Jean Baudrillard argues that a simulacrum is not a copy of the real, but becomes truth in its own right: the hyperreal. Without going as far as Baudrillard we only note there seems to be a growing discrepancy between what a photograph looks like versus what it means. The “qualities of the original” seem increasingly irrelevant to the modern practitioner. You could argue this re-working of the original’s “truth” has been endemic throughout the history of photography; you need only start with the Victorian era and Henry Peach Robinson and work your way to Jerry Uelsmann in the 20th century. But throughout the 20thcentury with movements such as dada and surrealism, there was still a belief that these were paths off the the main road which was the idea that photography aspired to be a mirror of that which was photographed.As Rosalind Krauss noted, photography is an imprint or transfer of the real. But nowadays imagination has replaced veracity and many of images displayed in Simulacra can be seen as a symptom of the erosion of that belief.
One could point to many reasons behind this erosion . As long ago as the 50s Wright Morris observed: Image-making is our preference for what we imagine to what there is to be seen. But at the turn of the new century,like gasoline thrown onto embers, along came digital technology, now a full-fledged revolution and the slow erosion became an inferno: sinkholes opened everywhere, the ground heaved and in the seismic tumult you began to hear the phrase: photo-based art, a tacit acknowledgement that photography has drifted from its moorings.
Photography has long been the somewhat secretive underpinning of other arts, especially painting, but now observations such as Roy Lichtenstein’s Any painting is…far from the real. it is a symbol that reminds you of reality is increasingly applied to photography. Hence the rise of photo-based art, and the ease which a digital image swiftly becomes the product of an imagination divorced from a recorded original. Now the world is increasingly seen as an imaginative construct, an image springing directly from the mind with only the slightest reference to the original. In the not so distant past, such a wresting from what is seen to what is imagined was usually accompanied by a mixture of bravado and guilt but increasingly the original is regarded as simply a means to the end, and once the end is achieved the veneer of reality, the source, is cast aside. It is all symbol but symbolic of what? The mind taking precedence over the world.
Note: Simulacra is the continuation of my previous letterpress blog, The Saltmine at www.markpowerblog.com which will be available until the domain name runs out. When seeking to use the name The Saltmine I discovered that a hip-hop gentleman on Tumblr who had gotten there first. Just as well, a new blog deserves a new name…