It’s not that we now live as if every potential moment could be photographed/filmed, it’s more that we seem to automatically behave as if there were already the case.
There is almost film-like gestures, sound-bite body movements, perhaps a response to the demand not just that life always be entertaining but that we are also continuously part of the entertainment complex.
Like auto-tune programs for digitally rendered sounds and auto-enhancements for images, there seems to auto-enhance for human bodies, and how we say the words that fall from our mouths. Has late capitalism created individualism for the automaton?
The theories surrounding mass culture/The Society of The Spectacle haven’t become irrelevant, but perhaps they are no longer locatable in contemporary life because it is no longer that the individual is subjected to it – the individual now projects it themselves. (Perhaps, an example of this can be made by watching selections of old adverts on Youtube that show us adverts for products that have now become such a naturalised part of reality they no longer need advertising to us)
Everything that registers as a ‘thought’ in our heads is within the the setting of a film-set of our life. How did thought work before the photogenic and film-like reified our imagination? How can we even tell now?
I’m aware I’m even doing this now, to some extent, as I sit in a cafe writing this on my laptop; I can’t help the inverted spectacle making me act as a photogenic ‘muse’, ‘thinker’ – I’ve literally no idea how I would look if was for once possible to imagine myself without it becoming a stage set in my mind (Would I imagine myself at all?).
Of course, this is just standard observations of a late-capitalist (or postmodern culture) – am I just witnessing a higher saturation of it than the Sci Fi writers could have imagined 30 years ago? Not only is integrity gutted and then subsumed, but even ironic self-reflex (thought of as the ultimate postmodern reflex) is also (re)gutted and (re)subsumed into the stratosphere of late capitalism.
Is it also the case that I independently re-spot things, without the once-read thoughts of the likes of Baudrillard, Barthes, Debord doing the terminology for the signs I see? And this annoys me that any comprehensive account of my own is continuously stop-started, and finally exhausted, more than it (probably) annoys an academic who says “yeah, this [writing] says nothing new”.
Yet I still believe there has been a shift, regarding the behavioural patterns specific to this pseudo-essay of mine, in the past 10 years. I don’t think the photogenic, cinematic posturing was so naturalised over ten years ago; I believe it still had to be attempted, to some extent – an ideal way of looking, walking, talking that we had to mimic. Now it no longer needs thought to be mimicked, as individualist automatons.
Obviously the question arises: does it matter? Is it so bad if we all now walk around in auto-enhance, automatically communicating with each other as if it’s for a final cut? It matters only if we believe that there is a common reality base that we all share; that if I punch a wall I will feel pain, and the person I demonstrate this to will agree that that pain is an unquestionable realness.
If life is graceful enough to us, we can accept that nothing may be real, and rejoice in the further abstraction from base reality. But if we do this, then what need is there for any empathy for the sobering suffering spilling out onto our streets more and more as part and parcel of the same late capitalist dynamics that enable abstraction from it? Why care about anything?
We can’t NOT care, eventually, when the things we ignore as relative realities catch up with friends, family, ourselves. Further acceptance of this advance of what Baudrillard called ‘Hyper reality’ will only come back to bite our pain feeling bodies.
Traces of a genuine article seem to generate the emotions that the genuine article used to generate but cannot any longer.
Now the world-wide-web has finally encroached (via laptop) upon the territories where I use my time to make artwork, I have begun to use Youtube to play new music/new sounds to my ears, which are thirsty for just this due to my exhaustion of the music I have listened to way too often, because it resonates with my methods of artistic production. Moments, and certain sounds, in those songs are very important to me, so as well as forcing an initiation with new sounds, I am tempted back to my old staple, but with alternate versions of the said exhausted sounds.
Not as good quality, not as good versions, cover versions, poor live performances, these rejuvenate shivers in me that the original/and landmark (to my ear) ones can no longer create. The ghosts of the past seem to be only awoken through the second hand versions of those special (for bad or worse) moments in my life: the replicas of the songs that bind my life experiences together move me more than the originals can do now, and the issue of replicas extends to other aspects of life (although I’ll not go into all that right now).
The original is of course always a replica (arguably the case even before the first days of mass production), but now we are surrounded by so many replicas of replicas of replicas that the illusion that there can be any genuine article is completely dethroned,often making that closest to the original unable of emotionally touching us; and the further away the replica sounds from the original (and I mean in terms of distance not in re-working of the song structure) the more it moves us possibly by allowing us to have in mind that distant genuine article, that cannot move us once it is at hand.
At one extreme you have the obsession with String music compositions of famous indie tracks (such as The Smiths’ There is a Light That Never Goes Out, and The Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry), and at the other, the even more peculiar 8-bit video-game sound replicas of landmark albums such as Radiohead’s OK Computer. The latter is most intriguing; there’s something strangely moving about listening to the sounds of an album that once made a massive impact on one’s life in the late 1990’s using a kind of sound that made an impact on many caught up in the late 80’s/early 90’s video console era; almost a fusion of two parts that can no longer move in their initially-experienced form. And it works; it reminds you of both more than the original replicas would do if you were to listen to them! It’s almost like having to put an original document through a photocopier to have a copy 100 times removed until you can take the original subject matter from it.
We live in a time where it is evidential that technological advances have done entirely away with the possibility of there being originals/genuine articles. Yet, rather than culture merely being in catch up (as is usually argued), I would speculate that it has actually gone into reverse: it is obsessed with cultural products from the past (which is another much more extensive issue), but can only truly reap their fruits by allowing technology to make it sound/or look further and further away from it’s perceived home (like somebody singing our favourite song to us from a high mountain top), it relies on a medium to deliver the past in ever more detached forms because we cannot get close to the original, because we (culturally) cannot accept that it doesn’t exist. Strangely enough, the musicians who seemed to deal very much so with these issues were artists who were recording music right when we were moving from a capitalism based on analogue technology to a capitalism based on digital technology (the late 1970’s to early 1980’s shift from fordist modes of production to post-fordism); the likes of John foxx, whom the blog title and above lyrics are accredited to, Gary Numan, whose famous album was called ‘Replicas’ and of course the quintessential band of technology; Kraftwerk.
The digital, by multiplying the possibilities for multiplication of already-existing products/works of art threw a culture already confused and distressed by the questions technology asked of it, into a world where anything can be altered/arranged/multiplied at will – the age of the computer. We now live in a peculiar time which (with the potential of sounding daft) is far more futuristic than it seems, and I would speculate that this is because we are desperately rooting through our collective archives trying to find the genuine article, saturated as we are in culture that still demands it exists (and does anything exemplify this better than the phenomenon of Youtube, which is basically one giant tin of photos, seemingly holding all the past – almost acting as a force-field separating us from being able to perceive a future?).