Understanding Visual Culture- Exercise 26- Ecclesiastes misquoted

To begin with, we had to read and make notes on Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulacra and Simulations”.

I found this quite a difficult text to understand as it was quite short and there wasn’t much to get in to. I then went a did some further reading on the subject to gain a better understanding.

The overall theme is that there was a time when copies (or models) of reality were made based on the real however over time the copy and the real deteriorated in different ways which caused confusion between the two. In the present day, it seems that models are created without any basis in reality and what we perceive as real is actually the model. Baudrillard makes this point by saying “the territory no longer precedes the map”. The way in which this works within media is that the “creators” make up a perceived reality. In this reality, there are blurred lines between what we need to survive and things where a need has been created. For example we need staple foods such as bread, fruit and vegetables however a need has been created for foods such as fast food and chocolate. Throughout my reading, I continually came back to “reality shows” such as Keeping up with the Kardashians and I’m a celebrity, both are supposed to show us the people’s day-to-day lives, however the producers regularly edited scenes to make them more entertaining and grip the viewers.

Task 1

We were then asked to watch Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, making notes in order to conclude whether or not Deckard is a human or a replicant.

When I discussed watching the film with my husband, he was determined to watch it with me as he quite enjoyed it. However, he told me that he could never decide whether the character was human or replicant.

When we first started to watch the film, I had a number of questions about which characters were replicants and which were humans. My husband then told me to assume that everyone was human and the replicants needed to be picked. This made me wonder, shouldn’t it be the other way around? I then watched the film from the view that you should assume everyone is replicant and to find the humans. By doing this, I started to look for replicant “traits” and human “traits” in order to draw my conclusion.

The human traits I found were

  • they ate and drank
  • they tired and required rest/sleep
  • they showed emotion such as crying and pain
  • had sexual desires
  • weak and fragile- in one scene Roy (a replicant) gouges out Dr Eldon Tyrell’s (a human) eyes out and then crushes his skull
  • have memories that do not necessarily require prompts such as photos.
  • choose their own paths in life and develop various skills.

The replicant traits I found were

  • they often stare, are wide-eyed and don’t know where to look
  • can’t or find it hard to show emotion
  • doesn’t understand certain things like animals. In the opening scene Leon asks Dave (who is testing him) to describe a tortoise
  • are programmed to do certain things i.e. a particular job but their skill base does not go much further.
  • During Rachel’s test she gives snap and sometimes unusual answers to the questions asked.
  • have no concept of hot and cold
  • all the replicants have a small selection of photos which help them to create memories. They also seem to be quite desperate to keep hold of them, it is almost an unhealthy obsession.
  • they do not require food, drink or rest
  • they don’t feel pain
  • superhuman strength, able to crush bones
  • have a lifespan of 4-5 years, after which they “retire” and are discarded.
  • seem stiff, robotic like
  • they try to involve themselves in human activity, like intimacy, however they show an emotional immaturity (don’t know exactly what to do)

From the traits that I found , I concluded that Deckard is a replicant. There are a number of times within the film where this is evident, such as

  • When Deckard is in his apartment playing on his piano, there is a large number of photos which do not seem to correllate with each other and with Deckard. The film is supposed to be set in 2019 however Deckard appears to have some Victorian photos.
  • When he tries to be intimate with Rachel, there is an uncertainty between them both.
  • Deckard repeatedly is punched and appears hurt, however when Pris tries to “crush” Deckard she is unable to do so.
  • he seems only be able to do his particular job and is referred to as an expert. This is probably because this is all he has been programmed to do
  • when Deckard is told about the replicants leaving ” to come to Earth, he is told that 6 had escaped. One died and that he was required to find 4 of them, was this an indication that he was the fifth?
  • Although there is no trait involved, Gaff, throughout the film makes origami figures which he places in the crimes scenes of replicants. At the end of film, just as Deckard and Rachel are leaving for a new life, Deckard finds an origami unicorn. A sign that, Gaff perhaps, knows or has even implanted Deckard’s thoughts and memories.

Task 2

For the second task we had to watch The Matrix by the Wachowski brothers and look at how Jean Baudrillard’s work informs the film.

I must firstly admit that I have never been particularly fond of The Matrix as I could never quite understand it and would find myself getting bored halfway through.

Right at the beginning of the film there is the first reference to Baudrillard’s work as Neo uses a hollowed out copy of Simulacra and Simulations to hide his illegal discs. The second was when Morpheus is explaining to Neo about the matrix and the real world. To me, it comes across as layers on top on one another. The matrix sits on top of the real world and they have become two separate entities. The matrix has been created as an imitation of how the real world used to be before the machines took over. In the matrix, people have been programmed and the creators have designed it in order to keep humans under control. The issue comes when Cypher, becomes disillusioned by the real world and wants to be placed back into the matrix in order to live a “normal” life, thus proving that people can become dependant on the matrix or the manufactured real. While in the real world, the group share a meal of, what looks to be, porridge and they talk about how bland it is and how they all miss foods that they ate while in the matrix. Another character then goes on to say that this is one way the machines control people, by making up tastes and flavours for things that are not necessary. This links in with Baudrillard’s theory of consumerism where the lines between products we need to live and products where a purpose has been created have become blurred.

Also while Morpheus is explaining about the matrix and how it works, he explains to Neo that the version of himself he is seeing is a residual self-image (a mental projection of ourselves). This is an interesting point of contention as this could be seen as the only thing that the machines cannot control however it also begs the question of, is this self-image created in light of our environment and influences?

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About kunsworthphotography

I am currently studying towards a BA (Hons) in Photography with OCA and I have 2 children, Evie(4 years old) and Connor(3 years old)
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