has been exhausted”… All you can do now is to take a part in a great illusion …
But I’m aware also that it was Baudrillard himself who would call philosophy an art of seduction – if I’m being seduced by his thought – is there any method in it ? I mean, what if he plays a double-inversion game – what you think you get is exactly the opposition what is meant to be true… If the world around is a seduction and a bunch of appearances who can be free from making a seductive art? And wouldn’t be that seductive/disguising art more true than when being a redeeming illusion only? Cannot an illusion be true when the real doesn’t exist? And what next? Since we won’t be able to abandon all art-related and powered humanity on a basis that art has just ended…
I think I must to rethink it all over again…