bullet1 Controlling the code

bullet2 Faking truth

I now turn to some of the attempted strategies of control over the proliferation of simulacra as represented in the texts.

Both La ciudad ausente and Hombre mirando al sudeste suggest very strongly that idea, expressed forcefully also by Baudrillard, that what the State cannot ultimately tolerate is a simulation that reveals the "democratic" State itself, in its very mode of operation, to be the prime generator of simulacra. As Doctor Denis puts it to Rantés in allegorical form, "Si usted no es un chiflado, yo tendría que admitir que es realmente un extraterrestre. ¿Sabe lo que eso significaría? Que el chiflado soy yo" (0:55). This is the way in which Baudrillard puts the same idea, in relation to the supposed moral scandal and outrage at the revelations of Watergate:

"this is what must be said at all costs, for this is what everyone is concerned to conceal, this dissimulation masking a strengthening of morality, a moral panic as we approach the primal (mise en) scène of capital: its instantaneous cruelty, its incomprehensible ferocity, its fundamental immorality -- this is what is scandalous" ([Baudrillard, 1988 (1981) #290], 173)

bullet2 Museums and clinics

The primary images of attempted control in the texts are those of museums and clinics. A museum appears both in La invención de Morel and in La ciudad ausente, while the image of the psychiatric clinic is mentioned in all three texts and is fundamental to Subiela and Piglia.

  • Museums
    La ciudad ausente sums up the way in which the Museum is used by the State as a way of controlling, of institutionally framing, the dangerous proliferation of stories which reveals the reality effect to be itself one more (powerful) simulation. Russo explains:

    "Hace quince años que cayó el Muro de Berlín y lo único que queda es la máquina y la memoria de la máquina y no hay otra cosa, [...] nada, sólo el rastrojo, el campo seco, las marcas de la escarcha [this is a reference to the traces left by the anonymous graves of the disappeared]. Por eso la quieren desactivar. Primero, cuando vieron que no la podían desconocer, cuando se supo que hasta los cuentos de Borges venían de la máquina de Macedonio, que incluso estaban circulando versiones nuevas sobre lo que había pasado en las Malvinas; entonces decidieron llevarla al Museo, inventarle un Museo, [...] a ver si la podían anular, convertirla en lo que se llama una pieza de museo, un mundo muerto, pero las historias se reproducían por todos lados, no pudieron pararla, relatos y relatos y relatos." (144-45)

    The Museum in La invención de Morel is somewhat different, but equally revealing in the fact that it occupies the same imaginative space as the virtual reality machine. Morel, when he first invented his recording and projecting machine, had intended to use it to build great living albums or museums, both public and private, with his images: "La palabra museo, que uso para designar esta casa, es una sobrevivencia del tiempo en que trabajaba los proyectos de mi invento, sin conocimiento de su alcance" (93). But this kind of framing of simulacra becomes somehow useless once the invention has so totally consumed the real that it is no longer possible to distinguish between the two, when even the sun and the moon have been recorded by the machine and are replicated in its projection. One is reminded of Baudrillard's "outrageous" contention that even the "sun" is no longer real.

  • Clinics
    The same goes for the Clinic or Asylum, which for Subiela and Piglia are very clearly part of a mode of control and policing of the reality principle. Doctor Denis and the Doctor Aranda of the story of the "Nudos blancos" in La ciudad ausente are both figured as complicit with the methods and the techniques of the torturer. Both Rantés and Elena, as inmates of their respective Clinics, claim to be machines, and machines that cannot feel: "--¿Qué es ser una máquina? --preguntó el doctor Arana. / --Nada --dijo ella--. Una máquina no es; una máquina funciona" (68). Both are "simuladores" and both claim that the best way to protect their mission would be to tell the truth: "¿Sabe cuál es la mejor manera de proteger mi misión? Decir la verdad", claims Rantés, while Elena "decidió que iba a decir la verdad. Era una loca que creía ser una mujer policía a la que obligaban a internarse en una clínica psiquiátrica y era un mujer policía entrenada para fingir que estaba en una máquina exhibida en la sala de un Museo" ("Los nudos blancos", 67). The point, as for Baudrillard, is that what counts as truth in this context is impossible to distinguish from the real: as would occur if you went into a bank and decided to simulate a robbery.

    A number of these ideas are brought together in the following clip from Hombre mirando..., set in the pathology lab of the asylum. Rantés has gone one step too far in confronting the social contract, and the director of the asylum has intervened and ordered the Doctor to sedate him. Here we have one of the most moving images of the dissolution of the body, coupled with the waning of the traditional scientific discourses which produce it as an object of knowledge:

    CLIP 2  (click on link to view clip with RealPlayer 8)

    La invención de Morel, for its part, makes, I believe, an indirect reference to the lunatic asylum of The Cabinet of Dr Calligari:

    "Anoche soñé esto:
        Yo estaba en un manicomio. Después de una larga consulta (¿el proceso?) con un médico, mi familia me había llevado ahí. Morel era el director. Por momentos, yo sabía que estaba en la isla; por momentos, creía estar en el manicomio; por momentos, era el director del manicomio." (65)

     It is no accident that the ending of Dr Calligari, in which the hierarchy of reason and madness is firmly put back into place, was added on by the production studio in order to neutralize the unsettling political message of the film, with its suggestion of the madness that is constitutive of authority.

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Please send your comments to Dr Geoffrey Kantaris. This document was updated 22/03/2001.