Murdering the Original?

In Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulations,” Baudrillard discusses the effects that simulation and existence of simulacra have on society. For the most part, according to Baudrillard, simulacra is always of a secondary source—it is always outside of the original and a secondary to the authentic.

Baudrillard lists the successive phases of a generated mirror image, and each is only a byproduct of the authentic. Each phase seems to work upon the original in a degenerative way: “it is the reflection of a basic reality” (which is an imposter), “it masks and perverts a basic reality” (covers, defaces, lessens its value), “it masks the absence of a basic reality” (misleads by false substitution when the original has been swapped or pilfered, think of a jewel thief leaving a bag of rocks in place of the Holy Grail), “it bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum” (think: a badly projected hologram of a fictional character, or even a cartoon character). Baudrillard, p. 5

Baudrillard makes the point that with time an original gets copied, the sacredness or goodness, of the authentic is sacrificed to a degree.

“The difference is then always maintained, as in the case of that perfect

The Iconoclasts named their price because they defined their own worth; they defined their own good in the eyes of God and value on the Earth. To see them and mimic in their goodness was simply that, it could be argued, a mimickry, not something of original divinity, therefore mildly denigrated in worth.

Like the print product off an old-fashioned Ditto machine, with each new copy produced, the ink would run down more and more and the resulting products would be lighter and lighter with each round of copying, and harder to read.

Compare that to the modern age of printing to a lazer printer from the same source digital file. Two copies printed one after the other of the same term paper for example. The quality of both print outs would be virtually identical (though it could be argued, whichever page was printed second would have been produced on an ink reserve minutely lessened from the production of the immediately preceding print job, but regardless, the degeneration would be much less compared to the products of the ancient Ditto system).

Better examples of degeneration are all over the place in fiction. Take Gremlins, for example. Gizmo was a fairly well-behaved little monster. But each time he got wet, the resulting offspring that sprung from his skin each round were less well-behaved and had worse grooming habits, eating habits, etc. The copies of the original became progressively more and more deviant. This theme has also been the basic for an episode of the Simpsons when Homer gets cloned, and was also the premise of an embarrassingly bad Michael Keaton movie, (See “Multiplicity”). The moral of these tales of fiction is that it is dangerous to toy with nature and the product of cloning results in progressively foreign beings, more and more full of evil, defects and deviation to a greater and greater exponent the further away the copy gets from the original.

These are reproductions of the individual’s nuclear half-life.

However, instead of thinking of this progressive degeneration as inevitably “murdering the original,” there is another side to this argument.

Advancing technologies means that the integrity of the quality of an original might be may be better preserved and maintained when reproduced. Like the advancement of laser printers in advancing the quality of print-production, in pretty much all aspects of creating art and industry new ways to copy the original are constantly getting improved. And the same is true for science.

Baudrillard ventures (but not too far) into DNA and RNA and the ways that coded information about every living individual can be read and similations might be produced. Now stem cells can be grown from bodily byproducts such as embryonic fluid, even menstrual blood. The possibilities for applications in building and rebuilding human systems and the ways that advancements in reproduction are developing mean longer lives for more individuals, and for many the proliferation of family lines.

In art, as in print, technology and many areas of industry, the creation of less-expensive copies means wider dissemination. For example, millions of copies of the same volume of literature receive wider circulation. What sustains the life of information, as art, as literature in the public’s mind is access to it—a large distribution pool. Therefore, the ability to make copies of the original that are equal, or almost exactly equal, in quality adds to the shelf-life. So is these ways, the simulation helps support the longevity and vitality, as well as its preservation.

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3 Responses to “Murdering the Original?”

  1. christinatx Says:

    I like how you addressed the topic of longevity and preservation. I didn’t think about when I was writing my post. That’s a good perspective. Creating replicas with printing is a great benefit and enables us to share works that previously would not be accessible to the masses.

  2. I agree that authenticity is hard to find these days. In fact, authenticity is the art of hiding copy. One way to look for art’s authenticity is therefore to get down to to discuss what has made some original work of art important to its best followers.When one agrees to understand and interpret the actual work, the meaningfulness of it all will quickly take care of itself.

  3. Sorry please ignore my earlier comment :

    New Comment : You have brought out a valid argument. Your analogy between art and printing is perfect. Also, cloning as an example of degeneration is apt in this context. Just like cloning brings out a deviant being, copies of art bring about a new form with less quality

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