Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stars of the Post-Histoire (V)

“This is the fate of extreme phenomena which unfold beyond their own end (literally, ex-treme, ex-terminis, beyond the end). They are no longer about growth (croissance), but outgrowth (excroissance). No longer movement, but exponential power (montee en puissance). No longer change, but a passage through the limit.

Thus, we encounter a paradoxical logic according to which an idea ends with its own excess, its own realization. History, for example, ends with information and the creation of the instantaneous event. The increased speed of modernity, of technical development, and of all formerly linear structures creates a turbulent shift and a circular reversion of things which explains that, today, nothing is irreversible. The retrospective curving of historical space, which in a sense resembles the recurrence of physical and cosmological space, is perhaps the big discovery of the end of the millennium. It corresponds to the figure of a curved line which goes back through each of its previous stages. Retrograding to past events at all costs is an old fantasy.

Science fiction has repeatedly used the theme. For example, diving back into the past to change the course of events was the idea of the movie 12 Monkeys: To freeze the past to see what would have happened without it; to suspend time and see what would take place next; to recreate the world even before the emergence of the human race to see what it would be like without us or, even beyond humankind, to get a feel for what things could look like once we are all long gone; finally, to reinvent an origin, but only as a simulation, with definite limits. The more the future escapes us, the more the quest for a return to origins, for a return to the primal scene (as an individual being or as a human collective) becomes our obsession. As a consequence, we try to collect evidence: the evidence of time past, of human evolution.

We need to find material traces of all that was on earth before us today, not so much to relive it or rekindle past eras, but to prove that time has existed (before it finally disappeared), that space has existed too (before speed erased it). In short, we need to gather the evidence of all transcendental data, like space or time, which we thought inherently belonged to the human race. Interestingly, it is the human race itself which today successfully manages to create a perfect instantaneousness, often called real time. Irresistibly increasing its power, the human race manages to abolish the human perception of both time and space. The loss of transcendental data, that is to say, the incapacity to organize the world according to our sense perceptions and human functions, is without measure (incalculable).”

Jean Baudrillard (1998), A l’Ombre du Millenaire ou le Suspens de l’An 2000, translated by Francois Debrix [read: Debris, must be a lame-joke fake name; bold emphasis by j.o.]

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