andalus: (silence)
[personal profile] andalus
I was walking along 14th street and in one of those old red fire signal boxes (I guess that's what they are), someone had emptied out the box part and installed inside a death mask, brightly painted in pastels, both uncanny and festive. At the bottom was scrawled the name of the artist and "'05," because there is no wrong time for self-advertisement. I was taken aback at first but then amused (I was waiting at a crosswalk so had some time to stare at it.) And while staring I kept thinking that it would, or should, start moving, mouth words at me. Like the talking computer terminals in that Doctor Who episode.

But I realized as I thought this, that if this did happen, if this art piece would start talking, I would be first taken aback but then amused --- amused not that something otherworldly was happening, but the opposite: amused at the ingenuity of the artifice. The movies and TV shows I've watched have prepared me for it; it wouldn't be anything new; the interest would be in the new context not in the spectacle itself. And I thought, must there have been a time when seeing something new and strange would be an actual surprise, suprise that then maybe years later would be replicated on a screen: not movie magic in real life, but real magic on a screen. Not that one should ever believe in magic, but that our spectacle-saturated world has precluded even the possibility of something unexpected happening. A talking face in a fire call box would not ask me to rethink my conception of reality, just to look for the artifice that would confirm my belief in reality. But artifice implies truth, a substrate of authenticity that artifice serves to occlude. In a world where we are taught to never believe our eyes, what do we believe in? Our beliefs. But if all is artifice, how are beliefs ever going to be adjusted?

*

Baudrillard anticipates a post-fact society, does Baudrillard anticipate fake news and the media echo chamber? Sure, nothing's new. If anything what's new is that in general we don't realize it's old. The internet has a veneer of newness that is trusted more than the old racisms and tribalism that it is re-offering. Maybe when people are more used to social media it will start to lose its enstupifying powers. Maybe the current abuses of narrowcasting and talk radio will be seen in the future as irresponsible. Like when civilians in the 50s tried to use nuclear radiation to grow better garden plants. Or, this is a new normal, and all sides will simply have to get used to exploiting it. And I mean all sides. The Bernie bros were just as fast and loose with facts as the conservatives.

The fact that the left gets most of its news from comedians probably doesn't help much. Is sarcasm the crutch of the left as indignation is of the right?
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