True Lines Interview 2002 "the art of disappearing" on eurozine
Who actually experiences war as real? The problem is that with our "TV shudders" and aestheticizing of the war's catastrophic effects, we fall instead into a kind of amnesic trance, a realm of virtual responsibility where we consume experiences, absorb pain, and allow the TV screen to envelop us in a closed circuit. In this hyper-reality we stop experiencing with our bodies and essentially become symbol processors for these media machines. Such a game (or play, to refer to Guy Debord's social critique) achieves prominence in our hyper-realistic world, where reality is a symbolic dimension that has broken away from the real.
Jean Buadrillard: Think of it all as a magnificent game, where certain things come to represent more and more other things. Playing and games have several dimensions that have been categorized by the sociologist Roger Caillois: Mimicry (the game of representation), Alea (the game of chance), Agon (rivalry and competition), and last but not least, Ilinx, the vertiginous, delirious dimension inherent to some games. Our modern production, overproduction, and overabundance of communication and information correspond to a vertiginous, delirious game. This dimension is given a higher status than the others. Consequently, according to Caillois' typology, we have a one-dimensional development of one category. We have to have a combination of all four dimensions in order to produce a really comprehensive game.
I am very aware of the paradoxical rhetoric in my writing, a rhetoric that exceeds its own probability. The terms are purposefully exaggerated. If truth does not exist, then we have to proceed behind the metaphysical scenario of subjects and objects. I like to explore in my writing what happens after the demise of different things and truths, and this can only be done through the use of thought experiments. Of course this is not a discourse on truth – not everything can be verified, there is no pretence about that. The same goes for the question of desire. To say that all desires are satisfied is nonsensical because desire as such cannot be satisfied, quite the opposite. But in this world of production, desire is at one and the same time productive and a means of satisfaction. Consequently we have lost touch with the whole concept of desire, desire as metaphor, desire as promise, as something that cannot be satisfied or made a reality.
TL: Could the term "transmodernism" better describe our time?
JB: This is a far more interesting term. I am not the only one to use it, for example, Paul Virilio uses the term "transpolitical". The term analyzes how things develop after the principles of political realism have disappeared. When this happens, we have a dimension where politics always has and always will exist, but it is not the real political game. What happens afterwards calls into play the same problematic, but is specifically connected to defined areas; we have transaesthetics, transeconomy, and so on. These are better terms than "postmodernism". It is not about modernity; it is about every system that has developed its mode of expression to the extent that it surpasses itself and its own logic. This is what I am trying to analyze.
TL: Nevertheless, the age we live in has its labels or defining characteristics. You have written that the epochal characteristic of the romantic era was replaced by surrealism, which was in turn superseded by transparency. You describe transparency as a nihilistic situation. What kind of nihilism are we talking about here?
JB: I'm not talking about transparency in the sense that you see everything on television, but that television is watching you. It is all about reversibility, in the worst sense. It is about visibility, the total disappearance of secrecy. Everything has to be visible, not in a panoptical way where everything is visible to the naked eye. Transparency is more than just visibility, it is devoid of secrets. It is not just transparent to others, but also to the self. There is no longer any ontologically secret substance. I perceive this to be nihilism rather than postmodernism. To me, nihilism is a good thing – I am a nihilist, not a postmodernist.