Jejudo, South Korea
Mary Klages has a number of lectures posted on the internet on Postmodernism (this is where the text is from. I know nobody is trying to be sneaky around here but it's important to give credit if only that it allows us to look up the "original" ), but she puts a very strange spin on the actual Baudrillardian texts -- perhaps that no one has tried to read what Jean actually said is a kind of postmodern experience.
It's been a while since I've read Baudrillard in the original translation , but he's an exciting writer, he uses hyperbole unreservedly and sometimes gets in trouble for doing exactly that. He once predicted the Gulf War wouldn't happen because it had already been simulated out of existence. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of this, he's a writer that shouldn't be ignored. He takes chances. Klages doesn't -- at least in the lectures I've read. Klages tries to make postmodernism a good thing, I find it difficult to read Baudrillard in this way; in an interview, he once said that he had to stop working on simulation because it was driving him insane.
Quickly, Baudrillard posit three orders of simulacra: traditional value, rational value, and sign value. These aren't historical periods per se. They always exist, more or less, in a relationship to each other. He does say, however, that the present age is dominated by the third order of simulation.
What does this mean?
Benjamin's point about mechanical reproduction and the loss of aura is useful here. Baudrillard believes that the use of modern technologies and media (television, computers, telephones etc,) inundate us with images at such a level that people can no longer create any kind of rational sense of our lives, that we now take the images as more real than real, that the original is no longer important to the way we see the original.
The Monolisa on a Hallmark postcard is the determining factor in viewing the Monolisa in the Louvre. You, perhaps, want to put a moustache on the original to make it seem more 'right', more natural, less pretentious. You judge the original in terms of the reproduction, not the reproduction in terms of the original.
Baudrillard takes this further and attempts to show how these factors: signs, images, advertising infect and influence our lives, the way we think, the way we react to the world around us.
A good anecdotal example, would be my trip to the DMZ in Korea, the most fortified border in the world. The way it was presented to us however, the rocks, the caves, the gift shop, the village, the British woman's voice that narrated a video were all vaguely surreal. My friend said it before I did, "I feel like I'm in Disneyland."
Thus, Disneyland is more real than the DMZ.
If this is clear, I think everybody can start coming up with examples of specifically Baudrillardian experiences, but these experiences aren't based on rational thought or even traditional ways of looking at things, they are based on the explosion of images and signs as such and no longer have an anchor to what they were intended to do. They are separated from the product, from the historical (anarchy becomes a musical style) and/or religious context (a crucifix as fashion statement) and float about, not really controlled by anyone.
I'll stop here but, later, I'll try to explain why this is, or at least can be, an extremely disturbing way of looking at things.