“Our works in stone, in paint, in print, are spared, some of them, for a few decades or a millennium or two, but everything must finally fall in war, or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash – the triumphs, the frauds, the treasures and the fakes. A fact of life: we’re going to die. “Be of good heart,” cry the dead artists out of the living past. “Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing.” Maybe a man’s name doesn’t matter all that much.”
Orson Welles, F for Fake
The movie “F for fake” is indeed a great example for opening the discussion about today’s world which, in a very long process, got to a point where reality and virtuality, facts, lies and alternative facts are all mixed up together in such a way we cannot know which one is which. A world so full of signifiers that the signifieds, if still exist, are not relevant more than them.
Between the years 1936-1938, Walter Benjamin wrote a book called “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. In that book he discusses the implications of the invention of photography and cinema, new forms of art that started relying on reproduction rather than the uniqueness of the art piece. Those forms, according the Benjamin, changed the way we perceive art and the world in general. There is no more original piece and replications but we only left with replications printed on celluloid.
In 1967, the early years of television, Marshall McLuhan introduced the phrase “The Medium is the Message”, discussing the current state where the content changes according to the medium in which it is presented hence the medium is essentially the message itself.
In the 1980’s, Jean Baudrillard used the word Simulacra to describe today’s world which lost his real signifieds and was left only with signifiers signifying each other. In other words – are today’s movies imitating our real lives? Or do we live our lives imitating what we watched in the movies? In recent years we can notice this process going forward, coming out of the art world and becoming part of our lives in any possible way. Take today’s country leaders for example.
The recent election campaign and Trump’s first days as president, has proved, in my opinion, that the people of today are looking for a performer to be their leader. This is not the first time of course, Obama too was a great performer, and his simple and straight forward message surely helped him in becoming the president of the US. One of the only things that those those two leaders have in common is their performance skills. Maybe we got to a point where we choose leaders mostly by those skills rather than by their way or vision. If you can be perceived as a good leader you must be a good one.
One of “Black Mirror’s” new episodes shows a world in which people are rated by the people surrounding them. Watching that made me feel like it is science fiction but when I thought about that again I realized that this is the world of today. We are rated by social networks likes and views, publishing staged pictures to describe our daily lives and make them look more cool. It is true that it is less extreme but we are right on path.
It may sound like I am criticizing the process I am describing but this is not the case at all. This is the world we live in, we are part of it exactly as the people surrounding us and at the same time no one of us is. In order to be part of humanity we have to understand the whole process and to accept it. We need to understand that the message lies in between the medium and the content – it is the combination of the two. With the wrong medium no one will listen, without the content we will have nothing to say.