Baudrillard’s Concept of Hyperreality

 

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Jean Baudrillard

 

 

 

 

 

Baudrillard‘s concept of hyperreality is closely linked to his idea of Simulacrum, which he defines as something which replaces reality with its representations. Baudrillard observes that the contemporary world is a simulacrum, where reality has been replaced by false images, to such an extent that one cannot distinguish between the real and the unreal. In this context, he made the controversial statement, “The Gulf war did not take place”, pointing out that the ‘reality’ of the Gulf War was presented to the world in terms of representations by the media.

 

In his book Simulations, Baudrillard offered four basic historic phases of the sign: 1) there is truth, a basic reality which is faithfully represented, as in the paintings of LS Lowry, which represent the monotony and repetitiveness of life in 20th century Britain.

2) Reality exists but is distorted in representation, as in the Victorian artist John Atkinson Grimshaw‘s paintings of Liverpool and Hull (Life in these cities was grim and dull but the paintings present a glamourised and romanticised image.

3) Reality does not exist, but this fact is hidden through representation that feigns a reality (Rene Magritte‘s painting in which, what is shown beyond the window is not reality, but another sign which.has no semblance with reality).

4) There is no relationship between the reality and representation, because there is no real to reflect (the abstract paintings of Mark Rothko).

According to Baudrillard, Western society has entered this fourth phase of the hyperreal.In the age of the hyperreal, the image/ simulation dominates. The age of production has given way to the age of simulation, where products are sold even before they exist. The Simulacrum pervades every level of existence.

Examples from contemporary everyday life include the creation and remoulding of virtual selves (that may seldom have any basis on reality) ,in internet chat rooms and disussion groups; and the twenty-four hour news channels that bombard us with information proves that the representation is more Important than what is being represented.

 

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