Contextual and Theoretical Studies 2 – OUDF205 Hyperreality
This essay will demonstrate the concept of ‘Hyperreality’ and how over time it is becoming more a part of reality. Hyperreality is a state of consciousness of the human mind, frequently exists due to people trying to escape the burden of reality. Citations from books and reliable sources of information from online will be used to provide evidence that hyperreality exists and how it intervenes and becomes part of reality. Books that will be used most to provide evidence are Simulacra and Simulation (Baudrillard, 1994), Jean Baudrillard Art & Artefact (Zurbrugg, 1997) and Understanding Media (McLuhan, 2001). Points made will be supported with evidence followed by explanation and analysis.
This essay will cover four main topics that are related to hyperreality and these topics are: (i) hyperreality via mediums (ii) profound reality; (iii) reality tv is not reality, it is hyperreal; (iiii) hyperrealism painting.
Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) was a French philosopher and one of the generations French thinkers that frequently associated with post-structuralism. He was a social critic, cultural theorist, photographer etc. His main notable ideas were hyperreality and Simulacra. Hyperreality is always shaped to the individual’s preference and it depends on the individuals mind. The same story could be heard by many people but all conceive the concept in their own ways, resulting in different realities.
Hyperreality exists only because one wants to be part of a world that imitates the opposite of one’s reality. This becomes an escape route for the person and so hyperreality embeds within the consciousness of a one’s mind. Societies live in hyperreality , which is a fake reality and don’t realize that it is false. One would not be conscious of this face due to believing that what they experience is real. This concludes no questions being asked and no doubts forming in one’s mind. Due to this hyperreality is expanding because it builds around the source that cannot be recognized as hyperreal. An example could be that a woman taking her exam may be in need of her relative, whom she can contact via a mobile phone. Mobile phones can replace the need for one to be at a place at a certain time. This is hyperreal because the relative cannot physically be there but can be there through a portable phone. As McLuhan explains
“…these activities are in some way the ‘content’ of electric light, since they could not exist without the electric light”, (2001, p. 9).
In this case the relative’s presence is the content of the mobile phone because without this medium, it would be impossible to express the presence of the relative without physically being there.
Presence through a medium could result in a negative effect on the relationship between the woman and her relative. The problem of not always being present physically can become an emotional issue in relationships. For example, during the delivery of a child a woman might need her husband physically present with her for moral support and to be part of the process of giving life; this is not possible through a medium and hyperreality is preferred to be avoided. However if the person is abroad and absolutely cannot be present then mediums are an advantage but even so this hyperreal presence cannot replace the necessity of the physical presence of the father. Baudrillards says,
“Either information produces meaning (a negentropic factor), but cannot make up for the brutal loss of signification in every domain. Despite efforts to reinject message and content, meaning is lost and devoured faster than it can be reinjected.” (1994, p. 79).
This is an excellent example of how the meaning of the father being present for his child’s birth is very necessary. If the father was not present at the time of conceiving the child then the child would not be conceived. This is one of the many situations where hyperreality cannot interfere in relationships because there is no need for it.
Films, especially films of fantasy genre, often articulate the reflection and absence of a profound reality. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Gore Verbinski, 2006) portrays the betrayal of reality. The film is set at a time in the past, which does not exist now causing it to be a film of the fiction genre. Although the film does portray the reflection of profound reality because of the characters being human, it also reflects the absence of profound reality. The film portrays fish faced men and the captain, Davy Jones, that offer bargains to any person at sea that is trapped between a life or death situation. Such bargains include a 100 years worth of service on his ship and in return their wishes will be fulfilled. This does not exist in real life, nor will anyone that comes to the aid of a person in need of help can offer such bargains, neither can such bargains be fulfilled. Films like the Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy combine the reflection and absence of a profound reality.
The CG model for the face of Davy Jones is a simulation that
“…threatens the difference between the ‘true’ and the ‘false,’ the ‘real and the ‘imaginary.’” (Baudrillard, 1994, p. 3).
This is three dimensional CG effects pretends to be a faithful copy of the original but has no original. However the copy of people reflected through the human characters pretend to be the copy of the original. It can be argued that they are a copy of people but they characters also have no origin due to them being fiction. This is why the film portrays the reflection and the absence of a profound reality.
Santa Claus also known as Saint Nicholas is a lengendary, mythical and historical figure that has folklore origins. Santa Claus has been copied throughout time and changing his appearance. The red and white theme of his clothes did not occur until Coka Cola was introduced. This proves that neither is real in the sense of profound reality because Santa Claus has been copied many times causing it to lose its origin. This is not real and yet it tries to convince societies that Santa Claus is real and that he originated with the red and white outfit. However this is not true and it has been copied many times making Santa Claus a pure simulacrum.
Reality television like Big Brother (2012) is not reality, it is pretending to be reality on television and this causes it to be hyperreal. This is because although reality television is based around real people, the footage has been edited to be shaped to entertain the audience. Occasionally the footage is edited in a way to portray a situation that does not exist in reality but does on television. This is a manipulative method to plant false thoughts into people’s minds about another person. Baudrillard states
“TV itself is also a nuclear process of chain reaction, but implosive: it cools and neutralizes the meaning and the energy of events.” (1994, p. 53).
