Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Creative Process Journal: The Precession of Simulacra

All is Vanity
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2010
The simulacrum is never what hides the truth - it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true. 

This quote by Ecclesiastes headlines the erudite essay "The Precession of Simulacra" by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007). Although Baudrillard often gives me a headache, I always feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment when I've muddled through his densely written essays. This particular analysis of simulacra has a direct link to the creative work I am doing in creating photographic images based on the garments and found photos in the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection.

In Baudrillard's writings on simulacra and simulation, he explores the relationship between reality, symbols, and contemporary society. Simulacra refers to a representation of something that creates a hyper-reality, becoming more real than the actual object itself.

Baudrillard writes: "It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real, that is to say of an operation of deterring every real process via its operational double, a programmatic, metastable, perfectly descriptive machine that offers all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes (454)"

In the essay, Baudrillard uses Disneyland as a perfect model of simulacra, with an entangled web of illusion, imagination, and technology used to create a banal and sanitized form of hyperreality.

Related to fashion, I offer the example of an image of a fashion model as a simulacra of a woman.  The fashion image is manipulated in Photoshop to create a hyperreal beauty ideal that does not actually exist in real life.

In the case of my creative project, I am layering manipulated images of real historic garments with found photographs of women that might have worn such garments to create a simulacra of a historical narrative that never happened. If Baudrillard were to look at these images, he might say: "When the real is no longer what it was, nostalgia assumes its full meaning" (457). In my project, I am imagining connections between garments and found photographs, and during the lengthy process of photographic restoration and manipulation I feel an intimate connection to the women in the portraits. I feel their presence and a deep sense of nostalgia, just as Baudrillard predicted.

Although I would have liked to include at least one of the images from this series in my post for illustration purposes, the lingering anxiety I feel over the violation of my copyright means prevents me from doing so at this time. The photo "All is Vanity" above also illustrates the concept of simulacra in that I created a hyperreality suggesting the grounds of Versailles as the setting for this series.

To read further:

Baudrillard, Jean. "The Precession of Simulacra." Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Meenakshi Gigi Durham and Doublas M. Kellner. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006.

Notice of copyright: 
All text and images on this blog are the copyright of Ingrid Mida, unless otherwise noted. The copying of posts, images and/or text without proper attribution is violation of copyright and legal action will be pursued.