Mass Culture and the Visual Arts Essay
The essay of Jean Baudrillad is a highly philosophical and sociological paper. It uses complex terms, a lot of analogy, and included a lot of theories which might have been created just for the report. Since Jean Baudrillad is a very accomplished man, his ideas and views are often regarded as top quality, and some tend to bend in immediately believing these. Upon reading the essay, I come to think that it would be unwise to be attached strongly to the author’s feelings and demise regarding the topic.
I believe that a lot of his own and personal ideas were incorporated in his paper criticizing the museum guidelines. These ideas may be for the better, but it could also be possible that they may have been affected by the author’s own background. In this view, it is highly important to know a bit about the author to gain a deeper understanding on his essay. This way, we can critically analyze his work and draw some conclusions based on in. To begin with, Jean Baudrillad is a French sociologist and philosopher who writes and criticizes works usually about post-modernism and post-structuralism.
He is said to be in line with many modern philosophers in this time. He is a well known writer and proposed many theories regarding human relationship and many other topics, such as wars (World War 2, Gulf War). An interesting topic for him is the evolution of technology processes and their effects to social change. He seemed to be attached in studying these processes and looks at them as a kind of breakout from tradition. He is also very well versed with semiotics, the study of signs, and even wrote a number of papers about it, the writing where the essay was taken being one of it.
He believed, like other poststructuralists do, that signification and meaning are only understandable by looking on how the signs interrelate. This point is very important in analyzing this essay since art, especially visual art, is a kind of sign. It is visually available to the naked eye, and can convey many meanings to the viewer. The essay is also a home of many arguments which I believed to be contradictory to his previous theories. He also argued that meaning is based on the absence – a cup means a cup because it does not mean a spoon, a fork, or a spatula.
Therefore, to know the meaning of a cup is by not by knowing a cup, by proving that that cup is a not a spoon, fork, spatula. Baudrillad’s theories and expertise may vary from different subjects, but his beliefs in semiotics and signs are crucial in this critic of modern art museums. Now, we can slowly digest Baudrillad’s work and analyze it not only by reading it, but it is also important to take into consideration the author’s stand and opinions on several things affecting the statements he made. The author, in his first paragraph, described the museum as an “incinerator, absorbing all cultural energy and destroying it.
” This harsh depiction of modern art museums was then strengthened by him using different examples. Some of his examples and arguments were a little absurd, and too much to be true. Let’s take for example the first one. He made an analogy between the museum and a nuclear plant. He said that it is not the lack of security, pollution, or explosion but the radiation of a protective zone of control and deterrence. In the center, a kind of political deterrence is elaborated. This deterrence is also showed by the employers, who are assigned to a polyvalent space. They then remained in that space, using all their energy.
Deterrence, by definition, is the inhibition of bad behavior by fear, such as punishment. I believe that fear is an important factor here, and the mere fact that the author did not have any proof that fear is actually used in the center makes his analogy a little over the edge. The employers, even though confined to this “bubble”, never made a statement that they were kept there against their will. After some more critics, he fled to the topic of the mass media, which was discussed crucially. He said that culture in the center is dead, and the masses are celebrating over it by going to the museum.
We must take note that the author already gave the masses a reason for their excitement over the museum. Like a disaster, he said, on which humans are naturally invited to look upon. Since there is no way to flee to the museum itself and personally feel this, it would be, if not mandatory, sufficient to look at a very popular way of advertising places of such – their website. Upon inspection of the museum’s website, there are some facts waiting to be discovered. First is the way the museum advertises its exhibits and events. Then, there are the events themselves.
The characters that emanate from these advertisements can help in proving some of the author’s arguments wrong. The website, upon first glance, is very simple compared to other sites found all around the internet. Could it be possible that the center was low in funds to create and maintain a more elegant and dashing website? I think not. This is a proof that the center does not aim to catch the audience attention by visual effects. There is a deeper goal for them to invite the masses to the center – for them to see its content and its display, its artists’ works and their playwrights’ plays.
By looking at the events posted on the website, it can be noted that a wide range of artistic events are catered for – visual arts such as sculptures, paintings and the like, programs with concerts and cultural events. Their advertisement strategy is simple, a photograph of the event and some few liners describing it. Baudrillad seems to say that the masses have lost the ability to see “real culture” and dashes only to the museum because of signs, not because of the artistic values it conveys. He accuses the center of hiding true culture from the masses, using signifiers instead of the real thing.
But the way the center advertises its programs are simple – come and see this, no other sparkling stars on the computer screen, no lotto tickets waiting to be clicked, no hidden charges, just plain and simple, “come to the museum to see this kind of culture. ” The author, as mentioned above, has always talked about the topic of technology’s effects to the human. For me, this certain technology of using websites as an advertisement strategy deals with a lot of subconscious semiotics. But the center’s website is just a simple page you click, and read a lot on.
There are detailed descriptions on the artworks, the shows, the galleries. I would definitely go there for its content, its real culture. The center, in my own opinion, never tried to gain public interest through semiotics and signifiers. The establishment, together with any other modern day museum and galleries, are doing good jobs in opening the masses eyes to a culture beyond traditional. There are some truths in Baudrillad’s analyses of these establishments, but these are not enough to say that modern museums are capable of incinerating culture around it.
Culture is said to be a way of living, and one must accept that the modern age needs a new way of living compared to traditional times. This evolution of living also calls for an evolution of cultural art and practices. Modernism has brought just about anything today, and we can’t deny the fact that is has also greatly affected the realm of visual arts. But being modern doesn’t mean that it tries to lose any traditional virtue in it. The whole step is simply bringing in a new dimension of art, and with the help of these modern art museums, these arts can be appreciated the in a way similar to the tradition.
A final flaw in Baudrillad’s argument is his description of the buildings external structure. He claims that this structure proclaims that the humans time are never to be that of any duration, that our culture is like hydrocarbons, breaking and synthesizing to make new products. He means that the center breaks traditions and cultures, and puts them together for a new type of culture. I believe that this is giving a rebirth of the culture, and hence not destroying it or any part of it. Baudrilladmust understand that nothing grows exponentially forever.
Even cultures, reaches a point wherein you can’t improve on it no matter how much effort you put in. A time will come when people must find a new way to incorporate differences in culture and try to come up with a new one, one that would allow the human to grow without sacrificing the longevity of the culture. Somewhere in his essay, Baudrillad shouted the question on what should be placed on the center. His answer was nothing; the void would have signified the disappearance of any culture of meaning and aesthetic sentiment. This seems to be contradictory to his primary beliefs.
Going back a few paragraphs, remember that Baudrillad believed in the theory of absence, that one can give meaning to a sign only because of absence. Like the above example, a cup is a cup since it is not a fork, etc. Thus, having nothing, no culture, no art, no whatsoever in the center would only mean that the museum really do contained culture and art.
Baudrillad, Jean. “Simulcra and Simulations” VI. The Beaubourg Effect : Implosion and Deterrence (1981) European Graduate School Website. “Jean Baudrillad Biography” From: http://www. egs. edu/faculty/baudrillard. html
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