Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The eerie emergence of the spectacle

Yesterday I visited the houses of parliament. When I arrived I was looking at the tower which houses Big Ben. I've seen so many representations of Big Ben in film, in drawing and painting and in photographs that I couldn't help thinking of the real Big Ben as 'a' Big Ben rather than 'the' Big Ben. We've reached the point that so much of our lives are lived in the virtual world that even the real world doesn't seem real anymore.

Later on, while still reflecting on my Big Ben experience I saw an advert for a 'Broadway' style show on the escalator on the tube. I thought about the fact that my only knowledge of the world of theatre has been through what I've seen in films. It's sometimes multiple layers of representation.

I'm not saying all this is necessarily a bad thing. In the future archaeology will be done online. Researchers will dig up artefacts, on old forgotten websites. There will be direct access to the words of the personalities who shaped our age on their memorialised social media accounts. I can't help but find that fascinating.

Later on at home I got thinking about the first attempts that humanity must have ever made at a scientific 'representation' of ourselves and of our environment.

Weirdly, maybe appropriately, listening to the sounds and looking at the pictures and films is quite an eerie experience. It's literally the dawn of the age of the spectacle, where, from the perspective of the virtual world, a 'represented' humanity which before this had known nothing but real organic experience first came blinking into view.

First ever recorded human sound (1860)

The first ever motion picture (1878)

First ever photograph - 1826

First ever photograph to contain a human - 1838

First ever self-portrait - 1839

Earliest born person to appear in a photograph - born 1749 (photograph in 1852)

In 2017, as I write this blog post 1749 is 268 years ago. 

Anyone born after that date is potentially liable to have been photographed and not long after to have also have had their voice recorded and be filmed. Now the real existence of celebrities is nothing compared to their virtual existence and we're all celebrities on Facebook.

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