Forget Baudrillard (and Debord)
The Post Internet artistic productions, whose connection with accelerationist political theory and with the concept of hypermodenity we have previously (click here) analyzed, in fact overturn what Debord and Baudrillard have theorized in the past decades, reaching the point of the point that today, paraphrasing Jean Baudrillard’s famous essay on Michel Foucault, it can be said that society produces its own spectacle and not the spectacle that produces society.
We briefly summarize the focal points of the theory of the spectacle and of the simulacrum – its natural consequence – through some quotes from Debord: “The whole life of societies in which modern conditions of production predominate presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles [… ] The show is not a set of images, but a social relationship between individuals, mediated by images, a vision of the world that has become objectified. […] Reality arises in the show, and the show is real”.
In Debord’s theory of the spectacle and Baudrillard’s simulacrum, the planes of true and false are mixed, generating a sort of reality that is truer than truth to which the mass of individuals relates, manipulated and induced to the uncritical consumption of goods as well as of the contents transmitted by the media. If in these theories the conflict and the social contradiction between true and false in struggle for hegemony over the imaginary in order to control it are still ongoing, the theoretical and artistic production of Situationism focuses on this conflict in order to deconstruct and reveal the mechanisms of fiction.
The thought of a post-situationist French collective is inserted along these lines of conflict, which defines the spectacle as the colonization of the mass imaginary implemented since the early decades of the twentieth century through the symbolic figure of the Jeune-Fille, described as “the model citizen as mercantile society redefines it starting from the First World War, in explicit response to the revolutionary threat”. The Jeune-Fille is the symbol of the victory of the show over reality, and therefore of the false understood as a simulation on the true understood as authenticity. It sanctions the victory of goods and consumption over sustainability and human relationships, since Jeune-Fille is also a consumer of human relationships according to preordained models and sold together with the goods. The Jeune-Fille is the show in its hypercapitalist and globalized phase, at least until the birth and widespread diffusion of new media and the devices connected to them. Indeed, they are playing a role of paradoxical rebalancing of forces by allowing ordinary people to appropriate the tools of mass communication via the Internet and to become aware of the manipulative mechanisms of the media.
Here the title of this article reveals its raison d’etre: the opportunity to manipulate the media allowed by technological evolution, while not eliminating at all the effective cogency of the Jeune-Fille, juxtaposes a user aware of the means and of their potential, subject to acceptance of the show. In an interview dating back twenty years ago, that is, at the beginnings of the Internet still in phase 1.0, Jean Baudrillard once more sanctioned the total absorption of reality, and therefore of the truth, in the virtuality of the Net, evidently considered false. “Certainly here the dear old contradictions between reality and imagination, true and false, and so on, are in a certain way sublimated within a space of hyper-reality that encompasses everything […] in the virtual dimension the subject and the object are both, in principle, interactive elements”.
With great intellectual honesty Baudrillard refrains from enunciating hypotheses, at the time still not verifiable, and brings the true / false dialectic back into the fence of the simulation, confirming that in his opinion the virtual has neutralized reality, thus adhering to his theory on the simulacrum understood as a conflict between real and virtual, true and false. In a period when smartphones were not yet born and especially the 2.0 version of the Net, the one that allowed the development of interactive programs such as blogs and social networks (Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.), the philosopher had anticipated the scenario that in a few years would be open to the use of users, that of a substantial coincidence in terms of perception of virtual and real.
If perception is increased by virtuality as a daily and even domestic experience, we must expand the conscience dimension by including the virtual in everyday reality, with an epochal turning point in the definition of spectacle and simulacrum. Contrary to what Baudrillard thought twenty years ago, the virtual has not replaced the real, but has merged with it, generating another form of reality: an accelerated hyper-reality in which concepts such as true and false no longer have any reason to be. The Jeune-Fille continues to exist on the Internet as well, in the figure of the influencer, in the inflationary phenomenon of selfies, in the ASMR or mukbang broadcasts on Youtube, but today a virtual subject is emerging, aware of the mechanisms of media manipulation and therefore immune to the subjection produced by the show or fully adhering to it for commercial and business purposes.
Introduction to the forthcoming book Contemporary art and new media. Theory, history, criticism by Piero Deggiovanni
 G. Debord, La società dello spettacolo, Milano, Baldini Castoldi Dalai editore, 2008, pp. 53-55
 Tiqqun, Premiers matériaux pour une théorie de la Jeune-Fille, Paris, Tiqqun 1, 1999, trad. it., Elementi per una teoria della Jeune-Fille, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri, 2003, pp. 10-11
 ASMR refers to a neurological response to audiovisual stimuli produced by the manipulation of objects made of various materials capable of causing pleasant sensations. The term Mukbang is a linguistic crasis between the Korean words mokta and bangsong (eat and broadcast) and refers to live broadcasts of people eating and inviting to eat with them by having a chat conversation.
Park Seo Yeon, Mukbang youtuber coreana
Chiara, ASMR artist
Good Vibes Only, logo
Piero Deggiovanni (Lugo, 1957) is professor of History of Contemporary Art and History and Theory of New Media at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna. He is a critic and researcher in the field of contemporary art, with particular attention to the artistic context of his territory. For several years he has devoted himself exclusively to research, focusing on the relationships between art and new digital technologies dedicated to communication. He is particularly interested in video art and media hybridization.