I should probably start by saying I wish I had suggested Deleuze’s ‘Plato and the Simulacrum’ – whereby we would make quite a loop in the course starting and finishing off with Plato. Anyhow, I might have to leave it for myself as my solitary pleasure (or torment) …
Massumi’s main point of critique aimed at Baudrillard’s theory of simulacra is the fact that it establishes the dichotomy of model/copy consequently leaving us with only two possible viewpoints – ‘being a naive realist or being a sponge’ (1). The trajectory Massumi proposes drawing on Deleuze is to apprehend that ‘simulation is all there has ever been’ (3). The language being used is crucial – Massumi abandons ‘simulacrum’ and instead prefers the verb ‘simulation’ thereby emphasising that he is addressing an ongoing process.
The way I read Massumi’s interpretation of Deleuze, if Baudrillard’s theory is the diagnosis of our cultural state, Deleuzian thought is not exactly a cure, but a way out of this condition. What Massumi proposes is to consider ‘positive simulation’ (7) and I believe this is where his trouble with Baudrillard emanates from since simulacra ultimately is viewed as a negative domain due to its juxtaposition with the model aka real.
Deleuzian thought suggests to discard binary thinking as even the real is being constructed in the process of ongoing simulation. Massumi argues that instead of tracing the model in the copy we should distinguish between two modes of simulation – one of them being ‘reality’ as a construction of norms (or as Massumi refers to it ‘a network of surface resemblances’ (5)) and the other one being art – an antithesis ‘against the entire system of resemblance and replication’ (5). As Deleuze points out, ‘destruction of models and copies sets up a creative chaos’ (Deleuze, 1983: 56).
Without immersing ourselves into too much of Deleuze, it might suffice to say that his thought encourages the deterritorialisation, the creation of new territories, the flight (not the destination) and the opening up of potentialities. Massumi mainly resonates Deleuze (along with his accomplice Guattari) and suggests that simulation eventually might be a positivity as it has the potentiality to overthrow categories such as real, human, white, male, female, nation, desire, etc. As Massumi points out, the force and charm of Deleuzian thought is the fact that it deals with the here and now, namely advanced capitalism (did Karin mentioned Marx a while ago?) and situates us in the very heard of it. Its core is simulation and, I guess, we should perform a dance with it?..
Firstly, how do you view Massumi’s stance towards Baudrillard? If you can recall Baudrillard’s text, do you also get the notion of a ‘nostalgia for the old reality’ (8) as Massumi describes it? Secondly, if you could bridge Smith’s text with Massumi’s, what parallels could you draw in respect to the trouble with representation? My ultimate rather personal formulation would be such: do media make you feel nostalgic about ‘the old reality’ or rather open up new territories?
Massumi B. Realer than Real: The Simulacrum According to Deleuze and Guattari, in Copyright, no.1, 1987, pp. 90-97.
Deleuze G. Plato and the Simulacrum, in October, Vol. 27, (Winter, 1983), pp. 45-56