Simulacra everlasting

In one of his numerous essays, I think it is one on 9/11, Baudrillard imagines what happens to the virtual technologies that monitor a fighter pilot’s status in the event of a fatal crash. The suddenness of the pilot’s death may preceed by few instants the register in status change by his virtual monitors. Baudrillard, agast and tickled at the same time, as usual, notes that in this situation the virtual outlives the actual, the simulation becomes the pilot’s last reality.

Yesterday Sean Taylor, safety for the Washington Redskins, died after being shot in the leg on Monday. Taylor’s death is both sad and scary [he was apparently shot in his house during the second break-in in the last week]. But let’s bracket that to talk, somewhat morbidly about his simulacra, namely his Madden 2008 counterpart. You can see Taylor’s surviving virtual self in this video.

I play a good bit of Madden, have since I first started gaming. I often pick fantasy rosters to play with, often take Sean Taylor with my first few selections. He is in fact currently on my team. Now, he is dead. So when I play Madden tonight, and select “Sean Taylor,” what am I playing with? Of course the answer is I am playing with selection of algorithm that has been named “Sean Taylor,” written to resemble in play style and appearence a real life player who is now deceased. For game play, it shouldn’t matter that Taylor is dead. His representation bears little connection to him, certainly no traditional indexicality, nothing like Baudrillard’s poor pilot. Even so, it does matter. It is creepy, somehow.

I suppose it has something to do with a desire, against all reason and experience to the contrary, for Madden to be a simulation experience. I’ve never liked playing with players that don’t play in real life. I get passionate about updated rosters and often complain that EA isn’t even trying to keep up to date. When they do, if ever, get around to updating the rosters, Taylor’s avatar will disappear. His likeness will remain on my game disk, which declares right on the box “Rosters accurate as of” such and such date. Yet, on the ‘real’ roster, Taylor will now be absent. And I have to draft a new team or engage the mark of Taylor’s absense every game.

It is not even the first time this has happened. Darrent Williams was killed when shot in his car last year and I vaguely remember him disappearing from updated rosters. Avatars do get taken out of the game  or magically appear every so often for a variety of reasons. Michael Vick is gone; Ricky Williams will likely appear. It is not an uncommon occurance. Taylor’s passing just has me thinking about the situation and wondering what it is that bonds blood and flesh Taylor now gone to algorithm and electric Taylor everlasting.

The Well-Shaped Phrase as Art

Exhibition review for a show I would really love to see: Lawrence Weiner @ the Whitney.

This quotation basically explains why:

The show consists primarily of cryptic yet suggestive phrases in large letters, splayed across walls, ceiling beams and occasionally floors, that conjure up various physical situations but often leave to your imagination the objects or the scale involved. “A Turbulence Induced Within a Body of Water” could be hands splashing in a bathtub or a tanker churning waves behind it. “Encased By + Reduced to Rust” evokes a crumbling object, but it could also be a soul or an artist’s talent. (And there is that twist of “rust” where you expect “dust.”)

But of course part of the reason that I want to see it is that I don’t have to. While Weiner seems to use advertising-style while frustrating the saleability of his work, without an object to see, space to consider, an experience to have, really, is there anything but the theory, the well-shaped phrases of artist and critic? Anything besides the talking about talking about art? Any ‘reality’ to encounter? Any there, there?

Hard to say without going to New York, but I do find interesting the relationship his work has to the museum. Clearly, the space is contributes to the scale, the monumentality of the letters, the suggestion of absence. But by eliminating the central object, does he require that we visit the museum? If it really IS art of the ‘well-shaped phrase’ couldn’t we get it from a description? I’d like to think the answer is no, for what he is doing with museum space and the suggestion of event as event, I believe, requires presence in the phenomena in a way some Conceptual art doesn’t, necessarily.

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Real guitars are for old people.

Playing a guitar and playing Guitar Hero are not the same. They actually have very little in common besides a similarly shaped interface. South Park, with its usual level of insight, demonstrates the difference. The example of Guitar Hero ilustrates the abstracting quality of new media, each interface abstracting and alienating the user from functional processes. Where the fretboard allows guitar players to modify wave length by depressing the strings, the Guitar Hero controller offers no interaction sound waves whatsoever. It is binary, you hit the right note or you don’t, there is no creativity, no ad libbing or improvisation. It is the epitome of Adorno’s critique of jazz, really; codified forms masquerading as innovation. Or perhaps, the insight was made by Lewis Black concerning the Britney Spears game, all you can every hope for is to echo perfectly the artists who came before you.