This quote explains that television portrays events that are not real, yet appear real. The energy of the event of screen would not be the same as behind the camera. This is what most people fail to understand and consider this hyperreal event to be real. Negative effects of such situations can conflict depression amongst the people staying in the Big Brother house, whilst other gains fame and fortune. Who gets fame and who gets degraded is partially to do with editing. This would mean that the fate of the hyperreality of a reality programme would depend on the director. Directors could feel responsibility towards the diminished title of an ex guest at the Big Brother house. For instance, Joanne (Jo) Valda O’Meara was a guest on the Big Brother show and after leaving she became depressed and suicidal prior to her behaviour in Big Brother (2007). This is because she and Jade Goody misbehaved with another house guest called Shilpa Shetty. Both regretted their behaviors after leaving Big Brother but the hyperreality version of what happened in the house caused their image in society to become fragile and leading O’Meara to commit self harm. Goody on the other hand discovered that she had cancer, which changed her perspective of how she used to be and how she wanted to be. Another reality show was based around Goody’s last few months alive and this documentary changed the perception of Goody’s image to the world. This concludes that reality television can emphasize the nature of a person or make them appear the complete opposite under the influence of the circumstances. Big Brother is a good example that demonstrates that hyperreality can have its rewards and consequences.
Another reality television show is The Apprentice. The Apprentice is a show that gathers business potentials and requires the candidates to perform tasks and present their skills to Lord Sugar. This is also based on real people performing real tasks and in fact winning and losing in tasks but the process of the episodes are edited a lot. Sound is added and footage is edited to change the
“…meaning and the energy of events.” (1994, p. 53)
Most of the episodes frequently show the audience that one team is in lead, but when the teams are judged in the boardroom the other team wins. This may be a trick of the editors to create suspense in every episode. Even though all but one candidate are fired, the candidates that survive the longest create either a good or bad impressions of themselves to the industry of business and this could affect the choices of future employers.
News is another form of media and this media has revealed that terrorists attacked the Twin Towers for which reason the Twin Towers collapsed. News reporters edit footage and present them in a hyperreal state. Due to a repetitive mention that terrorists crashed their planes into the World Trade Centre, the viewers do not notice that although the airplane hit the top of the Twin Towers, the towers collapse from underneath, resembling a demolition. The impact of the news as a medium is so great that if individuals are told the same thing over again they will start to believe what they hear rather than what can be seen. This is definitely a good example and argues the fact whether terrorists crashed the planes or was it a conspiracy?
Art is another medium that hyperreality has become part of. Hyperrealism is a genre of painting and sculpture that resembles high resolution photography. Sometimes it might be considered an advancement of Photorealism because Hyperrealisme is a French word for Photorealism. The work of artists that practice hyperrealism painting is outstanding. The end pieces mimic reality and copies the subject incredibly well that it is difficult to differentiate between real photographs and hyperrealism paintings. Artists such as Simon Hennessey specialize in the human figures and the detail that Hennessey includes in his paintings is outstanding.
“His close ups of people’s faces can truly be appreciated when you start staring at the little details.” (Alice, 2010)
He includes details such as the blemishes of the face and the three dimensional look to the eyes that make his work stand out.
Whilst Denis Peterson on the other hand, also a hyperrealist painter who focuses more on painting architecture and cityscapes.
“ …one of the first Photorealists to emerge in New York. Widely acknowledged as the pioneer and primary architect of Hyperrealism…His meticulously detailed New York cityscapes purposely draw your eyes to the huge billboards and advertisements.” (Alice, 2010).
His work involves painting movement in the city but his hyperrealist paintings of adverts displayed in the city are very impressive. The audience would find it difficult to realize that it is a hyperreal painting and not a photograph. Although his paintings are heavily detailed without fault, the advertisements and billboard are the main focus and centre of the paintings. This might be because Peterson might want it to reflect on the contemporary society through his paintings.
Another artist that stands out from every other hyperrealist painters is Jason de Gaaf. His paintings are very realistic, he likes to
“…not just reproducing it faithfully but adding in an illusion of depth not found in photographs.” (Alice 2010).
This quote states that although the objects in Gaaf’s paintings look devastatingly real, he also adds illusions to his work that unfold and surprises the audience. The movements and colour of his paintings are phenomenal but a particular painting he has developed called Trinity looks very convincing because he has painted foil under the strawberries. The imitation of the foil in the Trinity painting looks exactly like real foil. Hyperrealistic paintings are very impressive at imitating reality and they persuade the viewer to admire the reality it reflects.
Hyperreality is a simulation of the consciousness that brings benefits as well as consequences. It occurs when a person is trying to escape reality. It has become pat of almost every person’s daily routine and is not noticed as a condition until it is pointed out. Hyperreality varies between individuals. Some may benefit from hyperreality and some may not but it is difficult for majority of the individuals to avoid hyperreality because societies that people live within associate with hyperreality.
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