Shaved Down by Hyperreality into Fungible Nubs of Non-Meaning
September 22, 2022 7:17 AM   Subscribe

On the internet, then, we find an increasing polarization between objects represented as pure exchange-value and pure use-value. ASMR, TikTok, and floating houses do something of the latter—by showing us only the imagistic form of these objects, and withholding their more mind-numbing and tangible pleasures, the online photo reacquaints us with a material world outside capitalist production. Paradoxically, the disembodied image, which usually puts us at automatic remove, awakens the body’s possible responses to the object. It takes us beyond the abstract plane of price; it reacquaints us with matter. from The Apocalyptic Sublime by Zoë Hu
posted by chavenet (8 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I want her to write my artist's statements.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:22 AM on September 22 [3 favorites]

This was cool and thought provoking, thanks for posting.

One question it raised for me: I'm not sure the fetish for destruction is particularly linked to commodity objects. We've had two sets of fires in my neighborhood recently, and also a house on my block burned a month or so ago, and I was struck by watching people watch the fires. There is just something mesmerizing about watching destruction - I think that transcends capitalism and even commodities. Isn't the horror and fascination of hurricane damage as intense when it strikes a forest as when it strikes a mall? I do think there's something different going on in the piece about documentation - watching my neighbors film our other neighbor's house burn down is a particularly disturbing experience, but on the other hand, in a context of quick access to professional fire fighters and municipal water supplies, there is little else for people to do than watch or document. Any help we could offer would be most helpful after the fact.
posted by latkes at 8:47 AM on September 22 [4 favorites]

House fires? How about an accident on the freeway, no matter how severe or trivial, evokes long, slow lines of cars with people who just have to look. I think that in cases like this, horrible events that can happen to anyone, we have to look, because by looking we can at least feel that this time it wasn’t me. I think this is an entirely different thing than just watching hydraulic presses crush household goods. Some people, and I would say, mostly male, enjoy watching things get destroyed. Maybe it’s a form of indirect revenge against the near universal shoddiness of goods these days. Remember the fax machine in Office Space?

A photo of an actual house, floating amongst the waves, is a sort of surreal analog of the umbrella and sewing machine on a dissection table. But that’s because we see it as a real house floating amongst real waves. As the context in this essay was the internet, a place where photographs and videos are now tilting over the edge of real versus artificial, only the naive will enjoy the frisson of seeing the imagery discussed here.

Yes, thought provoking…
posted by njohnson23 at 9:16 AM on September 22 [1 favorite]

Here, at last, was the feeling of one sublimity superseding another, a sight that only the terrifying novelties of climate change can produce, climate change being, after all, the phenomenon of magnificent forces destroying magnificent structures.
Oh my, that is very nicely put. Going to enjoy spending more time with this one later. Thanks for this post.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:33 AM on September 22 [1 favorite]

Grilling A Microwave Microwaving A Microwave Microwaving A Toaster Toasting An Iphone Watching Microwaving a Microwave Microwaving A Toaster

Edit after watching the full video: Nothing happens so they put explosives inside.
posted by shenkerism at 10:05 AM on September 22 [4 favorites]

I think that's called a Techducken
posted by chavenet at 11:03 AM on September 22 [3 favorites]

Thank you for posting that fantastic essay!
posted by blue shadows at 11:08 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]

Excellent piece, thanks. Hyperreality, for me anyway, was always one of those ideas that seems rather self-evident and inevitable, and therefore slightly boring. I like the way it navigates a way between the poles of reality and hyperreality, and shows how the evolution of our capitalist world can yield self-reflection, re-evaluation, and re-grounding in surprising ways.
posted by Alex404 at 12:29 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]

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