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Baudrillard - America

Baudrillard - America

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Published by Cherry
Baudrillard's essay
VANISHING POINT
Baudrillard's essay
VANISHING POINT

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Published by: Cherry on May 06, 2008
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07/06/2013

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*** Original page numbering retained. Spelling errors in original marked with [aic!] ***
VANISHING POINT
Caution: Objects in this mirror may becloser than they appear!
 Nostalgia born of the immensity of the Texan hills and the sierras of New Mexico:gliding down the freeway, smash hits on the Chrysler stereo, heat wave. Snapshotsaren’t enough. We’d need the whole film of the trip in real time, including theunbearable heat and the music. We’d have to replay it all from end to end at home ina darkened room, rediscover the magic of the freeways and the distance and theice-cold alcohol in the desert and the speed and live it all again on the video athome in real time, not simply for the pleasure of remembering but because thefascination of senseless repetition is already present in the abstraction of the journey. The unfolding of the desert is infinitely close to the timelessness of film...SAN ANTONIOThe Mexicans, become Chicanos, act as guides on the visit to El Alamo to laudthe heroes of the American nation so valiantly massacred by their ownancestors.
 
But hard as those ancestors fought, the division of labour won out in the end. Todayit is their grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are there, on the same battlefield, to hymn the Americans who stole their lands. History is full of ruse andcunning. But so are the Mexicans who have crossed the border clandestinely tocome and work here.SALT LAKE CITYPompous Mormon symmetry. Everywhere marble: flawless, funereal (the Capitol,the organ in the Visitor Center). Yet a Los-Angelic modernity, too -all the requisitegadgetry for a minimalist, extraterrestrial comfort. The Christ-topped dome (all theChrists here are copied from Thorwaldsen’s and look like Bjorn Borg) straight outof 
Close Encounters:
religion as special effects. In fact the whole city has thetransparency and supernatural, otherworldly cleanness of a thing from outer space. A symmetrical, luminous, overpowering abstraction. At every intersectionin the Tabernacle area - all marble and roses, and evangelical marketing - anelectronic cuckoo-clock sings out: such Puritan obsessiveness is astonishing inthis heat, in the heart of the desert, alongside this leaden lake, its waters alsohyperreal from sheer density of salt. And, beyond the lake, the Great Salt LakeDesert, where they had to invent the speed of prototype cars to cope with theabsolute horizontality... But the city itself is like a jewel, with its purity of air and its plunging urban vistas more breathtaking even than those of Los Angeles. Whatstunning brilliance, what modern veracity these Mormons show, these rich bankers,musicians, international genealogists, polygamists (the Empire State in New York has something of this same funereal Puritanism raised to the nth power). It is thecapitalist, transsexual pride of a people of mutants that gives the city its magic, equal and opposite to thatof Las Vegas, that great whore on the other side of the desert.
 
MONUMENT VALLEY DEADHORSE POINT GRANDCANYONGeological - and hence metaphysical - monumentality, by contrast with the physicalaltitude of ordinary landscapes. Upturned relief patterns, sculpted out by wind,water, and ice, dragging you down into the whirlpool of time, into the remorselesseternity of a slow-motion catastrophe. The very idea of the millions and hundreds of millions of years that were needed peacefully to
 
ravage the surface of the earth hereis a perverse one, since it brings with it
 
an awareness of signs originating, long before man appeared, in a sort of pact of wear and erosion struck between theelements. Among this gigantic heap of signs - purely geological in essence - manwill have had no significance. The Indians alone perhaps interpreted them - a fewof them. And yet they
are
signs. For the desert only
appears
uncultivated. This entire Navajo country, the long plateau which leads to the Grand Canyon, the cliffsoverlooking Monument Valley, the abysses of Green River are all alive with amagical presence, which has nothing to do with nature (the secret of this wholestretch of country is perhaps that it was once an underwater relief and has retainedthe surrealist qualities of an ocean bed in the open air). You can understand why ittook great magic on the Indians’ part, and a terribly cruel religion, to exorcizesuch a theoretical grandeur as the desert’s geological and celestial occurrence, tolive up to such a backdrop. What is man if the signs that predate him have such power? A human race has to invent sacrifices equal to the natural cataclysmicorder that surrounds it. It is perhaps these reliefs, because they are no longer natural, which givethe best idea of what a culture is. Monument Valley: blocksof language suddenly rising high, then subjected to a pitiless erosion,ancient sedimentations that owe their depth to wear (meaning is born out of the erosion of words, significations are born out of the erosion of signs), andthat are today destined to become, like all that is cultivated - like all culture-natural parks.

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